Developed by Kaigan Games and publisher under the Neon Doctrine label, Simulacra 3 (or SIMULACRA 3 if you don’t mind all-caps) is the third entry in the critically acclaimed ‘found phone’ series of horror games. It recently came out as a PC exclusive, so we made sure we took a look.
In Simulacra 3, you’re working at a local paper trying to cover a series of strange disappearances around the town of Stonecreek. People are vanishing, and all that’s left is a strange symbol where they were last seen. It terrifies people, and you’re thinking that a phone that belonged to one of the victims might be a key towards figuring out what’s happening here.
As you learn more about this case and the town of Stonecreek, you find out that the town’s alleged to be haunted by a witch whose ghost (called Beldam) doesn’t want to leave the townsfolk alone. You’re hoping that Paul Castillo’s find might provide more insights, because he’s a bit of a researcher himself – especially when dealing with theories that are a bit out there.
That’s easier said than done though, as (as slightly paranoid) Paul has ensured that his phone is protected by safety measures to keep people like you from accessing what’s on there. You’ll come across puzzles, but there are plenty of other breadcrumbs to be found as well once you’re able to start interacting with the phone – contacting people you find on there, checking out media files, etc.
It’s a formula that those who played the previous Simulacra games (and similar titles) before will recognize, but it’s nice that you can reach almost a dozen different endings here – even though the bulk of the game is fairly linear and the story doesn’t start to branch out until later. There’s a vast amount of lore to explore even on a single playthrough though, so if the story grabs you it’s nice to get immersed in ‘online’ forums to see what other locals are saying about what’s happening. There are other resources to explore as well, so there’s a realistic online world that was all hand-crafted by the developers.
New elements include sequences that play out in ‘real time’ where you suddenly need to react quickly rather than carefully conduct your research. One of the more exciting examples where you ‘break’ the confines of the phone is where you use it to access the security cameras in Paul’s house in order to guide our protagonist through it safely. We’ve seen similar concepts done more effectively elsewhere, but with close to five hours of gameplay, Simulacra 3 is an engaging and somewhat diverse (though mostly familiar) “found phone” game.
The developers certainly could have taken more changes with the game’s design though, which in large parts feels “phoned in” (pun most definitely intended) and not as groundbreaking at Simulacra 2 felt. We’d love if a future game did more to blend the game world with the real world, for instance, letting you explore the real web and other resources – the Isklander Trilogy was fantastic example of how effective this can be. Until then, this is a serviceable new game in the series, but it’s not the leap forward that the last game was.