Sometimes when you get a puzzler, it seems that all there is to it is the puzzles. You’re just moving on from one to the other without any rhyme or reason, and the threads that connect them and create some kind of story around it are loose and thin to begin with. So when you get a game that adds a bit of depth to what you’re unlocking, it becomes a nice refresher, as we saw in Aporia: Beyond the Valley.
Aporia: Beyond the Valley puts you in the role of a nameless adventurer who simply wakes up in the middle of a gorgeous field without any indication of how you got there or what you’re supposed to be doing there. You roam around and find out what objectives you need to complete by figuring out tiny puzzles thrown about the area. The only way to learn about the story (which we won’t spoil) is to clear puzzles that reveal pieces of what’s going on and what you need to do.
When you unlock a new section, you’ll see a projection of some animation that will tell you a different section of the story. Sometimes you get lucky and find stuff in order, other times you’ll find pieces of the story that aren’t in order, which you’ll need to figure out on your own. There’s no dialog and no text to these stories, so you’ll need to pay attention to what’s happening on the screen to get the full picture, so to speak.
The world that you are exploring is vast and beautiful, I honestly took moments in the game to just stare out and enjoy what the developers had created. Shades of orange, pink, purple and blue fill the land and the ancient structures you’ll be walking around. There’s no rail system, no guided map, no Point A to Point B kind of system. Exploration is key to finding everything, and not just the puzzles but pieces of the puzzles themselves. And there’s a good chance you’ll miss out on elements of the story if you don’t explore in full.
The downside is that there are points where the game progresses and you can’t go back. I should have an option to be able to go back to certain places and check to see if there was anything I missed, But without doing a proper save file just before these events take place, you’ll be whisked away and unable to return, which is a huge letdown. Another hassle is that you have a tube of liquid that constantly needs to be refilled as you use it to help unlock certain puzzles and passages. It’s an annoyance to continually look for a way to replenish this item, especially being in a magical world where this should have an infinite power source.
Aporia: Beyond the Valley reminded me what it was like to play Myst, but only in the sense of how the puzzle solving went. The game doesn’t have an abundance of puzzles everywhere you go, those are simply there to help test your wits and move the story along. And while that makes it a little more interesting, there is a point where the exploration becomes taxing. After a while, I don’t care how beautiful your landscape is, eventually I need something to do besides check out your rendering. That, above all else, is probably the worst failing on what is a better than average game.
Aporia: Beyond the Valley works really well as both a puzzler and an open world explorer. It will keep you entertained and keep you challenged, but there will come a certain point where you ask yourself “is this it?” If you can break past that barrier and overlook some of the annoyances, you’ll find this is a lovely little game worth your time to unlock and watch the story within.
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