Saturnalia is a horror-adventure set in the Italian region of Sardinia, circa 1989, and it’s inspired by authentic Sardinian folklore and classic Italian giallo horror films. The story involves a mysterious, centuries-old ritual that occurs every year on the night of the winter solstice in the Italian village of Gravoi. Needless to say, it’s an absolutely haunting experience that sticks with the player long after the credits role.

There have been countless horror games over the years, but very few of them actually manage to conjure frightening moments that shock and rattle the player. Even tougher is keeping that tension with the player, as horror games can tend to get less creepy the more time spent in that world. Santa Ragione, the team behind Saturnalia, was very aware of this issue and set out to remedy it.

At GDC 2024, studio director Pietro Righi Riva spoke about how Santa Ragione made sure Saturnalia players were always kept on the edge of their seats, constantly thinking something was right around the corner.

“One thing that really worried us based on play tests is that over the hours of gameplay [the creature encounters in the village] would become too same-y. So, first of all, we introduced these passive non-aggressive encounters, which means that we would direct moments where you might see the creature walking by a window when you’re inside or lurking at the end of an alley. It gave the impression there was this thing walking around the village and doing something.”

[Studio director Pietro Righi Riva]

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