Atmosphere. It’s the defining feature of Montague’s Mount, a first-person psychological thriller from indie development team Polypusher Studios.
Montague’s Mount is a hard game to preview. Namely that's because the demo didn’t actually have me doing all that much. I was thrust onto a remote Irish island and given little direction as to what I should be doing. Some might consider this a poor design choice, or a sign that the game lacks any purpose. In reality, it’s a stroke of genius that allows the player to immediately connect with their character: a man shipwrecked on said island, and who also has no idea why he’s there, or how to escape.
Once you’ve gathered your bearings, you can begin to explore the eerie island Polypusher have created. Throughout your journey you’ll find that interaction with your surroundings is encouraged, and only through this interaction, and the puzzle-solving that follows, will you be able to unravel the mystery laid out before you. The lack of many traditional game mechanics makes Montague’s Mount feel less like a video game, and more like an interactive tale. However, it’s a formula that has worked in games such as Dear Esther before, often allowing players to experience an unparalleled sense of immersion.
Of course, the gorgeous graphics on display in Montague’s Mount also contribute to that immersion. The island is full of detail, and it will become your most frightening enemy at times as it consistently strives to heighten your feelings of unease and isolation. Despite the hundreds of expo-goers walking and chatting around me, I was completely engrossed in Montague’s Mount. Every aspect of the game conspires against you to create a truly unsettling experience. This isn’t a horror game; it’s a game that will constantly play tricks on you, subverting your expectations, whilst menacingly grabbing a psychological hold of you.
Unfortunately, there is one glaring issue that will likely cause some gamers to lose patience with Montague’s Mount. The character you control only has one walking speed: tediously slow. At times it’s nice to stroll through the world, taking in every detail and soaking up the chilling atmosphere. However, when exploration is a necessity, the lack of different walking speeds can result in laborious gameplay. For example, during the demo I had to find some cogs in order to open a gate. Searching for these cogs was a slow process and quickly became a chore due to the fact that my character could only travel at what ends up feeling like a snail's pace.
It’s a shame that Montague’s Mount suffers from such an obvious problem, because it is the only thing standing in the way of this game and greatness. When I spoke to the developers afterwards, they assured me that they are listening to fan feedback, and that there is a strong possibility of the walking speed being altered. As always, though, nothing is concrete yet.
As it stands, Montague’s Mount is a game full of potential, and if the developers set right a few wrongs, I’m confident we’ll receive an incredible example of a gaming thriller.