Just above the waterlogged trenches, deep within the bramble of ash-soaked wire, something sinister watches from within the gas and fog. Players step into the boots of Paul Von Schmitt, a German soldier grappling with the terrors of the Great War. With your mind warped between memories of your family home and the echoes of the trenches, you seek a path to end the ceaseless suffering.
The world of Ad Infinitum is split into two parts, the battlefield of the Great War and the Von Schmitt family home. I found this dichotomy to be striking, presenting the brutality and horror of war on the frontlines while also giving a more intimate perspective into how WW1 rended families apart. The house scenes tend to be more somber, and delve into Paul and his brother Johannes’ backstory alongside how the war has affected their parents. On the other hand, the battlefield scenes are twisted renditions of despair, with chaos taking form as monstrous entities haunting the lands. This is where you’ll experience more of the typical survival horror elements, with stealth and puzzles being the core mechanics on offer.
The gameplay of most encounters feel pretty familiar, and won’t wow you too much with innovation. You’ve got all the classics, an enemy that can’t see but has excellent hearing, or another that can only move when you’re not shining a light on it. One thing of note though is that despite there being a gun in this game, there really isn’t any true combat. I found that to be quite sobering for this genre of game and I’m ultimately happy the developers decided against this type of encounter.
If you’ve played survival horrors games before you already know the song and dance for the most part, however what isn’t typical is the incredible design of these enemies. They are atrocious beasts, often sickening to look at and engage with as they are Paul’s mental manifestation of suffering itself. One enemy type I found to be especially notable were the Mayhem, which were lumbering patchworks of human cadavers and prosthesis that wander through the sick bays. It was such an interesting design choice to embody the fear of losing one’s limbs in battle and the horror of early medicine in this way, and this creativity courses throughout the bosses as well.
Boss fights in horror games have a tendency to be hit or miss, and while Ad Infinitum delivers fully in terms of design, it misses the mark in terms of gameplay. These areas are typically a small arena where you will need to interact with various objects to stun or hinder the boss in some way, but don’t get much more involved than that. The game also informs you that your actions in these areas will affect the outcome of the story, but usually boil down to a choice of killing the boss or redeeming them. I like the concept, especially with how interesting all of the boss designs are, but it still left me feeling like there was missed potential for more engaging gameplay moments.
While the narrative world swaps between the family house and the battlefield, it never felt too confusing to follow the storyline. The larger issue for me is how much of the story is dispensed through readable journals and notes. Thankfully this is mostly remedied by having voice over for the more important pieces of lore while they are being read. This helps to give life to a lot of the characters we don’t get to see on screen, namely Johannes and Paul’s parents. I do still wish we got to see some more characters get actual screen time though, however I understand this tends to be a survival horror staple intended to make the player feel isolated.
For the most part, the game ran decently enough, even if some of the animations were a bit on the stiff side. However I did run into a recurring audio bug at multiple points during my playthrough, at least I believe it was a bug. Oftentimes during cutscenes or when using interactable objects there would be no sound at all, just the music playing in the background. It would look like a monster was screaming, or that there should be some sort of impact, but there was simply no audio. This was especially noticeable when I experienced it during the final boss of the game, which really took the immersion out of the encounter and made for a generally disappointing finale in terms of gameplay. I’m really hoping this is something that gets addressed for the full release, because beyond this I didn’t find any major bugs during my time with the game.
While the gameplay itself is rather tame, Ad Infinitum has poured love into designing an intriguing world of horror to get lost in. Overcoming the monstrosities of war was never truly challenging, but their overall design combined with provocative environments still make this a unique take on the war horror genre. If you’re a fan of survival horror games and you don’t mind a fair amount of reading, I think that you’ll find something to love within Ad Infinitum’s story of two brothers fighting to make it home.
Corvo is a writer who loves to explore journalism through video games. Writing and editing reviews for triple-A games and indies alike, he finds his passion within expressing his experiences in a fair and accurate manner. Some of Corvo's favorite games are Destiny 2, Mass Effect, and Disco Elysium.
In spite of the occasional bug and basic gameplay systems, Ad Infinitum manages to capture my attention through its imaginative exploration of the horror of battle. Delving between the shell-shocked home of the Von Schmitts and the ash swept trenches of war was a unique perspective on the horror genre that I found to be both poignant and well worth exploring.