Kôna: Day One Preview | MOUSE n JOYPAD


It takes a special kind of game to pull off immersion properly. And I’m not talking about the kind of immersion we’re served often enough in atmospheric games. No, I’m thinking of VR-level stuff that makes you gasp in awe at just how amazingly well-realised the game world is. Some such titles I can name off the top of my head are The Long Dark and The Forest. Mind you, this isn’t about the visuals themselves, but more about giving you enough leeway to properly project yourself into the protagonist you’re controlling. Well, Kôna: Day One pulls this off perfectly.


This pickup is only one of the vehicles in Kôna.

I’ve spent roughly two hours mucking about in Kôna, and there’s that indescribable oomph to it that makes gameplay very, very fulfilling and gratifying. Even though I may not have access to VR at the moment, it’s obvious that the game will work wonderfully with the system in place, which is a feature the developers are proud of. Alas, we’ll delve more into that matter when the game is actually released. For now, let me tell you about my experience with it.

Kôna is a mysterious first-person survival game, where story is at the forefront of it all. I know, sounds kind of strange, but even at this stage, it works wonderfully well. I won’t be going much in detainl on the storyline aspect of it, but I will say that I greatly enjoy the linearity of it all, even though I’m well aware that Kôna is likely not to have much in the way of replayability unless a special survival mode is introduced. The very first sequence sees us taking control over Carl Faubert, a former war veteran turned private eye who is travelling towards his client, to help solve a case he’s been hired to handle. Kôna is set in the seventies, and the enthralling atmosphere of the era is woven deeply into the game’s fabric. From the rickety buildings and vehicles, all the way to tech, weaponry and perhaps most importantly – Carl’s polaroid camera. No, he’s not a hipster, those were actually hi-tec back in the day. As he puts his cigarette out and gets up from the table, players are tasked with picking up his gadgetry and getting into his pickup truck, which then they have to drive towards their first, ominous stop. Kôna may not be a horror game, but there’s a definitive sense of gloom looming over it all. Which is a good thing, mind you, because it makes the game world feel all the more opressing, as it should be in a survival game.


Yes, follow the tracks in the snow, you dimwit.

More than anything else, though, Kôna is an adventure game, because you’ll be figuring things out on the go as well as sometimes manipulating your environment to further your needs. There’s an inventory to combine items in, as well as the omniscient narrator who will be telling you what you’re supposed to be doing, and what’s out of the question. Even in this preview build, the pacing and gameplay work well in combo, and Kôna is bound to be a blast at least during the very first playthrough. I believe linearity may well be an issue in a game such as this, but that I’ll be able to judge only once I play the whole first episode. I still feel that it’s a good thing to keep it so story-focused, though, because that’s key in keeping players hooked and is arguably more important than the potentially dull survival the game may produce on its own. From what I can tell, the developers are going for much the same thing as Firewatch will be attempting to do, which is definitely good, but execution of such experiences is shaky more often than not. I should note, however, that Kôna hasn’t left me with a sour taste and I have every reason to believe it will be a phenomenal game, but you can never really know, now can you? And yes, this title is spread through four individual episodes, each of which will be adding one to two hours of gameplay to the overarching story of Kôna.

Regarding the graphics, Kôna is a real marvel. The amount of detail is astonishing and the way 1970s Quebec is rendered as a whole is truly a sight to behold. Be it the frozen specks of ice on Carl’s pickup truck or the lighting inside the first building you enter, there’s always something to gasp at. The audio follows closely, with the voice of the narrator being just the right choice for the job, and the wheezing winds howling ominously as you run through the woods towards your next objective. I also don’t believe there are loading screens at all, and the level is pretty large, with seamless transitions from one area to another. All running on Unity, believe it or not. It truly is the little engine that could. The thing is, Kôna runs well but the textures load awfully slowly, on both machines I tested it on. This isn’t visible outside of the driving sections, but it’s there and will hopefully be ironed out for the final release candidate.

So basically, what we’ve got here is a potential masterpiece in the making, with a wonderfully immersive setting and gameplay mechanics, great graphics and quite an intriguing storyline. All that is left to see is how the developer handles the final release, and then all three other parts of the game that are supposed to be coming soon after Day One. Hopefully there’s a Wendigo somewhere in there for Carl to kill…