The character designs in Hermitage: Strange Case Files have Japanese anime feel to them which matched the theme and story perfectly.
Hermitage: Strange Case Files initially released on PC in Chinese in November 2018 by developer Arrowiz and published by Giiku Games. This detective thriller has you playing as the Store Manager and armchair detective of the quirky bookstore Hermitage, serving the most eccentric of bookworms and helping them solve the mysteries behind their lucid, ritualistic dreams. Now this paranormal horror adventure game has been translated to English and has a strong focus on storytelling, developing leads and finding clues. On startup I got an immediate manga feel from the game. Seeing the detailed design of the Store Manager for the first time, as well as the eyepopping set pieces and backgrounds reminded me of games like the Persona series.
Controls were very simple on the PC version. Space bar to skip a scene, left mouse click to continue, mouse wheel to scroll the log and finally right mouse click to go back to the previous scene. As well as the above options of Skip, Next and Log, you also had the options of Hide and Auto. Which is good if you don’t want to click through the scenes and want to enjoy the story. Delving into Hermitage: Strange Case Files, I was reluctant to continue initially because I found the story’s pacing was off at the start. The narrative just wasn’t progressing fast enough for my liking so I found myself increasing the text speed in the options menu a little and selecting Auto to move the story on at a bit of a faster pace. That being said though, once I got through the first hour the game flowed better and became more enjoyable.
The depth of the cases themselves as well as the different methods in finding the clues is quite simply spectacular. Ranging from watching a tv news broadcast or scrolling through a web forum to utilising different questioning techniques to get leads and gather information, you choose the approach which best fits that targets personality and store the information in your casebook to build the case. Unlocking character skills based on certain moments/choices and passing trials really helped add to the depth of the characters and their stories. A unique aspect I found in this style of game is depending on the choice you make, as they unlock various other storylines to explore. This is great for a repeat playthrough and I found myself being conscious not to make the same in game choices twice. Another fun inclusion was using the pinboard in your apartment to link and analyze characters and events of the game, it really bought everything together. With all these elements in place you can appreciate the developers trying to simulate a tabletop RPG.
The soundtrack gave the feel of an old gumshoe detective movie that is heavy on the saxophone during the questioning and interrogation sections. While it felt authentic given the style of game I think it was overused, however the rest of the music used seemed to balance well with other scenes in the game. The character designs in Hermitage: Strange Case Files have a Japanese anime feel to them which matched the theme and story perfectly. I smiled when I heard the saxophone and then saw the Store Manager light a cigarette to “clear his thoughts” . The cut scenes although only still images with text boxes and a kind of old style film reel degradation were very detailed and added to the depth of each chapter.
Overall, I found this Hermitage: Strange Case Files an enjoyable tale littered with Cthulhu mythos and urban legends. The detailed character designs and backgrounds looked stunning. Although I found the story a bit long winded initially, by the end I was ready for my second playthrough to see where the story would take me this time.
This review utilised a Steam key provided by Renaissance PR. Hermitage: Strange Case Files releases on 26th October on PC and Switch
Written by: @Blustreak81