First posted on 19 November 2012. Last updated on 06 December 2012.
About the game
Published by Wadjet Eye Games, Primordia will be available as digital download and a Limited Edition DVD release.
All too rarely do games tackle the serious questions about our own existence. Why do we exist? What purpose do we serve? While adventure games tend to attract a more niche and cerebral audience compared of games of other genres, it is still uncommon to find a game willing to explore these issues without reverting to the usual slapstick tropes which permeate previous works meant primarily to be just entertainment.
So when a game like Primordia comes along, it is only too welcome. Of course, when you first begin playing Wormwood Studio's debut game, it does not seem that different than other sci-fi adventures. In fact, it is nearly impossible to not make a comparison of this game with Machinarium. Like that game, you take on the persona of a robot, tasked to explore a dreary wasteland of spare parts and scrap metal. The graphics are certainly familiar as well, evoking memories of the low res imaginaries of classic adventure games of yesteryear.
Yet, as Primordia begins to slowly diverge, it develops characters, introduces twisting plotlines, and even seduces you with the possibilities of meaningful decisions and alternate endings. There is no doubt that the preferred medium which indie developer Wormwood Studios likes to work in is classic graphical adventures, but there is also no doubt that the thematic sensibilities of the game purported by the developer are much more modern—post-modern, to be completely accurate. More apocalyptic than Beneath a Steel Sky, more sobering than The Longest Journey, and more cerebral than Machinarium, this is an adventure that holds a lot of promise for a medium on the verge of experiencing its own renaissance.
In Primordia, you play as a humanoid robot named Horatio, who lives on a wasteland of a world populated only by other mechanicals. You are accompanied your flying robotic sidekick Crispin—think Morte from Planescape: Torment but with blinking lights instead of empty eye sockets, who serves not only as comic relief but also as a welcome hint system.
Gameplay in Primordia is old school point-and-click adventure. You putter around the gorgeous apocalyptic environments—picking up items, combining them, and making dry comments about them. An interface keeps track of the locations you can visit and minor information about the puzzles that you are working on. In order to move the story along, you need to solve puzzles. These puzzles range from simple fetch quests to more difficult mechanical tasks, including a few logic puzzles. If you get stuck, you can click on Crispin, who will prod you along and will even provide you with the answer that you seek once you click enough. Many of the puzzles feature alternate solutions, some of which can impact the game's branching storyline. According to the developer, the game features 10 different endings.
The art style in Primordia is intriguing. It is hard not to note a significant influence from H.R. Geiger—dead mechanicals stretching out metal fingers through lonely, stretching sand dunes, though with nice flourishes (again evoking a post-modern sensibility) of anachronistic features caught in an undefined future. The developer has managed to make this wasteland, despite borrowing from many other influences, seem somewhat new. In fact, the different imaginaries in the game seem to augment an experience that this is a future which you have not yet visited or seen before.
Another welcomed addition in Primordia is the voiceover. The voices are cast by Wadjet Eye Games, the game's publisher. All of the major characters in the game are voiced. Not surprisingly, fans of the publisher's previous games will immediately recognize a few familiar voices in this game.
Horatio and Crispin—and eventually other characters—will be exploring a world where humans no longer exist. This premise provides the game an opportunity to ask questions about existence as well as the small and large philosophies that the robots have clung to with their maker's disappearance. It is a moving tableau of personalities and perspectives that ask questions not often asked in a computer game. I am intrigued by how these riddles may ultimately be answered in the game, and if not, at least how they will change Horatio and Crispin as well as this new world of Primordia.
In all, the future appears to be bright in Primordia's darkness.
Primordia is scheduled for release in December 2012.