The room is pitch black. The only thing visible is a man with a pistol sitting at a table and five individuals in chairs over a dimming fluorescent light. Carefully, he loads the bullets in the gun as he spins the cartridge in place. Then, one by one, he shoots them, and for good measure, he fires on himself.
Once the bullet pierces his skull, he awakens in a poorly lit tiled room surrounded by a mysterious black glop. He picks himself up from the substance and limps to a door leading to his house. Little does the man know he’s in limbo, and the only way out is to pay for his sins. He’s simply a visage searching for another plane of existence. Will he head to the afterlife or damnation? Only you can answer the question.
Home is my purgatory
Hidden within this Victorian mansion lies the story of four victims and their experiences within the Riverdale, Oregon, house. The house describes the tale of Visage — the first-person survival horror released by SadSquare on PC and Steam in 2020. Visage explores the deaths of four individuals who suffered in the titular mansion. Our protagonist, Dwayne Anderson, must investigate their murders to compensate for his misdeeds.
Dwayne is the latest victim of the Visage household. In 1985, he killed his family and himself, and now he must walk around the house searching for answers. But, unlike the other Visage mansion owners, Dwayne plans to leave purgatory and help the victims find peace.
Dwayne must complete the task, as he has much to make up for.
Slowly, the game unveils what plagued Dwayne. Some years back, Dwayne was a chemist for the CIA under the MK Ultra project. Unfortunately, he had to remain silent until the government leaked the project to the public.
Knowing he was under an NDA (nondisclosure agreement) drove Dwayne to drink and ignore his family; behind a bottle, he could maintain a dark secret. Throughout the game, we learn about his alcoholism, hints about his job, and the misgivings of the visage deaths. Dwayne has a decision: will he investigate to ascend or end it all?
If Dwayne investigates, he will learn what happened to Lucy, Dolores, and Rakan. Once he uncovers the truth, Dwayne receives a VHS tape labeled with emotions he harbored (i.e., indifference or neglect.) Likewise, Dwayne must collect six more tapes to reach the afterlife and maybe see his family. Unfortunately, those tapes are scattered around the house, and when Dwayne compiles the set, he must endure the actions of the tapes. In return, Dwayne receives a shard of a mirror mask, which will piece together after Dwayne collects every fragment.
As mentioned, Dwayne will face obstacles in the search, especially when encountering Lewis Taylor. He’s another person Dwayne has wronged, and because Lewis feels no sympathy, he will stop at nothing to keep Dwayne from achieving that which he seeks. He does not care if Dwayne atones for his crimes. He must pay.
Regardless, collecting all mirror mask pieces unveils a monochrome mask that Dwayne puts on to enter another plane and reunites with his family.
But, what if. What if Dwayne doesn’t reunite with the ones he left behind? He can rummage through the Visage mansion eternally or shoot himself into oblivion.
Akin to how he ended his life, Dwayne can experience his death until it sends him to the bottom of a fountain. Dwayne will spend the rest of his days running and walking, seeing no signs of escape. This is the price he pays for taking the easy way out.
But should you allow Dwayne to end his life? In the encounter with the gun, Dwayne must shoot himself six times before he reaches the never-ending void. The message is clear: Dwayne should pursue and claim the mask instead. He has a second chance to make things right and should not relive his death six times.
So, player, will you waste the opportunity?
My personal hell
I was ecstatic when I noticed Visage on the PlayStation Store in the fall of 2022. I had waited since the playable demo on Steam to play Visage on consoles, hoping for the day I could experience it on my PlayStation 4. And then, to my great surprise, there it was. I bought it and had an excellent time with the game.
Walking in, I knew nothing about Visage, so I needed to learn its difficulty. Because I struggled so much, I had no choice but to use guides. Without them, I'd still be rummaging through the house, dying continuously.
Many have said Visage is one of the scariest games they've ever played. It startled me a few times as NPCS appeared out of thin air to kill me. Aside from that, I couldn’t care less about the sanity meter. I felt overwhelmed. Visage gets tedious when Dwayne’s sanity skyrockets, as the screen becomes blurry and dark if you don't take pills to stabilize Dwayne’s senses. I understand he must relive past traumas, but it doesn’t serve the game well where a standard health bar would do just fine. Still, I commend SadSquare for trying something different.
My patience was also tested in the Dolores chapter. Regardless of the guides, the chapter was challenging, and the cold I carried didn’t help either. Sick and unable to think, it took me more than a week and a half to finish. Despite all that, the game was a fantastic experience, and someday I hope to return to the mansion and uncover all that I missed.
The afterlife or the void
Visage is a game you should play more than once. It is an intriguing story of a man attempting to make amends for his past. The spirits in the Visage mansion try to push back, but Dwayne wants to rekindle what he lost. It won't come without work, on his part and that of the player. I surely put in that work and had a wonderful experience, regardless of the guides.
Dwayne’s hope for a better life is in our hands. We have to fight for it but will be rewarded in full. Past the grueling tasks, Dwayne, at last, sees his family and lives in harmony. Please don’t take the coward's way and let Dwayne suffer six more times. The gunshot offers nothing but a sign to fight for peace.
Help Dwayne find his way out of the Visage mansion, as he so desperately wants to do.
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