Ever since the success of the very unique puzzle game The Talos Principle, there have been many games released that have sought to redefine the genre. This style of games seeks to abandon traditional storytelling and instead portray the lore to you artistically by allowing you to wander seemingly freely in a more nonlinear environment than most other puzzle games. Some games, such as The Witness, accomplish this very well through vibrant and interesting environments and an intriguing story that keeps you guessing. Others, such as Aporia: Beyond the Valley, fail miserably and come off as a desperate attempt to cash in on the success of other games.
I had the misfortune of logging nearly two hours into Aporia and—for a game with a primary tag of “puzzle”—it certainly wasn’t very puzzling. The gameplay is incredibly bland and follows a predictable pattern of finding bottles of orange goop and shoving your ancient glow-stick into totems. Every puzzle has the same outcome, with the same mechanics, and finding the totems isn’t even a challenge thanks to the yellow lines on the ground leading you to them. The game becomes a tedious, monotonous chore very quickly; the only thing it succeeded in challenging was the hardware of my PC.
While the game looks visually stunning, it’s simply unacceptable for a glorified walking simulator to sometimes reach FPS-lows in the mid-twenties. Visuals are great and all, but they’re only there to amplify the experience and depth of the game, of which you can’t very much immerse yourself in when you feel like you’re playing a slide-show presentation half the time.
The story is, much like the gameplay, lacking in depth. From what I gathered from my two hours of cutscenes, it attempts to present an obscure and artistic narrative of some ancient tribe; however, it ends up failing miserably. The cutscenes of the game are nothing more than projected images, and they appear to be badly animated. However, after experiencing this unoptimized mess for 120 minutes, I’m pretty sure the choppy cutscenes were meant to artistically foreshadow your average FPS.
The game even has its fair share of bugs that occurred during casual gameplay. Fall-damage was inconsistent, ladders were buggy when climbing down them, and visual bugs were everywhere, which further ruined any immersion Aporia had going for it. Fortunately, none of these bugs completely broke the game, so I’ll give them points here.
The game ultimately amounts to nothing more than another stalk in the haystack that is the Steam store, and you’d be better off looking elsewhere if you’re looking for that needle of a puzzle game. Although it may look enticing from the screenshots and game description, Aporia fails at almost everything it tries to accomplish, and it appears to be nothing more than a desperate attempt to cash in on the success of other recent games. I hope the developers have learned from this game and will make better works in the future.