Initial impressions of Cursed Mountain are quite favorable. The game isn’t very scary at all thank god but there is a gloomy tension created by the enviroment. So it’s exactly what I was looking for: a game that explores a unique enviroment in terms of both physical and psychological space.
The game starts in the fictional city of Lhando which I think is a stand in for Lhasa, though I could be wrong. The city is abandoned and, with its small alleys and towering walls, very claustrophobic. It’s a little surprising to see a game about mountaineering so closed in. I have a feeling that once the game gets up on the mountain things won’t open up. This isn’t a game about grand vistas but oppression. In Lhando, the mountains are always visible but they loom over the city, threatening to fall and crush it. They dominate everything. I’ve get the idea they will remain oppressive throughout the game.
The citizens of the city have fled from the ghosts coming down off of Chomolonzo. Notes left behind blame Frank’s expedition. The claim he did not perform the necessary koras to set foot on the sacred mountain and now the spirit of the mountain is sending the ghosts in retribution. This is another instance of the game grounding itself in reality. Not only is Tibetan Buddhism faithfully represented (so far) but Chomolonzo means “bird spirit” and if you look at the southern profile of the mountain you can see the shape of the spirit spreading its wings.
My main issue with the game so far is with the story presentation. All the cutscenes are sill images with voiceover. Normally I wouldn’t really mind this but it destroys a lot of the immersion to be told what is happening and not be shown it. However, in one instance it added a lot to a specific encounter. In Lhando Eric is looking for Edward Bennett, the man who sponsored Frank’s expedition. When Eric finds him the scene is vague and indistinct and afterwards Eric isn’t sure if he actually met Edward at all. It could have been a hallucination caused by altitude sickness. That would explain the ghosts at least. The still image nature of the cutscenes adds a lot to this meeting. As the player we’re just as unsure as Eric as to what just happened. It works really well. We’ll see if the still image nature of the cutscenes ultimately adds or detracts from the story overall.
There’s more to talk about. The actual gameplay for instance. But I’m still not very far yet and I think I’ll spend some more time with the game before I go on.