Opening line of a traditional Karelian folk-tale.

Finnland, famous for inventing the Finish line, Remedy Entertainment, Mämmi, mosquitos, lakes, and most likely coming up with the original implementation of the Moose. But what you might not know them for is civil engineering safety first-person-puzzler INFRA. It’s a lovely little source-engine-intro-sequence turned conspiracy inspection simulator game by developers Loiste Interactive.

And if you’re a fan of INFRA’s frigid concrete corridors, you might just be aware of a self-described “Concretepunk” immersive sim set in the same locale as their first game, the Baltic city of Stalburg: Open Sewer

Faced with an epidemic of green fungus, the local governing bodies decide to quarantine a variety of individuals in Stalburg’s slum district, Obenseur. Complete with it’s own currency, OC (do not steal), and housing crisis, Open Sewer places you in the role of being a refugee of sorts against your own will and it’s up to you to survive the excessive troubles of daily life.

If it’s starting to sound like a Baltic modern-day Pathologic with a fixation on ‘shrooms’ then you already have an idea of the game’s ambiance. Despite a dreary, depressing window dressing there’s a subtle undertone of cynical humor at play presented in the game’s brief opening cinematic.

Unlike INFRA, it’s a third/first person role-playing piece with charming lo-fi graphics evocative of glitching into a skybox LOD containing an atmosphere evoking both Western and Eastern urban aesthetics.

It’s exciting to see a 3D exploration of the dark slice-of-life simulation genre formerly dominated by 2D experimental art games. Loiste has a knack for rich in-depth storytelling with optional elements that are easy to miss, something well suited for a roleplaying open world that doesn’t hold your hand with regards to its objective. If anything, it strikes me that the developers are pursuing something akin to Warren Spector’s ideal of “The One City Block” concept

However, go in this with the understanding that it is definitely an early access game. The awkward clumsy control scheme and short-tether camera controls in an already claustrophobic concrete space don’t do the concept any favors, which is a shame given it’s massive potential.

Stalburg is a very well thought out place that the developers are clearly excited to revisit. Screenshots don’t begin to do the game’s visuals justice, so do yourself a favor and give yourself a stroll through everyone’s new favorite nightmarish Baltic landscape.

Emily Rose is an indie developer who writes for and resides in the pacific northwest. She’s often seen in the local VR arcade and developer community participating in pushing the medium’s horizons. You can find her on twitter @caravanmalice