The folks at Wadjet Eye are at it again, with the release of yet another old-school style, point-and-click adventure game. With previous titles including Gemini Rue and Resonance, the company is one of the top contenders in its genre, and the team hopes to continue this track record with Primordia. But while the game may be absolutely stunning at times, it lacks the same relatable and well-developed characters of the developer’s previous games.
Players control Horatio Nullbuilt, a cyborg living the life of a scavenger in an apocalyptic wasteland. After a quick opening scene, he finds himself without a power source, and must spend the majority of the game tracking down the thief responsible and uncovering the hidden past of his world. Along the way Horatio is accompanied by his often annoying companion Cripsin.
By far the most impressive part of Primordia is the stunning visual style. Characters are well designed, with each robot generally having its own unique look. The game also isn’t afraid to pull back every now and then to give you a look at gorgeous, wide vistas which really drive home the game’s desolate nature. Fans of Wadjet Eye’s other titles will recognize the engine, with its pixelated sprites, and they’ve really outdone themselves this time. The world created is full of grit and grease, and at times you can almost smell the exhaust. But when it came to actually interacting with the cast of characters populating this desert wasteland, I was left unsatisfied.
First, there’s Crispin. He’s meant to be Horatio’s side-kick; his comedic relief. Always present, he’s one of the only permanent fixtures throughout the game. The problem is, he’s rarely funny. Try as I might, I could never get past his cheesy one-liners and tired jokes. Crispin was meant to be a sarcastic foil to Horatio’s solemn stoicism, but he fulfilled this role so well, I simply didn’t like him. I didn’t care what happened to him, and eventually found myself rushing through his dialogue. His constant grating only escalated as the game progressed, as Crispin is also the source of hints in Primordia. All he ever provided were tired jokes that weren’t funny the first time, let alone the fourth or fifth.
As for the rest of the colorful characters, many never seemed to receive enough face time. As with the setting itself, many of the bizarre personalities Horatio encounters were, on the surface, well presented. But as soon as I found myself intrigued and wanting to know more about a specific personality, they were thrown by the wayside. After a while the characters you encounter don’t serve to create a living breathing world, as much as they simply provide context for a puzzle. After finishing Primordia, I still felt no real connection to any of the characters.
Apart from the story, Primordia suffers from many of the same problems as older adventure games. More than once I was confronted with obtuse reasoning. Even when the final step to a puzzle was known, I’d often spend an aggravating amount of time exhausting my options, only to find out I missed one pile of nonspecific junk among four other nondescript piles. This is nothing new to the genre, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s not entertaining. More than once I found myself having to pixel-hunt. This is archaic and only detracts from a game.
Many of these problems could be largely due to the hint system. Modern entries in the genre tend to have built-in hint systems, or somehow try to integrate hints into the core mechanics, and Primordia attempts this too. But the hints are only given through your grating sidekick, and most suggestions given aren’t useful. The vast majority of them simply reiterate the current goal, stating obvious facts I found out long before.
However, the faults described before are not representative of every hurdle players face. Some puzzles are surprisingly clever, and will leave you feeling genuinely intelligent and empowered. But as soon as one begins to progress and experience that swell of satisfaction, a brick wall can just as easily come out of nowhere which is usually caused by the previously mentioned faults. A few odd design choices might be partially to blame for this. One example is that many NPCs will only talk to you once to request something. Afterwards they cannot be interacted with again until the task is finished. If you missed some key piece of dialogue, all you can do is hope Crispin chimes in.
It’s a shame, because underneath all of this, Primordia makes some truly interesting thematic decisions. On occasion, it stands on the brink of brilliance, confronting the player with dilemmas which have no correct answer. Differing philosophic ideas are presented with equal weight, and are given equal time to present their case. But when it matters, the building tension simply fizzled because I never really built a connection with most of the characters.
I wanted to love Primordia. Adventure games and I have a love/hate relationship, but I do think the genre does things others can’t, such as provide mind-bending challenges and powerful stories with rich dialogue. Unfortunately, Primordia doesn’t live up to its full potential. While the visuals may be superb, and the world may be eerily intriguing, I never cared enough about the characters for this to matter. For $8.99, it’s a mildly entertaining entry in a genre, but it falls short of greatness.
Primorida was developed by Wormwood Studios and published by Wadjet Eye Games. A PC copy was provided by the publisher for the purposes of review.