Year Walking through Swedish Folklore

“In the old days man tried to catch a glimpse of
the future in the strangest of ways
they locked themselves in dark rooms
not partaking of food and drink

At the stroke of midnight
they ventured out into the night
through the dark woods
where strange creature roamed

To see if they would be wealthy
To see if they would be happy
To see if they would live
To see if they would be loved”

Year Walk is an indie game which revolves around traditional Swedish myth and folklore. The protagonist, later revealed to be Daniel Svensson, begins his year walk on New Years Eve to discover is he and his love, Stina, will have a future together. Daniel encounters creators such as the Huldra, the temperamental forest goddess that lures men to their fates, the Brook Horse, a river spirit that drowns and guides the soles of children, the Mylings, infants abandoned by their mothers, the Night Raven, a symbol of illness and death, and the Church Grim, the most fearsome of all spirits. The Church Grim is both a guardian and a menace of the church and is believed to have arisen due to the animal sacrifice made to bless the church and buried under the floorboards. The ultimate goal for any year walker is to reach the town church, walk around it in a sacred pattern, and have their future revealed to them in the form of a vision. However, Daniel is forced to interact with the spirits in order to complete his quest as they attempt to derail his mission.

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The game relies heavily on text for dialogue as well as in the encyclopedia and journal. Year Walk requires the player to solve puzzles with clues that are scattered around the map in the form of symbols and constellations. Consequentially I would recommend having a pen and paper nearby. Although the encyclopedia can be easy to overlook, the game draws attention to it by making the player open it in order to solve the second puzzle. The encyclopedia includes a synopsis of each mythological spirit as well as the core concept of year walking.

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By the end of the first playthough there will be a few puzzles left unsolved. The journal and a locked box in the woods remain unopened. However, a cut scene at the end of the credits provide hints on how to unlock the journal. The journal belonged to Theodore Almsten, a university professor researching Swedish mythology at the request of the mysterious E.S. Almsten is slowly consumed by the Daniel’s story and realizes that he must save Daniel from murdering Stina as a result of the vengeance of Grim. Almsten’s journal adds a deeper layer to the already complex story and helps to shed light on many of the unanswered questions.

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Solving a puzzle has consequences that can be seen through the setting as well as the music. Moving through the game is a series of plains in which Daniel can only move north or south at designated paths. As a result, the forest becomes disorienting for new players.Year Walk  is the culmination of the stories of generations, both old and new. The stories within the game are often heavy concepts that are enriched by the haunting atmosphere that will keep the player entranced.

“Walk again?”

 

  2 comments for “Year Walking through Swedish Folklore

  1. Carter Nordike
    April 15, 2015 at 11:47 pm

    I am really loving the move towards embracing some less popular mythologies in gaming. The recently released Never Alone focused on Inuit folklore to craft its tale, so it is refreshing to see another set of myths being worked into a game’s narrative. It is funny how guarded religion is as a whole to humanity that it is almost taboo to take it and put any kind of spin on it. In recent memory, the only game to take any sort of adaptation on religion was Smite, a MOBA which was met with a lot of criticism. How long is it before we see an adaptation of Christian mythology, or Islamic stories? I hope it is sometime soon, it would be very interesting and fun to see.

  2. Casey
    April 16, 2015 at 3:19 am

    I think it is a wonderful thing when modern, popular forms of media bring much needed attention to less known cultures and their customs. Judging by your post, “Year Walk” seems to effectively accomplish just that. The artstyle in the screenshots you provided seems to me that it adds to this. The illustrated appearance of the game gives it a look that reminds me of something akin to a cross between hearing a fairy tale and a ghost story. Additionally, the game seems to provide some solid level of replay value, something that many games from much larger production companies and developers don’t effectively do.

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