In the world of Saturnalianothing is as it seems. The Italian village of Gravoi may appear quaint and unassuming at first glance, but it holds many secrets. Similarly, there’s more to the four co-protagonists of Saturnalia than meets the eye. Although each of them are outsiders for different reasons, they all share a common cause: rooting out the darkness that haunts Gravoi, even if it means bringing their own demons into the light.
The first of these is Anita Giannini, geologist extraordinaire and the very picture of the late 80’s businesswoman. Unlike her fellow protagonists, she had no attachment to Gravoi prior to her arrival a year before the game’s events. In fact, her initial purpose in the village was to conduct reconnaissance in the area on behalf of corporate mining interests eager to exploit the surrounding natural resources. A woman of her assurance and confidence isn’t easily deterred, in matters both professional and personal—so perhaps it was inevitable that she’d find herself involved in an illicit affair with none other than Damiano, the married town sacristan. At the outset of Saturnaliashe’s discovered that she’s with child, and despite the controversy sure to arise if her affair was made public, she’s determined to keep the baby.
The conservative values of Gravoi are at odds with Anita’s unflappable character, but there are other, darker forces at work that even she can’t dismiss.
In contrast, Paul Izem is a child of Gravoi, even if he didn’t know it for most of his life. After his birth parents died under mysterious circumstances while he was still an infant, Paul was soon adopted by a family in Iglesias, a city in southern Sardinia. Only after discovering a letter urging his adoptive parents to never let him return to Gravoi does he defy that very request and embark on a personal mission to find out the truth about what happened to his mother and father. To avoid raising the suspicions of a town already distrustful of outsiders, Paul uses his profession as a photojournalist to shield his true motive, claiming he’s working on a feature for a tourist magazine even as he quietly seeks out clues about his past. Little does he know that his camera will be of critical importance in documenting the horror lurking in Gravoi…
Quick to put on a brave face, Paul hides his insecurity just as he hides his real motivation in coming to the village. But the other protagonists of Saturnalia don’t exactly share his self-consciousness.
Sergio Aulas was born and raised in Gravoi, but left for Manchester when he was only sixteen. At the time, his departure seemed like something to be celebrated: a chance to study abroad paid for by the generosity of Bruno Bissani, the lord and owner of the castle in Gravoi. But in truth, this wasn’t an opportunity, but an exile: discovered in bed with Bisssani by the lord’s own wife, Sergio was sent to England as a means of covering up the scandal, at the urging of his father. Thirty years later, he’s become a successful computer programmer, returning to Gravoi only to care for his iron lung-bound father. Aloof and analytical, Sergio is inherently antagonized by the traditionalist norms of his hometown, particularly as a gay man no longer compelled to hide his sexuality. But motivated by his obligation to his sick father, as well as his lingering curiosity about the fate of his former lover—who’s since disappeared—Sergio has no choice but to reinsert himself back into the community and mystery of Gravoi.
But Sergio is also secretly battling a morphine addiction, which he treats by pilfering his father’s medicine. If he wants to find the answers he seeks, he’ll need the one thing he’s most discomfited by: the help of others.
Claudia Mirai would rather suffer in silence than ask for help. More than anyone else in Saturnaliashe despises Gravoi: as a sixteen-year-old punk, she knows she was made for more than just tending her father’s bar, and the antiquated culture of her remote hometown stifles her to the point of exasperation. But it’s not just youthful rebellion shaping her worldview. As a child, she stumbled onto a horrific scene: her aunt, clad in her wedding dress and hanging from the centenary olive tree in the ancient nuragic area right outside the village. The sight left Claudia with painful trauma she can never be freed from, as did the omerta (the Southern Italian code of silence) that followed, when her father and the other townsfolk refused to acknowledge the death as a suicide. Since then, she’s stood in stark opposition to every institution in her community, be it patriarchal values or religious instruction. She’s defiant and only aligns herself with those she views as in opposition to the system—but in truth, her cynicism is a coping mechanism for her painful memories and her bitter relationship with her father. Her wish is to leave Gravoi and begin a new life somewhere far away from everything she’s ever known.
In order for that wish to come true, however, she has to make it through the night of the winter solstice.
Alone, each of these characters can only do so much. Together, they stand a chance to uncover the mystery of Gravoi and escape Saturnalia.
The team here at Santa Ragione is putting the finishing touches to the game, and we can’t wait for you to play it. Saturnalia launches for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S on October 27th, 2022.