Primordia review
The Good:

Beautiful, surrealistic retro graphics; likeable characters and a deceptively sprawling plot; well-written dialogue veering from light-hearted chuckles to grim nihilism; puzzles with multiple solutions; quality voice-acting from Wadjet Eye regulars; minimalistic electronic soundtrack complements the dreary, mysterious imagery.

The Bad:

Storyline starts rather slowly; gameplay is satisfying but not particularly memorable; doesn’t fully capitalize on its ambitious philosophical themes.

Our Verdict:

Falling just a little short of instant classic status, Primordia is still a gorgeous, clever, and melancholy science-fiction parable.

As a grassroots publisher, Wadjet Eye Games have proven themselves to have an eye for independent talent that’s second to none, particularly in the realm of science fiction. After helping get Joshua Nuernberger’s incredible Gemini Rue and Vince Twelve’s brilliant Resonance completed, Wadjet Eye turned its attention to Wormwood Studios, a three-man team with years of individual industry experience who have joined together to present a singular vision of a post-human world. The result is another golden egg (albeit a very brown golden egg) of sci-fi adventuring in the form of Primordia.

A 2D point-and-click adventure in the classical style, Primordia follows the quest of one Horatio Nullbuilt v5—an android—and his floating companion Crispin Horatiobuilt v1—also a machine. Indeed, there are no traces of people on the planet, only a self-propagating race of robots, some of whom worship the ancient, legendary creator of robotkind, Man. Horatio is one such Humanist, believing that Man left robots as shepherds to watch over the planet they left behind. But what a bang-up job they’ve done. The world Horatio and Crispin inhabit is the very definition of a wasteland: sand dunes stretch into infinity, dotted with the scattered wreckage of crashed ships, disabled robots, and the ruins of war-torn cities.

As we meet our heroes, they are living semi-hermetic lives out in the desert, attempting to repair their ship, the severely-damaged UNNIIC, with only the eerie radio broadcasts out of Metropol—a seemingly robo-communist utopia—to keep them company. Before long, they are attacked by an unknown monolithic, laser-equipped robot who blasts his way into the ship and forcibly steals their coveted and rare power core. Stranded without power, Horatio and Crispin must set out to recover their stolen property, or at the very least replace it.

These simple beginnings slowly mutate into a much more involved tale of utopian ideals, political upheaval, and religious oppression once you eventually and (unsurprisingly) head to Metropol, a troubled city that has undergone some serious regime changes in the recent past. Eventually, Horatio’s quest for his stolen power core will plunge him deep into Metropol’s messy political landscape and force him to take sides in a conflict he’d rather have nothing to do with. It takes a while to get there, however, and the game can seem a little slow up to that point as you spend the first couple of hours ambling around digging through junk piles, but once it gets going it keeps the new characters, places, and ideas coming at a good clip.

All of this is told in a visual style that seems to draw from Amanita Design’s Machinarium, French comic artist Moebius, and classic science fiction such as Dune. Despite the relatively humble nature of the retro pixel art graphics, which are low resolution and feature little to no animation, Primordia is a visual triumph. The backgrounds drip with atmosphere, with even minor locations full of sweeping lines, gritty details, and muted colors that suggest a strange culture decades, possibly centuries, past anything that could have been considered prosperity. Despite being primarily brown and gray, including the oppressive sky, the backgrounds and characters are detailed, memorable, and varied. Instead of feeling repetitive, the color palette is leveraged effectively to evoke desolation and decay. Combined with the moody electronic soundtrack that resembles Vangelis’s classic Blade Runner score—all swelling pads and ethereal ambience—Primordia easily transports you to a rich and strange world.

The atmosphere is so wonderfully dreary that it almost—almost—clashes with the relatively lighter tone of the rest of the game. While the story definitely goes to some dark places, and there is a layer of gloom hanging over nearly every conversation and set piece, much of the game actually seems kind of light-hearted. Horatio may be stoic and gravelly, voiced by Bastion narrator Logan Cunningham, but Crispin (Abe Goldfarb, Blackwell's Joey Mallone) fulfills every stereotype of the comic relief sidekick, joking and punning his way through almost every one of his lines. And many of the characters you’ll run into are colorfully goofy, from the posh Oswald, complete with top hat and monocle, to a bot obsessed with prime numbers and rhyming.

It’s not that these lighter moments aren’t funny; they’re well-written, well-acted, and often downright charming. But with the foreboding and moody aesthetic that dominates otherwise, it’s a little jarring that much of the character interaction hews closer to WALL-E than The Road. To be clear, I’m not complaining. In fact, after I realized the tone wasn’t going to be what I expected, I got used to it, and by the end I felt that it had enhanced what might have been an unrelentingly gloomy experience without it.

Continued on the next page...





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Game Info

Primordia

Platform: PC

Genre: Science Fiction

Developer: Wormwood Studios

More Game Info »

Releases
Territory Date Publisher
Worldwide December 5 2012 Wadjet Eye Games
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User Score

Average based on 31 ratings

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User Reviews

Posted by Antrax on Jun 24, 2013

Falls just short of greatness

Primordia is almost a five-star game. The writing, voice acting, plot and some of the puzzles are top-notch. However, it's held back by its... Read the review »

Posted by allthings on Mar 2, 2013

Highly Recommended

Primordia is a must for anyone who is a fan of old-school point & click adventures. The tale follows robot Horatio and his floating... Read the review »

Posted by btague on Jan 21, 2013

Primordia is a Very Solid Adventure

This game is very solid. The graphics work to add to the element of decay and despair with having no humans left as they were destroyed... Read the review »

Posted by Niclas on Dec 15, 2012
First of all I must say that this game has the most beautiful pixelated graphics ever. Also that production values are extremely high. Voice... Read the review »



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About the Author
CitizenArcane's avatar
Nathaniel Berens
Staff Writer

Comments

tinyhippo tinyhippo
Dec 10, 2012

Hell, this is one of the best adventure games I’ve played in 2012. I absolutely loved it, except maybe the plot, because it was completely predictable since the beginning of the game. But this doesn’t really matter, because everything else is absolutely gorgeous.

Atmosphere is indeed very melancholic, that gramophone melody you can play in the ship feels incredible in the overall blend. Characters are loveable, the humor is not annoying by any means, pixel hunting maintains that old-school balance between frustration and satisfaction, the puzzles are inventive, especially that text one in the kiosk. I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen everything in the game, so I will replay it some day. I managed to unlock the good ending the first time though. I’d give it half a star more, to be quiet honest.

By the way, am I the only one who only really waits for Wadjet Eye games? Like, I monitor several releases in several genres, but that’s the only developer I REALLY look forward to make something.

Jackal Jackal
Dec 10, 2012

I think lots of people like Wadjet Eye games, but just to be clear, they didn’t develop this game (or Gemini Rue or Resonance). They publish and help with voice acting, testing, and such, but Primordia is very much a game by Wormwood Studios.

tinyhippo tinyhippo
Dec 10, 2012

Yeah, guess I shouldn’t deprive Wormwood of their game since Wadjet is publishing this time. I never pay attention to this kind of stuff, my fault. I love Wormwood too, then Smile

But hell, everything that had Wadjet Eye’s name on it was top-notch. I’ve literally played through every game and never had any bad experience with any of them.

Sefir Sefir
Dec 11, 2012

An almost excellent review IMO. My feelings for the game are exactly the same.

skurken
Dec 11, 2012

A really intriguing game. But please dear developers, start using a resolution of at least 800x600 pixels (preferably much higher). This nostalgic love of pixellated graphics is getting ridiculous.

mannycalavera mannycalavera
Dec 12, 2012

No, it’s not getting ridiculous imo. It adds a lot to the atmosphere. Of course it helps when you have lived the 90’s adventure gaming era…

orient orient
Dec 13, 2012

This review echoes most of my thoughts on the game. A good read. As I’ve stated on the forums, I felt the story was flattened by the meandering nature of its extremely traditional adventure game structure. The puzzle progression feels very “one step forward, two steps back”, even if most of them are well-designed.

Regarding Skurken and Manny’s comments—pixelated graphics can enhance the experience in some games. Unfortunately I don’t think Primordia is one of those games.

badlemon badlemon
Dec 13, 2012

I also think the low-res suits the game well. It builds up the feeling of decay. And I know it’s a trend now, but come on, there aren’t so many decent pixel art titles. I can only think of the games published by wadjet eye and one or two other indie titles. Way below 5% of all the adventures that are being produced nowadays.

skurken
Dec 13, 2012

@mannycalavera: Oh yes I did live “the 90s adventure gaming era”, most of my fondest memories of adventure gaming come from that particular era Smile

@badlemon: You’re of course right, those retro-pixelated games only make up a small percentage of all the adventure games produced. However I still fail to see the merit in using this type of pixel art nowadays. In my opinion, this style was perfected 20 years ago - mostly out of of technical limitations - developers had to try to make the most of those few pixels available.

Feel free to disagree by all means Smile

 

Necrosis Thanatos
Dec 14, 2012

@skurken:  I think the merit in using this type of pixel art is the end result: we get to play an adventure game that excels in every or most other areas.

Developing a game consisting of high-end graphics is a costly proposition, one that a small team of indie developers simply can’t attain on a very limited budget.  I’d rather be able to experience their vision as expressed in pixel art than not experience it at all.

Hanged
Dec 14, 2012

I enjoyed the game and I agree with the review. As for the pixelated graphics, it probably isn’t a budget issue - from what I’ve gathered on the internets, the process was to first create high-res images and then remake them into low resolution. Which I think isn’t a great artistic decision, this is the kind of art that would profit from high resolution. And the few high-res versions of the characters I’ve seen actually do look prettier than their pixelated versions.

Niclas Niclas
Dec 15, 2012

Seriously, this must be one of the most beautiful pixelated Adventure Games ever! Story wise the game is so so, but it is just so darn beautiful to look at, plus the puzzles are pretty fun too.

Hanged
Dec 20, 2012

I almost forgot to mention a cool moment in the game that really got to me. I’ll try to reference it without spoilers: there’s a badass line from a sidekick that is estabilished early on in a comical way and then used again a in a new, much more fateful context.  Some may see it as cheap, but I for one would like games to use this sort of “cool” narrative devices more often. It really helped to build a momentum, at least for me.

CaseOfInsanity
Apr 2, 2013

“doesn’t fully capitalize on its ambitious philosophical themes.”

I don’t see it that way.
The philosophical themes are integrated into the story very well. It makes you think about moral ethics for things like maximum benefit at minimum cost. For me, it hit all the sweet spots in that aspect.

I could also relate well to many of the characters’ actions which made the story even more heartfelt.

Antrax
Jun 18, 2013

Good review, but you confused Clarity with Charity on page 2.

mannycalavera mannycalavera
Jun 25, 2013

Unbelievable game!!! I ‘m getting the feeling that pixelated graphics leave room for our imagination to “draw” the missing pixels and that’s what i love about them… Don’t miss primordia.

madstork
Jul 25, 2013

I’m surprised how many people are lukewarm on the story, as I think it is by far the best element of this game. I suppose that it’s true that main character’s in-game arc is predictable, but that is merely the skeleton that the real story is built on. The real story is everything that came before you start playing. How the world, Metropol, and the main character all came to their current state. It’s like three separate but related origin stories, all at different scales, slowly unfolding as the game goes on. And it’s absolutely brilliant and anything but predictable.

peterdk
Sep 1, 2013

I postponed playing this game for a while, but now finished it.

I disliked the pixelated art, it made the game look old, while not really improving on the mood or so.

I really like for example the cursing of the robots, very convincing term they used. Made me smile. Also the naming of the robots was a very good find. I did like the story about the human builders, but it was really to bad they did not expand on this in the ending. They could have made much more of that.

Verdict: 7.



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