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Final Thoughts 23: Primordia

 

Final Thoughts 23

Primordia

 

Note: This is not a review, but merely my musings after having recently completed a game as part of my Rogue's Adventures playthrough of my backlog. Follow @RoguesAdventure to keep up with my playthroughs and check out my live streams at twitch.tv/gorbash722.

 

Developer: Wormwood Studios

Publisher: Wadjet Eye Games

Release Date: December 5, 2012

Wadjet Eye Games are not nearly as well known or prolific as bigger adventure game developers and publishers like Daedalic Entertainment and Telltale Games, but are no less beloved by hardcore fans of the genre. By hardcore I mean gamers that enjoy clever puzzles, a gripping narrative, and a fascinating world or setting to explore - everything that continue to makes the traditional point and click adventure game so compelling. Primordia, developed by Wormwood Studios, is a fantastic example of everything I love about the genre - minus the terribly aging Adventure Game Studio engine and low resolution.

Back in Season One of Rogue's Adventures I played through Resonance, my first Wadjet Eye published game. I quickly fell in love with it, and even found the retro pixel graphics endearing, having grown up in that VGA era of adventure gaming. I was excited to pick up and play Primordia when it was released at the end of 2012, but adventure games are easily regulated to the backlog where they have to be scheduled to get played! Thankfully I've finally gotten around to Primordia, and it's another fantastic offering.

Primordia tells the post-apocalyptic story of a robot, Horatio, living in a broken down spaceship in the junk filled desert wasteland that is Earth. The humans are gone, leaving only robots behind. Horatio believes staunchly in Humanism and carries around the Gospel of Man - believing Man to be their creators and that one day they'll return. The narrative kicks off when a menacing excavation bot breaks in and steals the ship's power core, causing Horatio and his wise-cracking floating robot pal Crispin to set off on a journey to recover it, eventually taking them to the last city of Metropol and the dangers that lurk within.

The setting is instantly more interesting and compelling than Resonance's vague near-future, and I'm particularly a fan of post-apocalyptic tales. Plus, robots! Horatio is voiced by the amazingly gravelly Logan Cunnigham, whom you might remember from such games as Bastion (he also voiced one of the main characters in Resonance).

Crispin quickly became one of my favorite gaming sidekicks - a great example of a comic relief character who works well both in the story and in gameplay helping to solve puzzles and nicely providing in-game hints. Horatio is serious and mysterious, so Crispin's humorous foil is a perfect match.

The gameplay is standard to any point and click adventure, but is hampered by the incredibly low resolution of the Adventure Game Studio engine and necessitates some annoying pixel hunting. It doesn't help that the art style is made up entirely of reds and browns. While it fits perfectly with the setting and theme of the world, it makes various areas look a bit same-y. Pixel hunting is never very fun and I never considered it a puzzle; when given the option I always opt to turn on the ability to highlight hotspots. No such convenience here, and at least at one point I became quite stuck simply because I didn't realize I could interact with a sewer cover on the street.

The actual graphics I can appreciate, and I kind of love that retro pixel style. The animations are limited, and there aren't even any close up portraits during dialogue scenes. A few limited cutscenes help break up the action, and the story certainly manages to tell its share of exciting moments - from being dramatically rescued from zombified robots (mmeeeemmmorrrryyyyy) to the multiple endings. Locations vary nicely initially; the first Act draws you into the world as Horatio explores the dunes and wastes around him, including the inside of a giant half-buried robot before reaching the "City of Glass and Light" known as Metropol in Act 2.

Metropol is fun to explore, even though it's only a few screens. Robots wander the streets and numerous puzzles are waiting to be solved. Thankfully the goals are always fairly clear - get into the courthouse, help the robots in line with their various problems, get into the underworks, etc. A nice in-game note taking system is represented by Horatio's data pouch, and I was super pleased to also find a fast travel map system - a relief when you constantly have to return to previous areas.

Unfortunately Metropol serves as the last destination and setting for the reminder of the game. While new areas open up - the underworks and the final central tower, I spent most of my time going back and forth between the same few screens. It was disappointing as I wanted to explore so much more of this intriguing world and city, though I still very much enjoyed my time solving puzzles and unearthing more of the world's mysterious past and Metromind's rise to power.

The story is a bit short; I usually find 10 hours to be a sweet spot for adventure games, but Primorida clocks in at 6 or 7, and that's with getting quite stuck at a few devious puzzles. Like Resonance, the puzzle designs are fantastic and a great mix between standard inventory puzzles and clever logic ones. A memorable one was following the trail of clues through a word search kiosk, deciphering the word puzzles to get the next word to move on.

Other fun moments included a barter-friendly merchant that had some enjoyable game references (describing the half-life of a crowbar and willing to trade his water chip for a G.E.C.K) and letting Crispin practice his pick-up lines on a lamp. Crispin became an invaluable source - not only with his funny non-sequitors and commentary but in giving subtle (and not so subtle) hints as to the current puzzle or gentle shove in the direction or task we should be heading for. Plus, he could always be used to nudge out of reach objects.

If you can get past the nostalgic but brown low-res pixelated graphics you'll find a wonderful balance of story, world-building and excellent puzzles wrapped up in a tight package. An atmospheric soundtrack and sublime voice acting are icing on the robo-cake. While Primordia lacks the emotional punch and jaw-dropping moments of Resonance, I did enjoy the world and characters more, and ultimately still haven't made up my mind which I like best. I'm confident in declaring that Wadjet Eye definitely has an eye for talented retro adventure games (and Wormwood Studios for making them), and I'd be thrilled if they could get the budget to produce one of their excellent productions in a modern engine.

 

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