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Well, the last piece of House In Fata Morgana certainly blew up, didn’t it? I didn’t expect my diary entries to intrigue anyone other than the people who are already interested in the game, but I think that’s what happens when you talk about the only Switch game with a perfect Metacritic score. If you haven’t read Part 1, this probably won’t make a lot of sense, so be sure to read the first journal entry for background on what this is about.
For everyone who would like to find out more about The House In Fata Morgana: Welcome to diary entry two …
These are two supporting characters. I will not spoil what happens to you
I think I’m slowly starting to understand how The House In Fata Morgana earned its little constellation of 10 / 10s. I’m having a wonderful time doing it. However, as I said in the other journal entry, comparing this directly to Breath of the Wild is a little insincere – aside from the fact that they are both great Switch games. They’re in completely different genres, with their own merits and styles, and no one would expect a sprawling adventure game in Fata Morgana. As a visual novel, however, it’s a spectacular story.
Well, that’s all I can tell you because it’s a story that plays its cards so close to your chest that you’re not even sure if it even has cards. Over ten different mysteries have been teased so far – including a rose, a mirror, an archangel’s stained glass window, a strange maid who knows too much, a white-haired girl who may or may not be immortal, and my own identity – and I think I do got closer to none of them.
Spoiler time already
The white-haired girl is getting a nice haircut!
But let’s get back to the story. We stopped with Bestia, a man who is so convinced he is a beast that he will be – or maybe he always has been. His love for the white-haired girl (whose name we don’t know yet) almost breaks his own self-hatred, but it is a slippery descent back into beastliness when his luck is threatened.
The interesting twist is that we see him through someone else’s eyes and recognize – far too late – that our perception of him as a smoky, red-eyed monster was shaped by his perception of himself and not by his true form. Goddamn.
There are a ton of other twists and turns, and I don’t want to spoil any of them, but I’ll say this: as I travel through the ages in this strange house, I’m really starting to feel sorry for the whites – hairy girl who gets by far the worst deal . She is repeatedly cast as rehabilitation for broken men, from the meek Mell, who bows to the will of his demanding sister, to a man whose self-esteem is so distorted that he loses everything.
This is Jacopo. He is mean.
Her latest story is about Jacopo, a wealthy and uncomfortable young man who, as an investor in the railroad, could be considered “new money”. He has a huge chip on his shoulder, and when he is married to the white-haired girl who comes from a poor but aristocratic background, he treats her terribly and goes from a negligent husband to a downright abusive jailer who takes her away from the world.
Jacopo is easy to hate, just as it was easy to hate Bestia who killed and ate people, but The House In Fata Morgana shows a friendly side to either of them. Bestia loved and tended his garden and the white-haired girl; Jacopo desperately wants to prove himself and is afraid of losing everything. His situation is precarious, so he takes out his fear on his wife and then feels terrible about it.
That obviously doesn’t excuse him, but instead of urging the white-haired girl to escape forever, I wonder if there is any way Jacopo can fix his damn self and be the husband she deserves. Was there therapy in the 19th century? Probably not.
In this house we support the white-haired girl
A rare choice in the early game is either looking in a mirror or ignoring it
On the other hand, I hope the white haired girl gets her moment. All the men in history have been offensive at worst and unhelpful at best; The white-haired girl is overdue for a righteous outburst after hundreds of years of people taking advantage of her kindness.
Again, I don’t know what Mirage is really about, but right now I hope the white haired girl becomes a vampire queen who eats bad men like popcorn. Or maybe I’ll be the white haired girl going on a fun revenge themed road trip turning all the people who ruined my life into meat pancakes.
I think I made the wrong choice
But to put it briefly personally: It was a wild ride to see these stories that don’t seem relatable because they’re about monsters and fantastic time-traveling houses, and yet – they are. I’m scared so I see myself partially mirrored in the way Bestia seeks peace but goes back to his old habits when he feels like his life is threatened, like a cornered, scared dog. I’m not an abusive railroad millionaire like Jacopo, but his determination to prove himself at all costs and his fear of people laughing at him behind his back is inevitably human.
Monsters and men
We get an insight into a future / past story … who is the mysterious Michel?
There’s a recurring theme in the game, The Terriifying Other – how we view unusual or unfamiliar things as something to be afraid of or, even worse than something to be exterminated. This manifests itself in many ways: xenophobia, racism, sexism, classicism, actually all -isms. Society is about choosing who we like and who we don’t, who is welcome and who is not, and we’ve made up all sorts of terrible shortcuts to make it easier. Otherness can mean monsters, but it can also mean people we are ready to turn into monsters in order to save ourselves.
But the game is firmly narrated by these others as we look through their eyes and witness the abuse, fear, manipulation and loneliness that lead them to become the monster that others fear them. I’m only in for a few hours, but the circumstances and cruelty keep driving these people into horrific deeds. And underneath, like a freshly blooming rose, the white-haired girl who is drawn into history again and again on a relentless marmot day. I want to know more about who she is and why she is so important to these men, this house, the curse, but I think answers will be a long time coming.
Things get pretty gruesome towards the end of Bestia’s story
The thing is, the white haired girl is just as different from everyone else, and it never changes her – she’s always as sweet, patient, and kind as ever. People call her a witch; she leaves her family; Men fetishize them; yet it has no effect. She keeps trying.
If this were a Disney movie, she would eventually win, like Snow White or Rapunzel, overcoming evil and jealousy to find her own happiness. Because this is The House In Fata Morgana, I don’t know if it will ever triumph because the stories so far have all been so nihilistic and heartbreaking.
A slow beginning unfolds
The maid seems to know everything, but she won’t tell us until we remember it ourselves
The house in Fata Morgana, by which I mean the literal house, is a place for outcasts who are drawn to this front door by fate, the curse or something else. I have no idea how I covered in the last journal entry – other reviews mention choices and branches and endings that I haven’t seen any of. They also often state that the first part of the game that I’m still in is an “anthology” and that puts a lot of people off with its uneven pace and lack of interactivity.
However, this is not a review so I don’t have a solid opinion on all of this just yet – although I’ll say the pace can be frustrating. There are many places where people say a lot while they say nothing, or where stories repeat themselves or go on for a long time. I also struggled with the rather stiff writing of the first few stories myself, although the dialogues are loosening up quite a bit now that the game has kicked in in the mid-19th century. The characters even swear now, which is pretty exciting.
Where are we now with Fata Morgana? I haven’t made that many decisions yet, but I enjoy it – even if that might not be the right word for an anthology about murder, abuse, and incest. Still, the twists and turns and surprises come quickly and thickly, and it’s something very special. I itches to quit work and sit down to play for an hour or two, although I usually have to lie down a bit afterward. Seriously i love it.
Tune back in soon for the next diary entry, which (spoilers) is finally getting really hot and the reasons why so many people love this game immediately become clearer …