Download (hosted on IndieDB):

Katabasis PC (version 1.1)

Katabasis Mac (version 1.1)

Note: Version 1.1 should fix a bug in which the end cutscene animation would freeze. Please let me know if you still get this bug in version 1.1!

The Game:

“Katabasis isn’t really a game. It is about as interactive as the encarta 3D virtual tours. Those had some atmosphere too.” -RC-1290’Dreadnought’

“I worked so hard walking around the place, slowly, for that ending? Wtf…..”                         -Sebastianveroamore

“F*ck this game! its pointless no type of storyline to it sorry but no this was whack…”            -Pinchenano

“I’m wandering through the forest, higher and higher up the mountain. The feeling of my own insignificance grows stronger as I see the immensity of my surroundings. But I keep moving, because I must move or reject the game entirely and shut it off, and it’s a good game so I don’t.” -Porpentine, from Rock, Paper, Shotgun

Katabasis is a game about enigma, exploration, and myth. It is about a father, a son, and ancient gods. The player possesses a father who has taken his estranged young son on a trip into the Russian wilderness. He must simply wander through wilderness environments and architectural spaces, while attempting to understand things that might not be understandable.

This game was my senior thesis project to graduate with my degree in Game Art.


Featured on Live Free, Play Hard on Rock, Paper Shotgun

Freeware Game Pick on IndieGames.com

Indie Game of the Week on RantGaming.com

Featured on freeindiegame.es

The title, katabasis, is an archaic Greek word which simply means a descent. It has various meanings in different contexts, but the most relevant here is that of the archetypal descent into the underworld: such as Orpheus’ journey to retrieve Eurydice from the clutch of Hades, and Odysseus’ trip to the mouth of the underworld to question Tiresias.

The initial concept for the game was inspired by the tragic and still-enigmatic Dyatlov Pass incident, in which 9 experienced ski hikers, at the beginning of their trip, for some unknown reason ripped out of their tent in the middle of night during below-zero temperatures in 1959. All nine died from hypothermia or trauma related injuries with unknown causes.
Incidentally, the event took place on the side of a mountain known by the native peoples of the area, the Mansi, as Kholat Syakhl, which translates as The Mountain of the Dead. The major events of the game are based upon the mythologies of the Mansi people, especially a particular myth involving Mir-Susne-Khum, the World Surveyor Man.


8 Responses to Katabasis

  1. Sounds like you have a great concept there – familiar enough to fit easily into the survival horror genre, but some clear points of difference. The idea of never being able to replenish resources and becoming weaker as the game goes on is brilliant – I’d be really interested to see how that plays out, and whether you end up to find ways to reduce the ‘stress of progress’ in the player as you go on. Much like the old time-limited games (top of mind now because I’ve just picked up the original Prince of Persia remake, where you have 60 minutes to get to the end), there’s potential there to realise quite near the end of the game that you’ve played yourself into a corner, and literally do not have the resources to go on – I imagine there’s a lot of complexity in needing to design each encounter in the game so that it can be bested in multiple ways, to prevent someone needing to restart completely if they made poor management decisions early on (unless of course thats the intention).

    It certainly places the game in uncommon territory, without the paradigm of ‘perform action-get experience-level up-become more powerful’ that defines most games, which may be more appropriate for a game with a heavy focus on narrative – Amnesia comes to mind as a recent example of a game with similar elements, and that really made powerlessness a compelling game experience.

    Best of luck – looking forward to hearing more about it!

  2. tylersnell says:

    I’m really proud of my “getting weaker” idea, but I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to actually implement that in this game though due to time constraints. Right now all it is is that your flashlight slowly runs out of batteries whenever you use it, and you only have 7 bullets. I should be learning how to make inventories soon though, so I might try adding some more resource management stuff. At first I was thinking that you’d have to pick what resources to take with you (like Oregon Trail), so if you don’t pick wisely it’ll make the game a lot harder later on. Hmm, I had kind of forgotten about how much I wanted to do with that.. thanks for reminding me, definitely going to be looking back into that!

    Initially I was thinking that I wouldn’t want to expand on this game after I graduate, but I’m starting to think that it might end being more of a proof of concept type thing which I could later develop more fully.

  3. Andy says:

    I love games that focus on exploration rather than purely the horror aspect. Can you recommend any other games of a similar type?

    • tylersnell says:

      Not sure if you’re looking for games with a horror slant, but Proteus for sure. Definitely not horror, but there is some pretty weird stuff that can happen. I liked Kairo as well, lots of puzzles but it had a great and often eerie atmosphere. That’s about all I can think of, unfortunately. I don’t play many games. Looks like there are some good ones coming out soon though, like Among the Sleep, Gone Home, and probably The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.

  4. Andy says:

    Appreciate the reply. I do love the atmosphere created in this program. Stanley Kubrick an influence?

    • tylersnell says:

      Weirdly not really, actually. Not consciously at least. Looking back, The Shining should have been. Fairly similar idea/theme.
      One of the biggest influences though was the movie Sauna, which is highly recommended. And of course, the stories of Algernon Blackwood.

  5. Daniel Saner says:

    Is there a more explicit explanation of the ideas behind the story and scenario anywhere, or some interpretation of it? I kind of enjoyed my romp through it, and I tried to figure out some of the drawings as well, but was completely lost to be honest. I’m generally useless with picture puzzles of any kind! Because of that I was left a bit clueless at the end…

    • tylersnell says:

      I haven’t seen any player interpretations or anything, but it was actually my intent that players would try to figure out what’s going on but be unable to.
      The background story lies in a folktale of the Vogul/Mansi people, which is reflected by the player character and his son. The folktale is about the early life of the World Surveyor Man, and his father Numi-Torem. The pictures on the rocks tell his story.
      Basically it’s about father/son relationships and revenge. That little note from the father at the beginning of the game is important.

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