Developer: Wadjet Eye Games, Wormwood Studios
Publisher: Wadjet Eye Games
Platform : PC
Release Date: 5 December 2012
Price: $9.99 (available here)
Games like Telltale’s The Walking Dead have proved that point and click adventure games can still hold their own in today’s market. Whilst TellTale are one of the more well known developers repopularising the genre, there are still plenty of independent devs out there making games where story and character take precedence over gameplay mechanics and graphical posturing.
Wadjet Eye Games is one such developer. They have released a steady stream of point and clicks including neo noir Gemini Rue, The Blackwell Deception and Resonance – all of which have been well received. Their latest project, a joint venture with Wormwood Studios, is Primordia. This science fiction tale follows the adventure of Horatio Nullbuilt, a robot living in a post apocalyptic wasteland with his floating droid companion Crispin.
The mechanics found in Primorida echo those of other Wadjet Eye games and point and clicks in general. Players click on screen to move the character, use one mouse button to look at an object, the other to act on it. There’s a drop down menu that appears from the top of the screen for access to the inventory, map and data, and also keyboard shortcuts to hop into these functions as well. Selecting items could be a lot smoother, but the main gripe with these additional feature is the small size of them – why does Horatio’s data pad have a screen that can only accommodate a few characters per line?
Although the map and data pad features aren’t perfect they are extremely valuable during the course of the game. The map provides a time saving fast travel system, and Horatio’s data pad automatically records snippets of data that are essential to progressing through the plot. Along with Horatio’s companion Crispin the data pad is essentially part of a hint system that you can take advantage of as you choose.
Crispin’s contribution is handled rather well. As well as his scripted dialogue players can click on him for assistance when stumped. Sometimes he’s helpful, sometimes he’s just winds you up. The amount of dialogue lines that the little guy can churn out over the course of the game is impressive, and the banter between him and Horatio is funny and charming. Autosaves are fairly generous, and there’s room for multiple save files which you can rename yourself.
The puzzles throughout the game are neither particularly memorable nor particularly difficult. Some may provoke a bit of head scratching but genre fans are unlikely to find anything novel or memorable. The first half of the game has a lot of object hunting, which opens up upon entering Metropol and encountering other robots to hang puzzles from. There are a few words puzzles thrown in for variety, and the game is pleasingly self aware that it relies on a particular object to solve one too many problems – “Can’t we just use the plasma torch?”
Horatio and Crispin live in the wreck of a spaceship in the middle of a barren desert, spending their days building things from spare parts and junk whilst surviving off of the ships power core. The drama kicks off quickly when a sinister robot appears and attacks Horatio, making off with the power core.
After establishing an emergency power source Horatio and Crispin must chase down the core, an adventure which takes them to a handful of strange locations before settling in the city of Metropol. As always with adventure games it is largely up to the charm of the characters and the strength of the world they inhabit to make the slower pace of the action less obvious. In Primordia’s case both boxes are ticked, with the setting and mythology being particularly strong.
In Primordia humans are long gone from the world, relegated to a creator myth that forms the basis of Humanism, a belief system of which Horatio is a follower. The world is clearly in a post-apocalyptic state after some unknown disaster, and Horatio himself has a mysterious past which is gradually uncovered throughout the story. Whilst current events initially seem disconnected from the past , everything begins to mesh together as more about the world is discovered, and if you pay it enough attention Primordia will surprise you with the depth of its world.
There is a lot to be read into but only if you desire to do so. No agenda is pushed, with potential messages sitting quietly in the background waiting to be uncovered by a curious player. The story touches on individual freedoms in the face of progress, the survival of the many over the lives of a few – even religion gets a look in here, with Horatio facing a world where his beliefs are looked on as foolish, and even something to be persecuted. Primordia excels in creating it’s own history and mythology, and gamers with a love for story and sinking into fictional worlds will lap up all the little details on offer.
A sense of humour runs alongside the more serious and grim elements of the game, with pop culture references and self aware humor lighting up some of the dialogue. The banter between Horatio and Crispin manages to remain entertaining throughout the entire game –indeed Crispin has an excellent supply of put downs to manage players who get too hint happy. That said the little guy can often offer hints to puzzles already solved, which does break the immersion when it happens.
There’s a strong collection of supporting characters at play too, with the artwork, sound design and voice work coming together to create some memorable creatures and moments. Many of them are more than a little sinister or insane, adding to the notion that the world Horatio occupies is falling apart at the seams. Things trip along at a good pace; new questions arise as old ones are answered, and a trickle of new characters also helps keep interest high.
Unfortunately the conclusion of Horatio’s tale doesn’t live up to the rest of the story. Despite some technical issues that cropped up during the final moments of the game (which I am now assured have been remedied) it just felt that every action I had taken had made no difference at all and that things hadn’t been resolved in the slightest. The drive that Horatio has at the beginning simply disappears in the latter half of the game, and the villain of the piece really didn’t inspire enough emotion to care about. Looking at it from a more objective perspective the final outcome perhaps feels right in tone, and if Primorida were a straight up science fiction short story rather than a game it might have proven quite satisfying. Opinions will no doubt differ from player to player, but I have to admit that I felt disappointed by the finale.
Running alongside that was a nagging feeling that I had missed something. Why was that object in my inventory never used? Did I miss something along the way that would have made that small area have a purpose? Whilst these small elements added to the feeling that things were left unresolved, the fact that they still play on my mind is a credit to the strength of the world.
Audio & Visual
Primordia carries Wadjet Eye’s signature adventure game style – a low res, pixel art . It has it’s own brand of unique charm, and the landscapes and characters in this particular adventure boast some excellent design work, some of my favourite from any of their games. The colour palette can feel more than a little drab at times (read: BROWN), and accentuates the fact that the game could be a lot prettier in a higher resolution. I couldn’t help but wish to see some of the character designs and artwork in a better light, given room to breathe with smoother animations and a clearer style. Hunting down some concept art only exacerbates the fact that some of the quality of the art is lost in so rigidly sticking to a low res pixel art set up.
Nonetheless there is still something admirable about the style of Primordia, and it’s certainly one to stand out from the crowd. The voice acting is largely quality throughout, even if long term fans of Wadjet Eye might stumble a little upon Crispin’s voice actor being the same as Joey from the Blackwell series, especially given that they are both comic relief characters.
Not the strongest of Wadjet Eye’s releases, Primordia is nonetheless a pleasant enough adventure to spend an afternoon on. The atmosphere is strong , the mythology intriguing and the characters entertaining – fans of Wadjet Eye’s previous works will certainly enjoy the characters and storytelling. Sadly there are no stand out moments from the puzzles and the finale leaves a lot to be desired, placing Primordia below some of the more well formed stories out there in adventure land.