These days, we spend a lot of time worrying about the future of our planet. What if we run out of fossil fuels, what if we destroy the ozone layer, and so on. Well, I ask you this; what if a bunch of giant rock aliens showed up one day and stole all of our water? See, feel pretty foolish for worrying about silly stuff like global warming now, don’t you? No? Oh, that’s right, I’m confusing real life with the plot of Destination Primus Vita, an upcoming Steam release by the good folks at Epsilon Games. Here’s a review of the first episode!
Episode One: Austin of Destination Primus Vita introduces us to Doctor Austin Blair-Moreno, a scientist en-route to a dangerous mission on an alien planet. Her team are on their way to Primus Vita, in search of the Earth’s water. Centuries previous, an alien race called the Shatters (yes, seriously) came to Earth and sucked up all the surface water from our oceans and rivers. As you can imagine, this caused more than a few problems. Humanity struggled to continue but now are advanced enough to send a spacecraft capable of retrieving their water. Dr Blair and her team are on this very mission and must undergo cryo-sleep for the journey. This is where the game takes place, in the mind of Austin. While she sleeps, an A.I. is running a simulation in her mind to prepare her for the task ahead.
The simulation exists to prepare Austin in multiple ways. Crucially, it puts Austin through some of the challenges her team will face on Primus Vita. These involve analysing their surroundings and using them to prepare her team with the right equipment to deal with whatever they may face. This guides the plot of the game. Where the gameplay comes in is in the puzzle element. In each area of the game, the player is faced with puzzles in order to progress. They vary pretty widely from word and logic puzzles to visual puzzles like you might have seen in The Witness. The variety of puzzles is nicely spaced to keep them fresh and interesting. There is a little overlap, but not nearly enough to call it repetitive. Occasionally the game will throw a timed section at you, usually a maze or running around and hitting buttons. It’s not a long game yet, as this is just episode one. That said, there’s plenty here to really keep you on your toes.
The gameplay is split into two parts, as the simulation has two goals. Firstly to prepare Austin for the job ahead through simulated events. As well as that, the AI wants to make Austin a better team player. To this end, you will spend time with simulations of each of the other characters in the game, based on Austin’s memories. She’s the typical scientist too wrapped up in her work type, so she doesn’t work well with others. Of course, the good Doctor is oblivious to this, and only through interacting with simulacra of her teammates does she start to see how disconnected she is.
Each level is dedicated to a particular team member and starts with a scene from their shared past. In each of these sections, you must piece together the relevant details so Austin can see what she needs to learn from that encounter. This is where Destination Primus Vita slows down a bit, and becomes essentially a first-person point and click game. Most of these sections aren’t obstructive, but the occasional frustrating pixel hunt can bring your momentum grinding to a halt.
In Destination Primus Vita you have a game of two parts; one part puzzler and one part narrative adventure. For a game made on a budget, it looks very well. The game is a neon-soaked dream-scape, impossible rooms fly in the face of Newtonian physics while you explore, interact and solve. The game is well voiced and well written. The characters have little in the way of animation, a cost-saving measure perhaps but it does add to the dreamy aesthetic. This first episode is an intriguing introduction to a story I find myself wanting to know more about. In that, we can gather the first episode has done its job.