Indie Review: Primordia

Primordia is a point and click adventure title developed by Wormwood Studios and published by Wadjet Eye Games that attempts to combine the challenge and depth of classic, or old school, adventure titles with a design that is player-friendly, and puzzles that emphasise logical thinking and exploration rather than trial and error. Sounds good right? Well, attempting to do something and actually doing it are naturally totally different things, and it’s unfortunately in the execution that Primordia misses the mark. But I’m getting quite ahead of myself here, so why don’t we take a few steps back and start right at the beginning, shall we? This game had some hype and anticipation behind it, although that was unknown to me when I got my hands on it. So let’s cast all that aside and focus on the game itself.

The game is set in a post apocalyptic world where Man has been written in legend, extinct for ages. The world has been left in the hands of robots, who must preserve it. In the game you follow Horatio and his sidekick Crispin, who live in the desolate wastelands beyond the great city of Metropol due to the former’s hatred of it. Horatio, humourless and focused, safeguards his freedom and independence, preferring to live in isolation. Crispin is the more lighthearted of the two, and it’s rather easy to see why Horatio keeps him around. Sadly, the duo’s quiet existence is brought to a halt when a mysterious enemy attacks their ship and steals its power source, which forces Horatio and his companion to leave their ship and journey into the wasteland in search of what was lost. This soon becomes a lot more complicated than it initially appears, as Horatio and Crispin’s journey takes them deeper into their pasts, as well as edges them closer to the city of Metropol, which has its own share of dark secrets.

The story is a rather interesting talking point of the game, because I have mixed feelings about it. For starters, the game’s atmosphere and world is intriguing  and the lore is interesting to learn. Horatio and Crispin deliver a pleasant dynamic, and the latter is quite likable, often providing an enjoyable sense of comic relief and liveliness to the story. It also helps a lot that the voice acting, characterisation and writing are all of good quality. However, despite this, Primordia’s biggest problem with its story is a lack of emotional attachment. I found it particularly difficult to care about the characters or the plot in general, even when inevitably landing up in Metropol and the conspiracies and complexities emerged. And no, that’s not because we’re dealing with robots. It’s because the game doesn’t really give you a whole lot of reason to. That partly comes down to Horatio basically just wanting to find a power core and leave. He doesn’t really have a personal stake in the more sensitive or elaborate parts of the plot. On top of that, by the time you actually get to these parts of the game, you’ve most likely lost sight of, or rather aren’t entirely aware of, what you should be personally invested in. I just wasn’t engaged.

That was pretty much always the case unfortunately. Primordia didn’t get a whole lot out of me, and I felt quite detached from the experience. But, story aside, how does the gameplay and its ambition hold up? Sadly my reactions are mixed here as well. The gameplay is your simple point and click adventure that mostly relies on object hunting and combining items together for a specific purpose, but what’s admirable about Primordia is you have some freedom in the order in which you want to approach the game’s puzzles, and you can take to gathering as much as you can before you get on with it. The bad news is that this gets contradicted. Firstly it’s done in by the graphics design which can be unpleasant to look at and, more to the point, makes it hard to see what you can actually interact with because it’s all brown and dark, with not much standing out at all. Yes, the art itself is commendable, but it’s not attractive. Secondly, the freedom gets contradicted by the issue that often you’re just unsure of what to do or what you’re supposed to be looking for at all. You’ll just wander aimlessly, a lot.

Sure, you may think that comes with the territory in a game like this, but you shouldn’t be left with a lack of direction and unsure whether you missed something in one of the environments or not, which often is actually the case even though you might be adamant that you’re gone over every pixel of it with your mouse, and this is due to the above issues raised. It’s not that the puzzles themselves are very difficult. Some you probably won’t intuitively figure out all that easily, granted, and a few take some strange leaps of logic to get to a solution, but it’s not overly hard stuff in general. It’s just the not knowing where to find what you’re looking for or what you should be doing that gets you worn out. In Metropol things are a bit more dynamic and lively, and both exploration and character interaction has more presence and meaning in the game. But here’s where we get to the worst problem with Primordia. It’s just not all that rewarding to complete the game’s puzzles. I can forgive the fact that the start is a bit slow paced and things can feel dragged at times during the game especially during some of its more long-winded puzzles, because at least you’re learning about the world and the dynamic between Horatio and Crispin will keep you smiling from time to time, but beyond that I was often either indifferent or just plain lost.

Truth be told, I often found myself quitting the game because of this, but I realised shortly after each quit that I never was ending my session due to being lost, or because I was frustrated in any way. Usually, I’m stubborn, and I’ll persevere until I get it right, but with this game I didn’t have the same conviction, and that’s mostly because I was just bored. It feels horrible to say, but Primordia isn’t all that engaging when I stopped to think about it. The banter between the main duo, the atmosphere and the lore of the world may keep you in, but in general the game just didn’t capture me. My mind drifted off to other games after an hour or so of playing, and that happened continuously if I have to be honest. Before you say that’s unfair to the game, it’s really not. I can point to Slender, Resonance, Cry of Fear and Hotline Miami for just a small portion of Indie games that completely diverted my attention away from other games including big releases, so it’s not a matter of expecting too much at all. If a game is good or compelling then it really doesn’t matter at the end of the day because it will hook you in and keep you playing regardless of what it is. But often enough while playing Primordia I found myself wondering what was keeping me at it. And it’s not because I’m not the right player for it, I mean, I love a good point and click adventure title, but this one just wasn’t doing it for me.

Primordia is not a bad game, but it does struggle to keep you entertained and compelled to carry on, and there are better options in this genre. For instance, at the same price you could get Resonance, which is the far better choice. In the end it’s unfortunately difficult to recommend this game with enthusiasm, even to those who are fans of old-school adventure titles. The experience is just something you’ll feel very emotionally detached from, and overall it feels largely forgettable.

  • Pea_Peralta

    It sounds like an ailment instead of a game:
    Me:So Doctor what are the results?
    Doctor: Im sorry to have to break this to you…but you have Primordia..

    Seriously though i need to play more indie games in between the breaks when im waiting for a good game to release on console..

    • Azhar Amien

      Haha you should :P I’ve reviewed a lot of them, and so have Adam and others if you want to see what’s good :D/