Inspired by the RPG Hollow Home, the Disco Elysium inspired RPG is a throwback to Mariupol before the Russian invasion


The Ukrainian city of Mariupol was subjected to massive bombardment in the first months of the Russian invasion in 2022, a program of artillery and airstrikes that damaged or destroyed most residential buildings and killed or displaced thousands of people. It has now been occupied by Russia for almost two years, during which, according to reports Associated Press Press AgencyRussia demolished, rebuilt, and renamed much of the city, erasing its Ukrainian heritage.

The Disco Elysium-inspired RPG Hollow Home is a reminiscence of pre-war Mariupol—not a 1:1 recreation, but a collection of details, colors, personalities, and a few familiar buildings, painstakingly collected and offered in the face of erasure. Speaking to me during a very brief screening at Digital Dragons in Poland earlier this year, artist Anastasia Hlyniana drew my attention to the plants sticking out of ancient car tires around the game’s isometric map, which she says are a common sight in Mariupol.

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Hollow Home begins in 2022, just after the occupation of Mariupol, and is based in part on journalistic accounts of the invasion, although its characters and story are fictional. The game takes place over 30 in-game days, starting shortly before the brutal Russian attack, and you take on the role of 14-year-old Maksym, who must survive and assist others survive. There is no combat in Hollow Home, and there is apparently no direct or “graphic” representation of violence. Instead, the game explores the effects of war on civilians and the decline of individual neighborhoods as residents die or flee the city.

Hollow Home’s pen-and-paper RPG style and vivid, graphic colors immediately remind us of ZA/UM, but the English writing is relatively stiff and respectful, which is to be expected given that the devastation of Mariupol is both a living reality and still unfolding. “It’s our perspective on what happened, and we also want to tell the story of the people and how the city has changed,” Hlyniana concluded.

Image Source: Galaktus / Twigames Inc

Maksym is given a constrained number of action points each day, which you can apply to perform skills like cooking and first aid, based on personality traits like sociability and handiness. However, in the initial, pre-war part of the game, these points are reserved for more benign activities: climbing onto the roof to fix a satellite dish, telling lies about why you’re skipping school, beating your friend’s high score in the arcade, and trying to outsmart an older boy who’s been tormenting you. In the course of these teenage antics, you’ll meet and map a community of shopkeepers, car mechanics, nosy neighbors, and local slackers, all of whom speculate on reports of a military buildup on the border.

“Some places will be destroyed, some new ones will be created, like shelters, volunteer centers,” Hlyniana explained. “Some people will die, some new people will come, and the game has multiple endings. Our goal is about 24 hours of gameplay, and the game will contain about three city districts, so it will be one big, typical Ukrainian city.”

At the risk of condensing my own responses as someone whose country is not currently under attack, it was strange to hear the situation in Mariupol described in terms of the concerns of video game reviewers, such as game length and choice of endings. Unfortunately, my language skills were not sufficient to ask Hlyniana what the creators thought about positioning this work of memory as a commercial product on Steamwhere it needs to frame itself for consumption alongside RPGs for which the apocalyptic setting is an escape fantasy. Hollow Home is set to release in 2025.

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