A mysterious detective RPG set in the heart of Naples

Naples, blood in my veins; Naples, dark troubled sea; Naples, my curse and my grace.


Culture, tradition, art, history, mythology, symbolism. No, not just random words placed together, but rather a sequence, a constant in the existence of human beings, not necessarily to be followed in this order. The engines of knowledge, the paths of wisdom, the arts that, more than any others, ignite the insatiable curiosity of human nature to inquire about the past, about those who trod this earth before us, who shaped it for us.These words unfold one after another like verses of an ancient song, echoing in the present but referencing a single common thread: the Ancient, the respect and bond for antiquity.

These very keywords are the guiding principles behind the video game we are about to introduce—a project channeled into culture, folklore, and profound symbolism, where mythology, art, and history converge in the vibrant and enigmatic heart of Neapolitan tradition, against the backdrop of Naples—a city of ancient legends and myths, one of which, for centuries, has lent its name to the flourishing city we know today and also to the project we are about to discuss.

We’re discussing Parthenope, an upcoming mysterious detective RPG developed by Katabasi Studio, a brand-new, all-Italian game company founded by Axel Fox and Francesca Balestri.

Transcend entertainment, aspire to iconicity. That’s the ethos of Katabasi Studio

«It was a morning 14 years ago when I saw Naples for the first time. It was like landing on an unknown planet. Nothing was familiar: not the language, gestures, faces, scents, or colors. Despite my brief stay, I wondered how to survive all of this, when it felt so natural to feel out of place; a ‘foreigner’ on foreign soil.

Since then, I’ve revisited Naples many times, and I’ve always been accompanied by the feeling of not being able to stay and inevitably not being able to be elsewhere, as if on the edge of a magnetic and dark abyss, lacking the courage to let go, nor the strength to turn back.

Then, four years ago, Fortuna Imperatore (Axel Fox) took me by the hand, urging me to ‘stay’. Together, we embarked on this slow descent, a catabasis. With a shared desire to narrate the tale of a city that both birthed and embraced us, we founded Katabasi Studio. From two disparate souls emerges PARTHENOPE, a video game set in the heart of Naples.»

This is briefly described by the words of Co-founder, Art Director, and 3D Artist Francesca Balestri, the birth of Katabasi Studio, and also of the synergy that has emerged between her and Axel Fox, the talented duo leading the studio.

Among the members comprising the team lineup, we have Lead Game Programmer and Technical Game Designer Daniele Sichetti, Level Designer Andrea Sciuto, 3D Artists Genesis Galaxy, Daniele De Giglio, and Francesco Alves, Sound Designer and Composer Umberto Boldarin, and Videomaker Matteo Saliva.

Katabasi Studio

Katabasi Studio’s vision mirrors Axel Fox’s long-standing pursuit in game design, evident in her highly acclaimed works such as Freud’s Bones and Bluethroot. It’s a direct, refined, socially conscious, and deeply psychological approach to gaming that emphasizes originality, complete creative freedom, and the exploration of games as more than just entertainment media, but as reflective works with social themes intended to awaken player consciousness and resonate deeply within their souls.

Further enhancing this vision is the exceptional art design work of Francesca Balestri, a brilliant artist who seamlessly integrates her creative expertise with a deep understanding of the gaming world. Having already collaborated with Axel Fox on Bluethroot for narrative design, she will once again collaborate with Axel Fox on in Parthenope as co-author, artistic director, and 3D artist.

With the announcement of Parthenope, we witness the vision of the team’s two creators taking shape more than ever, aiming to revolutionize the gaming landscape and uphold and amplify the creative autonomy crucial for a project with refined yet widespread appeal, poised for viral success.

The Genesis of Parthenope

How can one tell a story without being a part of it themselves? This was likely one of the questions Axel Fox and Francesca Balestri pondered before diving into the true creative and artistic process of the project.

How can one narrate about a land, its traditions, its culture without being immersed in it? It was necessary for the two authors to take another step to depict Naples, to experience the city from within, firsthand rather than from a distance, to become a part of Naples, to interpret the complexity of Neapolitan roots while remaining within the Parthenopean territory, absorbing its sounds, its smells, its faces, to celebrate a deep love for a city that feels like an alien planet.

To achieve this, they had to remain deeply connected, quite literally glued to the Parthenopean territory, grasping its nuances and details, experiencing life as authentic Neapolitans. In this journey, Axel Fox, a true Neapolitan, acted as a sort of guiding spirit to Francesca Balestri, extending her hand to lead her, much like Virgil guided Dante through the circles of Hell. And the example we’re giving you isn’t just a coincidence.

The term “catabasis,” used by Francesca Balestri to describe her journey with Axel Fox in creating Parthenope, refers to the descent of a living soul into the Underworld in Greek. While we acknowledge that this comparison may be seen as daring on our part, it serves as a fitting allegory to envision the artist’s immersion into the warmth of the Parthenopean tradition. Axel Fox’s role was to lead Francesca Balestri into the heart of Naples, allowing a non-native to experience the true essence of Neapolitan life.

This was the experience that gave birth to Parthenope, a creative work that is not just a video game but a pioneering leap into the realm of Mediterranean role-playing video games. With its innovative approach to storytelling and its dedication to capturing the essence of Naples, it promises to redefine the landscape of independent video games.

The player’s goal will not be to play a part or to mimic a Neapolitan, but to empathize, to be, to think, and to act like a true Parthenopean in order to grasp the true soul of Naples.

A project with Neapolitan blood

Announced through a teaser entirely narrated in the Neapolitan dialect by a female voiceover, Parthenope is a 3D role-playing detective video game that will transport players to an enigmatic and timeless version of Naples, where history and legend intertwine in a labyrinth of mysteries waiting to be unraveled.

Inspired by gaming masterpieces that have redefined their respective genres in the video game medium, such as Disco Elysium and Pentiment, as well as the narrative prowess of Elena Ferrante’s novels and the surreal cinema of Paolo Sorrentino, Parthenope is an exquisite blend of exploration, research and Neapolitan folklore inviting players to delve into a sophisticated narrative where reality and myth blur.

As a cynical anthropologist, alongside a wily local—this could also be a reference to the experience shared by the two authors while working on Parthenope— players will delve into the shadowy depths of the being that houses the forgotten yet living essence of Naples. It’s the perfect opportunity to immerse oneself in the symbolism and profound aura of mystery that envelops the city.

Show the Parthenopean spirit within you

As we’ve already hinted, and as the developers reiterate, pretending to act or even attempting to disguise oneself as a Neapolitan will be futile; in fact, it will only worsen matters. It will be necessary to fully immerse ourselves in the context we’re experiencing, embodying a native Parthenopean, and learning to act, move, and navigate the city like a shadow, interpreting the symbolism imbued with magic, folklore, carnality, and rebellion.


Set in a city teeming with the weight of its history and mystery, the game delves into the intricate layers of Neapolitan life, from its bustling street markets to its shadowy alleyways, where ancient rituals and folkloric traditions persist. Magical realism merges with Baroque and Tenebrism, plunging the player into stifling neighborhoods, damp catacombs, and glimpses of a restless sea.

Parthenope offers a compelling, dramatic, and bizarre gaming experience, capable of inspiring morbid curiosity, disgust, and passion. To survive, players must absorb Neapolitan skills and undergo a complete transformation to confront the carnivalesque bestiary that populates a treacherous and magnetic city — an embodiment reflected in the players themselves.

A folklore like never before, it will lead us to unveil the Mysteries of Parthenope in a rich tapestry deeply rooted in popular tradition and Neapolitan culture, blurring the line between Realism and Legend.

Mastering the Neapolitan way of speaking, thinking, and reasoning is like unravelling the deep mysteries of life, filled with contradictions and oxymorons. It would be in your best interest to learn it quickly to save the city from the dark fate that awaits it.

A first look at the key gameplay features

«With “Parthenope”, the realm of video games goes beyond mere entertainment and becomes a transmedia cultural medium, inviting players to actively engage with the narrative, make choices, challenge preconceptions and immerse themselves in paradoxes in search of the quintessential Neapolitan essence.»

While developers haven’t revealed specific screenshots or other demonstrative materials for obvious developmental reasons, they have shared some crucial insights that provide an understanding of the game’s core gameplay mechanics, including a brief mention of the main villains.

Among the game features disclosed by the developers, we can find:

  • A complex investigative component that will compel us to uncover the intricate genealogy of Neapolitan lineages and confront the Three Patrons who hold sway over the heart of the city.
  • Exploration, a mechanic that will allow us to immerse ourselves in the vibrant culture of the Sea Tribe as we join the fervent search for the elusive Magic Egg and the enigmatic Tomb of the Siren, and delve deep into the mystery of the sunken city.
Magic Egg
  • Immerse yourself in the city and its activities, learning the art of investigation to uncover vital information, engage in eccentric bartering, and delve into the depths of local gossip. Use unconventional methods such as tarot card reading and dream interpretation to unravel the city’s mysteries. Think outside the box, be elusive yet astute, disinterested yet involved.
  • Shape your character’s personality by adopting different disguises, embodying charisma, revolutionary zeal, or even delving into the realm of necromancy.

Embrace good manners, traditions, shatter the most foolish prejudices and stereotypes, and search for your true Neapolitan self that has always been within you. This is the secret to surviving and making the most of your experience in Parthenope.

Naples is a curse and a blessing

If you’ve been intrigued by Parthenope and are interested in learning more about the project, hold off before leaving, because we have our usual information to share with you.

The game obviously doesn’t have a release date or release window, nor have the supported platforms been disclosed, mainly because the game is in its early stages of development and it will likely take some time before Katabasi Studio reveals more about the project. The hope is that by the end of the year, the team will drop a first trailer to give us a clearer idea of the game and the excellent ideas the team is pursuing.

The concept is genuinely intriguing, and at first glance, we were extremely impressed with the artistic direction, led by Francesca Balestri, that the teaser conveyed and the atmosphere it aimed to communicate. The impression we got is that this time, even more than with Freud’s Bones and Bluethroot, Axel Fox wants to take on a truly ambitious project – even more so than what we’re used to – that could, why not, even set new standards in the Italian gaming industry. Only time will tell if the author will have managed to enchant us once again!

To stay updated on all the information related to Parthenope, keep following us and don’t forget to visit the official website of Katabasi Studio to catch the latest updates on their debut video game.

That’s all for today. See you in Naples!

Avatar photo

Grown up with MediEvil and DOOM and fascinated by the video game world since 1998. This passion stems from a desire to discover and research the videogame at 360 degrees, with particular attention to the Indie scene.