You awaken by a fireside in an ancient mansion, a maid by yourself. You remember nothing of this place, or who you even are. The maid takes your hand and promises to help you reclaim your memories, by taking you through the history of the mansion and those who have lived there.
Every so often, I get a craving to immerse myself in some decent gothic horror. Having heard good things about the visual novel The House in Fata Morgana, I decided that it might just be the thing to satisfy those cravings. Some 23 hours of reading later, and it turned out to have been a good decision.
The House in Fata Morgana is an unfolding mystery that centres on the history of a particular mansion, and the identity of the player character. It begins with four separate chapters, each set in a different period of the mansion’s history. Each chapter is a well-scripted, self contained horror story on its own, but as you read, you’ll start to notice connected threads. Who is the White-Haired Girl who appears in every chapter? Why does the same maid seem to serve the mansion over a period of several hundred years? How is the mansion itself not even in the same location in each chapter?
Naturally, there’s more to come. Like an onion, the later chapters slowly peel away each layer of mystery, offering further revelations and tying up every single loose end. I have to admit I have mixed feelings here. I enjoyed the revelations of some of the later chapters, and the game’s attention to detail in making sure that all of my questions were answered, but by the end of chapter eight, I felt a little exhausted. The last stretch of the game isn’t bad by any means, but it kept teasing a conclusion before pulling out a Columbo-esque “oh, and one more thing”, before heading off into another lengthy section. I would almost have preferred the final chapter to have been sold as a DLC or sequel chapter – that way it would have felt like a distinct new experience rather than the gruelling last five miles of a marathon.
That being said, there is an achievement for reading through the story twice – obviously one could get this by fast forwarding all the text, but at some point I would like to do a proper second reading. Experiencing the story with knowledge of all the twists (and some dialogue changes) actually sounds like a worthwhile thing to do.
A Requiem for Innocence
There is in fact a DLC chapter for this already lengthy game, which fleshes out some of the events and perspectives from the main game. Given what I’ve said above, it might sound surprising that there is yet more content to be wrung from this title, but actually I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read of this so far. It’s just worth pacing yourself, so as not to burn out.
The House in Fata Morgana complements its gothic horror aesthetic with a delicate visual style. At its brightest, the game depicts whimsical flower gardens filled with beautiful golden-haired children – in the darkest moments we see dimly light stone corridors paying witness to murderous violence. Although the visuals are consistent overall, some of the chapters switch up the style a bit to indicate a different era or set of characters.
The music is a bit of a slow burner – at first I found it inoffensive enough to be mostly fine about listening to it loop endlessly while I read, but over time the more haunting and lyrical tracks grew on me. Unfortunately, some of the background music in chapter three was a bit intrusive, making concentrating on the text a bit more difficult.
The House in Fata Morgana is a long visual novel, and if you want to properly enjoy it, you shouldn’t try to rush through. Instead, savour your journey as you explore each level of its ever unfolding mystery. If you like gothic horror, you should definitely check this one out.