Martha is Dead is a psychological thriller that isn't scared to tackle the big stuff. Set in 1940's Tuscany, the turmoil of the second world war hanging over everything like an impending storm, the upcoming horror game tells the story of Giulia, a twin mourning the loss of her sister. We spoke to Martha is Dead's creative director, Luca Dalco of LKA, to find out more about this intriguing-looking indie. "Martha is Dead is a psychological thriller that explores the life and the trauma of Martha’s sister," he explains.
"What happened? How and when? [These] are just some of the questions we should ask ourselves, but playing a game that shows the historical reality of a country trying to survive the second world war – and the way it can ravage not just a place, but its people and their actions – is incredibly important."
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From what we've seen so far, the game will play with the contrast between the beauty of the Italian countryside where the twins lived, and the potential horror that lurks in the darkness. A sweet scene of a livestock pen flashes to the corpses of farm animals, there are sun-soaked buildings but also dark woods. We see a dark room where Giulia develops a photo of a smiling woman, but are quickly transported to a world of dark corridors, dead bodies, and apparitions. It's jarring, evocative, and catnip to horror fans.
Beyond the supernatural elements, Dalco also describes the effect of the war on Italy and how that's a key element of the game. This isn't the first studio to use WW2 as a backdrop but Martha is Dead stands out because you're seeing it through the eyes of a young, female civilian, rather than a soldier.
"The last world war is something that happened to the people of Italy, amplified through the eyes of a teenager who doesn’t really understand what is happening around her. I find this incredibly interesting, and you’ll see this as a thread throughout the stories we tell; they’re deeply personal, as you’ll discover when you play Martha Is Dead for the first time."
The studio's previous game, Town of Light, also looked to history for inspiration, telling the story of 16-year-old Renée and the trauma she suffered at an asylum. "Martha is Dead is a completely different game but they do have similar elements in common," says Dalco. "About the historical context of a country devastated by war – Italy in the 1940s – and the main character, who experiences real-life horrific events. It’s also about realizing the beauty of Tuscany."
Town of Light also gives the studio a chance to see how far it has come since 2016, both visually and in terms of gameplay. "It's been a real journey since the first build of Town of Light," reveals Dalco. "I just had a look at the code last week and I put my hands in my head thinking about how much we’ve learned since then."
"Technology and programming have seen the biggest advancements as we evolved as a studio. You can see that in our visuals and our marketing, but we’ve not let gameplay fall behind. We’re far above where we were with The Town of Light, and we’re using that knowledge to produce variety in design, gameplay, and storytelling that is necessary to deliver on the expectations of a leading indie game in 2021."
Martha is Dead will be released on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC later this year. The power of the new generation of machines has been key to creating the world of the game, according to Dalco.
"Both Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 allowed us to realize our vision, by focusing on the power available to create a vibrant, realistic world to explore. We’re creating a photorealistic game using photogrammetry techniques, allowing us to deliver crisp 4K resolution and beyond. Fast loading times and ray tracing increases the immersion of the player, and without these new consoles, we’d be limited to what we could achieve."
For more exciting titles to look forward to, check out our round-up of the new games of 2021 and beyond