Paradise Never: Why We Don’t Have to Understand Games

For me to sit down and attempt to explain what Paradise Never is, I would need to have access to thousands upon thousands of words. It’s not that the self-proclaimed action-RPG is complicated (okay maybe it is), but after playing it, I have absolutely no idea what the heck it is. I spent hours and hours procrastinating this preview, wondering how I would manage to write about one of the most confusing games I’ve ever played before ultimately giving up entirely. Of course, you’re currently reading this, so it’s clear that the way in which I gave up didn’t equate to complete abandonment of my work. Rather, it became clearer and clearer as time went on that part of Paradise Never‘s bizarre charm is its ability to spin your head in circles, despite its relatively simple appearance. Does it truly matter that this is the most perplexing game I’ve ever written about? Is it the end of the world that normal descriptions fail to capture exactly what we’re talking about here, or is that actually the point?

There’s a pretty decent chance that you’ll fall down some sort of deep, never-ending rabbit-hole if you take the time to research the nitty gritty details of Paradise Never. Even though I played through the entire demo build available to me, I still felt as though there were things I needed to learn. So often when we consume any sort of media, be it a video game, book, or movie, we always seem to have an underlying desire to understand what we’re taking in. There’s this need to comprehend every aspect because, for whatever reason, perplexity is often the enemy. The funny thing about Paradise Never is that it’s very possible to understand what’s going on, but there’s this almost mystical nature to wrapping yourself up in the confusion. This last statement, of course, brings up a much larger question that’s far too massive to unpack in a single article: is it really necessary to understand a given piece of content?

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Of course, there’s a fair bit of information necessary to explain the ins and outs of Paradise Never, as long rants about comprehension don’t necessarily paint you the best picture. Essentially, you’re a member of a rebel group living on a colonized French island in the year 2027. I’m going to hope you made the logical assumption that your overarching goal is to overthrow the French regime; also, there’s one tiny thing you have to think about throughout this entire affair: keeping yourself and your friends alive. Now’s where things start to get weird, so brace yourselves. The game begins after the revolution effort presumably fails, but a mystical goddess steps in and resets time back to three days prior (yes, you’re totally normal if you got a Majora’s Mask vibe). Not unlike the best Zelda game of all time, players will constantly go through a 72-hour loop, carrying over everything they learned in hopes of eventually overthrowing the French. On the surface, this mildly convoluted, but still understandable premise doesn’t seem too out of the ordinary; however, the combination of a vast open world, strange dialogue segments, and the aura of mystery makes Paradise Never the oddity it has become.

The best part of writing this preview is that I’m slowly starting to learn more and more about Paradise Never as I type. There’s something magical about translating your thoughts into some sort of physical form that aids understanding, at least for me anyways. Still, Paradise Never doesn’t feel like the type of game that you can simply describe in a sentence. It’s not as if this is a Super Mario Bros. game, where the premise of, “Run and jump to the right and save the Princess,” is easily translated, but I digress.

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Developer Kitty Lambda Games always makes a point of noting that this is an action-RPG. All of the combat is in real time, and when you take that into account, along the incredible level of resource management necessary at all times, it’s easy to see where that classification comes from. In the demo I played, I went through three seemingly standalone quests that required me to undertake a number of morally ambiguous tasks, the most exciting of which involved burning a man’s house down to cause chaos. Considering the bleak narrative, it’s exciting to simply sit back, explore this mysterious world, and simply see what happens when you mess with stuff. Paradise Never is a sandbox game through and through, and this large environment will lead to a wonderful sense of stress when the three-day time limit is taken into account.

Even with nearly 500 descriptive words out of the way, there’s still a great deal of Paradise Never that begs to be explained. Rather than simply listing out every aspect of the most perplexing game I’ve played in quite some time, however, I want to allow that veil of mystery to remain in place. The second I was able to peel back the need to understand everything in front of me, I was able to grasp what makes Paradise Never so gripping. After feeling the need to understand each and every aspect of every piece of media I consume, there’s something oddly magical about embracing confusion. Even more so than the actual game itself, this bizarre self-conflict is something that must be experienced to believe.