A heavily edited image depicting the protagonist of the Psychopomp video game.
Fading Club

Psychopomp: Greek in origin, a psychopomp is a creature of some kind, be it human or some amalgamation of animal features on a human body, whose sole purpose is to act as an escort between life on Earth and life beyond. They’re a guide at the end of the day. Their sole purpose is to facilitate the transfer of a soul without judgment, a concept that has since permeated various religions and global cultures in addition to the many, many examples that can be found within media of all forms.

What does this have to do with Psychopomp, a free-to-play game developed and self-published by Fading Club? The answer isn’t really all that clear, at least at first.

The game originally debuted on Steam in late January 2024, being the latest project to debut from the developer after the release of Dreamwild in 2022. Needless to say, it stands out not only from Fading Club’s previous projects but even against its contemporaries. As the developer’s logo is emblazoned in a pastel blue and pink, it quickly dissolves into visual static before you’re greeted with gnarled textures, fleshy colors, and a grinning crimson face smack-dab in the center of the screen. You can’t help but feel a little uneasy as you start a new game — and you’d be right to feel that way.

Against the backdrop of an Earth absorbed by tessellated shadows, we’re given voiceless narration that lays out Psychopomp‘s journey going forward. You play as a nameless protagonist, one with an unsettling revelation to share:

“Did you know that everyone has special powers and they’ve kept it a secret from me my entire life”

Upset by this revelation, the protagonist sought to uncover these secrets by grinding away in their domicile, ultimately crafting a brand-new invention of their own creation. It’s a helmet: the “Machine that Lets Me Read People’s Minds When I Want To,” alternatively referred to henceforth as the “psychopomp.” As the protagonist dons this heavy piece of equipment atop their dome, a hidden world of “animals and creatures and dead bodies” is revealed to them, taking the form of gnarled mounds of fleshy Play-Doh or mask-wearing creatures of unknown origin.

With the ability to observe this other world, the protagonist makes an eerily specific observation: there is a series of catacombs lying underneath the foundations of “every public government building,” leading them on a journey to reveal the secrets that have been kept from them for so long. After traversing through three major locations, solving puzzles, smashing things with a nail hammer, and interacting with the numerous residents of this alternate world, they may ultimately find the truth they’ve been searching for all this time.

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The story isn’t necessarily told to you directly. Though we experience the world through our protagonist, multiple signs point to their perspective being warped by several factors. A common theme you’ll notice immediately is that of schizophrenia: the protagonist’s frequent distrust of authority, an overwhelming sense of paranoia, hallucinatory surroundings, and their seemingly complete withdrawal from society and hostility towards others have been pointed out across several reviews and discussion threads.

However, without spoiling anything, digging deep into each level you explore may lead to a different conclusion. Newspaper clippings, audio recordings, secret hints, and even an external ARG—though limited in its scope—all provide some additional context as to what may (or may not) really be going on. As a purely sensory experience, Psychopomp delivers in spades, but if you can’t help but feel as though something isn’t adding up, you’d be on the money.

A Descent Into Madness

Psychopomp on Steam
Fading Club

Speaking of senses, we have to acknowledge just how incredible the atmosphere is. An adventure game at its core, Psychopomp mixes elements of survival horror and a first-person dungeon crawler perspective to convey one of the most delightfully surreal and perturbing settings we’ve seen so far this year. It does so with an incredible amount of color and memorable set pieces as well.

Descending into three government buildings—a children’s hospital, a sewage treatment plant, and a public school—you’ll find a horrible nightmare caked in rust and blood in equal measure, doused in vibrant primary colors or the grimmest of browns and greys. The many residents of this world are either in a state of perpetual misery, apathy, or some kind of ungodly mixture of both. For instance, one puzzle sees you assisting the head of production at the public school in committing suicide, to which a mangled coworker responds with annoyed contempt. The hospital sees its numerous nurses reveling in their unsightly business practices while their patients recoil in unaware agony. Funnily enough, a mangled visage of Plato—yes, the Greek philosopher—even spouts about how he was “wrong” about the cave, all while he’s inundated with television screens portraying the things he enjoys most in life.

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The most bitterness emanates directly from the protagonist, however. Every area is given a brief monologue by the protagonist as you explore the surface level, prepping you for what lies beneath in the sprawling catacombs. The game’s numerous loading screens also have gameplay tips, which are often accompanied by a bizarre “real world tip” diatribe or horrifying non sequitur.  A particularly perturbing example: one gameplay tip will read, “Make sure to use items sparingly. They’re rare!” However, the real-world tip will read, “Have you ever tried asking what your father’s true name is? You might be surprised!” It’s a downright oppressive and upsetting world, with the mangled features of each resident only adding to the horror.

But you’ll come to find something else underneath the horrors of this alternate reality. Without spoiling anything major, there’s a heavy implication that the initiating event of the story—a nervous breakdown leading to the development of the Psychopomp—is only scratching the surface. Hints and clues about our protagonist’s past are everywhere, and if you’re lucky, you may even find out what their real name is. From there, as you stitch together the state of the world via scattered notes, audio recordings, frequent references to dragonflies, and other keynotes, you’ll come to realize that… well, we won’t say. But it’s worth investigating, especially when you see the game’s epilogue.

A (Mostly) Flawless Experience

Psychopomp on Steam 1
Fading Club

If Psychopomp has a fault, it’d likely be its somewhat antiquated control scheme. You’re not going to be doing anything close to neurosurgery here, with less than a handful of sections that require quick reaction times. Instead, you’ll find yourself just navigating the world and interacting with it through a total of four distinct actions: examining, touching, speaking, and attacking. It’s all functional, and given the wide variety of information and messages you can retrieve by interacting with the world around you, you’re encouraged to thoroughly explore instead of blowing by everything.

Because you’re restricted to a grid, the player character controls more like a tank than a human being—not in a bad way, mind you, but it’s certainly an adjustment. The ability to freely look around the environment is restricted to a button you hold down, and upon releasing it, your vision immediately snaps back to whatever direction you were facing originally. It can be a little disorienting for those who are sensitive to quick movements. Likewise, the emphasis on tank-like controls combined with strafing, stamina usage, and tile-based movement might take some getting used to for those who haven’t played the kind of first-person adventure games Psychopomp draws heavily from.

The sewage treatment plant is arguably where the game is the most combat-focused, with its numerous foes donning bizarre masks hiding who-knows-what underneath. If there’s any section that highlights the weaknesses of fighting things, it’s this one. Incredibly simplistic, more so when you discover that enemies have difficulty giving chase on sloped surfaces, the game’s combat leaves a bit to be desired. Thankfully, it’s sparse enough to strike some genuine tension instead of becoming obnoxious.

It’s hard to really find fault with how the game plays, however. Barring the inability to re-enter the main menu once you start playing (though it’s easy enough to close the game otherwise), Psychopomp doesn’t last long enough for its simple mechanics to lose their appeal. Three main levels, a handful of secret levels that may or may not appear, and then you’re done. All-in-all, a 100% playthrough with all achievements took just over an hour to accomplish, maybe even less if you’re rushing through everything. Not that you should.

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Rushing through would mean that you’d miss out on the game’s incredibly atmospheric soundtrack as well. Though each track is barely more than a minute long, the uncomfortable ambiance they form seamlessly loops, forming an appropriate aural assault on the senses. In essence, it’s an acceptable accompaniment to the kind of hellish imagery your other senses are being exposed to. One song even comes with a vocal arrangement once you meet a specific set of circumstances, with its lyrics adding even more intrigue to the game’s narrative. If you have some cash to throw around, you’re more than free to purchase the game’s soundtrack if you’d like to directly support Fading Club, which contains the game’s haunting soundscapes in their entirety.

Overall, if you have a horror itch you’ve been meaning to scratch without committing to a large purchase, Psychopomp is an excellent adventure that doesn’t take very long to complete. For those wanting a surface-level horror experience, it delivers in spades. For those who really like to dig deep into the lore and the narrative of the horror games they play, there’s still plenty to uncover with the game’s small but inquisitive community. With continual updates adding additional language support as well as some modest quality-of-life features, the game will only get better with age.

You can currently download Psychopomp completely for free on Fading Club’s (or Karbonic’s) Itch.io page or from Steam.

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REVIEW OVERVIEW
Psychopomp
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Sean is a devout data hoarder, CD collector, and purveyor of weird things. When he's not scouring the depths for the odd and macabre, he's usually playing video games, trying to learn Blender, and subsisting on coffee and protein bars. He also knows how to "get things."
psychopomp-game-reviewIf you have a horror itch you've been meaning to scratch without committing to a large purchase, Psychopomp is an excellent adventure that doesn't take very long to complete. For those wanting a surface-level horror experience, it delivers in spades. For those who really like to dig deep into the lore and the narrative of the horror games they play, there's still plenty to uncover with the game's small but inquisitive community. With continual updates adding additional language support as well as some modest quality-of-life features, the game will only get better with age.

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