Descending through Year Walk is liking having an ice cube put down the back of your shirt, then being pushed into the Artic Ocean. It’s chilling and unnerving in a way that messes with your head, transcending its own existence into something that feels tangible; too close for comfort and so well crafted it causes you to second guess your own instincts that this is nothing but fantasy. As I sat staring at “The End” plastered across my screen, I could still feel my quickened pulse as I tried to shake the feeling of being on edge, something no piece of entertainment in any medium has managed in what feels like a very long time.
Year walking is a practice (largely found in Sweden) in which a ritual is performed by the walker through which they are given a glimpse through time at what the future holds. However, it comes at a grave cost, and there is no guarantee the walker will even make it through alive.
Walking through a forest at midnight, snow blanketing the ground around you, you come face to face with the horrors that befall those that dare to year walk: The Watchers, twisted and greedy spirits, who demand their sacrifice for showing you what is to come. The deeper you get, the more vile and disturbing these encounters become, before you finally enter the church and see your fate.
This is when the game first ends, but it also marks the point at which the game truly begins. Up to this point you’ve been bustled along through this story with little in the way of explanation or reason. It’s artistically brilliant and frightening to be sure, but all the same largely disconnected and without any real purpose, meant to alarm but ultimately lacking any substance. It’s not then until you begin to walk again and the curtain is pulled away that the pieces fall into place and the true meaning behind your circumstances become clear. Terrifyingly so.
Year Walk is a master at what it tries to be. It lets nothing on and leaves you wandering in the dark for a good while, which only makes it more unnerving when it finally lays its cards on the table. The expert use of Swedish folklore ties its world and ours together as it attempts to break the forth wall as it weaves together fantasy and psychological horror into a brief but immensely compelling narrative. If you’ve gotten this far you’ve likely realized I’ve said a lot of nothing in all these words, and that’s entirely intentional, as to say what makes Year Walk so brilliant would be to completely ruin it the experience. No, this is one walk that you have to take for yourself, though I promise you won’t regret it.