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.

It’s the richness of the characters that makes the jumps between light-hearted robot comedy and grim post-apocalyptic dystopian fiction work. Despite the cast being populated by machines, these are, for the most part, fully fleshed out personalities. Robots may need to recharge instead of eat or sleep, but they have wants and needs like any human. They may desire justice or freedom, have senses of humor, or feel sadness at the deactivation of another robot. They are all, to some extent, enslaved by their own core logic, whatever that dictates. Horatio can’t help but eschew societal integration in favor of a life of rugged individualism, however lonely. Charity, an assistant to Metropol’s former legal authority (think a one-man supreme court), works constantly to push her feelings aside and view the world only in the black and white impartiality of the law. Even Crispin, who at first might seem like a shallow jokester, has a carefully constructed set of desires.

Other than the aesthetics and story, Primordia is about as traditional a point-and-click adventure as they come. Hotspots are labeled as you hover over them; left-clicking interacts, right-clicking examines. You store items in your inventory, where they can be combined or used in the environment. You can interact with Crispin at any time, either by using his inventory icon on hotspots or using items on him, often when there is something that only he can reach with his maglev hover ability. You can also talk to him to receive a tiny hint, which is usually no more than a nudge in the right direction. Horatio keeps a datapouch that automatically stores important notes such as codes and key conversation points, as well as a map that allows you to jump between main locations instantly. You’ll love having that ability when moving between bombed-out train stations, junkyards half-buried in sand, and crumbling towers that comprise so much of Primordia’s decayed world.

In terms of gameplay, there’s very little here that will surprise anyone who’s ever played an adventure game. You’ll scour environments for useful items, gather clues from conversations, and figure out lots and lots of keycodes. I’d wager that a good 2/3 of the puzzles in this game involve doors locked by codes that must be deciphered, constructed from various clues, or extracted from NPCs. To get those codes, you’ll run the gamut of standard adventure obstacles, combining items into new gadgets, navigating conversation trees, dealing with logic puzzles and even doing some light math. The game is reasonably challenging without being frustrating, and puzzles include plenty of feedback and signposting to guide you to the right solution instead of leaving you in the dark. So all in all, very well done, if a little on the safe side.

Many of the puzzles have multiple solutions, but these branching solutions are so subtly woven into the game that I rarely realized a choice was available. Primordia is not the type of game that smacks you over the head and says, “You can go through the sewers or you can convince somebody to open the door.” Most of the time it just seemed like I was discovering the solution that made the most sense, without ever knowing there were other options. But then, isn’t that the way it should be?

Decision-making doesn’t just stop at puzzles. For a game that heavily features the theme of free will, it makes sense that it would involve a number of player choices that influence the outcome. Some of these are obvious—near the end you’ll have a number of choices that directly affect which of the ten(!) endings you’ll get. But some are not so obvious. In fact, I was making choices throughout the game that I didn’t even realize were choices. The way one deals with a particular religious zealot early on, for example, can slightly impact one of the existing endings. The effects are small but it does add a layer of replay value and reinforces the game’s concepts. And considering the game is roughly 7-10 hours long the first time through, there’s already quite a bit of content to begin with.

If Primordia had been released in the '90s, there’s a good chance we would be talking about it with the same reverence as minor classics like Snatcher or Beneath A Steel Sky. I have very little to actually criticize about the game—it’s a uniquely gorgeous sci-fi game with style to spare, a plot that veers successfully between goofy humor and suitable solemnity, and puzzles with multiple solutions that feel like logical extensions of the situation. It's only in more subtle ways that it falls a little short of the genre masterpieces. It has lofty goals, exploring profound themes such as collectivism vs. individualism, free will vs. conditioning, religious faith vs. pure logic, but it doesn’t seem to reach the depths of its potential. The puzzles are satisfying but none are outstandingly clever, the characters are likeable without being truly unforgettable, and so on.

None of this is a knock on what Wormwood Studios has achieved, however, as every part of the game screams of the passion and talent of its developers. Like other indie designers Wadjet Eye has taken under wing, this team has proven itself a studio to watch. For their first outing, Primordia is already a great game, and I look forward to seeing more from them in future.





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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 32 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
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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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