A nun and an officer get on a motorbike. No, that’s not the start of a terrible joke. It’s how the demo for Odd Meter’s Indika starts, a historical drama set at the end of 1800s Russia. I played the demo a few times and came away impressed with what developer Odd Meter created and eager to see more of it.
It came to me in a dream
Ilya, a military officer with an arm blasted by frostbite, took Indika, a nun, hostage at one point, and now the two travel together for… reasons. The demo keeps its secrets, but the pair’s eventual destination is an encampment for possessed people. Why? Because God told Ilya to go there. Or so Ilya says.
Christianity had a fractious relationship with mysticism over the centuries, alternately – and sometimes simultaneously – encouraging it as a way for people to explore spirituality without turning to so-called paganism and forbidding it as a dangerous form of paganism. Some of the most notable mystics in medieval Christianity were women – Hildegarde of Bingen, for example, or Julian of Norwich. Indika plays with your expectations and inverts these staples.
Indika presents herself as a rational nun, even a sceptic when Ilya starts talking about his visions. Ilya is the mystic in this scenario, and while mysticism was rampant in Russia at the end of the 19th century – the spiritual pool from which Rasputin the “mad monk” emerged – Ilya’s is more in line with older forms of mysticism. He sees visions and believes God has a message and purpose for him, specifically.
It’s an interesting setup rife with potential for strong character development, and even the short, 30-minute demo has some excellent instances of that development.
The best, and one that even elicited some little excited noises from me, happens when the narrator starts to speak. The segment is sheer brilliance, and you really should experience it for yourself. I won’t spoil it, but suffice to say it’s like what you might expect if the footnotes in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels interacted with one of the protagonists.
Indika also uses this personal duality in some very smart ways. Indika-the-character’s world periodically unravels, and she enters an altered state where the environment around her changes. She can ground herself with prayer and return the setting to its normal state, but you need to indulge in her spiralling emotions to get through some situations.
You can't buy a ticket to heaven
I don’t know what Odd Meter is cooking with its Jesus points system, an actual feature and not a silly name I made up. The sentiment is sincere as well. I literally don’t know what it’s for, since there’s no explainer though I appreciate the symbolism. Indika can perform acts of religious devotion, such as lighting a candle at an altar or paying respects to stories and icons of saints, and she earns points on a skill tree. The point total is always visible, and Indika’s “skills” include things like grief and shame. She can earn point multipliers, but again, it seems – in the demo anyway – completely empty and irrelevant to what’s going on.
And I love that. The idea that this disgraced nun looks for salvation in empty acts and tries racking up literal brownie points as a way of redemption says a lot about certain aspects of organized religion. If that was Odd Meter’s intention and not just the limitations of a short demo, then all I can say is well done.
Slightly less well done, but still inventive, is Indika’s exploration and puzzle solving. It’s like something out of modern Resident Evil, with environmental puzzles and few indications of what you need to do. The final segment reminds me of older 3D platforming games in the worst possible way. Most of it occupies itself with a giant dog chasing Indika, while you frantically try to find the right path forward – paths that are often not easy to notice. That’s a problem considering a second or two of indecision means the dog is on top of you, throwing Indika around like a doll.
The demo does, at least, end with a poignant little conversation about the nature of viciousness. I’m not looking forward to more chase scenes like this in the final game, but I know I’ll gladly put up with them if it means seeing more of this excellent story unfold.