Monday, November 13, 2017

Review: RiME


After many years and a variety of delays RiME has finally come to the Nintendo Switch to deliver its tale that begins humbly with a boy washing up on the shore of a seemingly deserted island. A fair amount of what will drive you in the game is to understand what’s going on, who this boy is, and who the mysterious figure is, mostly only glimpsed in the distance, watching you. Whether or not the ultimate resolution to the story is to your liking, the way that it unfolds over the course of your adventure is still compelling and at times almost cinematic. The bad news is that on the Switch it also gets dragged down by technical issues, meaning it won’t be a journey for everyone.


Outside of those aforementioned details what will likely compel or annoy you the most in RiME is the generally unguided exploration. You will be given cues and some more direct help at times over the course of the journey but there are portions of the game where it will drop you in a landscape and you’ll need to follow your instincts to determine what you should be doing. What’s great about this is that there are quite a number of hidden goodies strewn about that can help bring more dimension to the story and even somewhat affect its outcome. Many of the environments are actually quite large and if you want to find everything you’ll need to keep an eye out for visual cues that will hint at places you can climb. Where this can be bad is that sometimes it can lead to accidental backtracking or even losing your bearings for how to progress the story if you aren’t careful. It’s a delicate line that the game tries to keep in balance but player agency can always have these sorts of risks.

As you journey the other major piece of the game is the abundance of puzzles that come in a relatively wide variety of forms. While you’ll have some degree of classic block shoving there are also puzzles that revolve around controlling light and shadow that can be very creative, though sometimes not always obvious. Traversal is the other most common type of puzzle, though it is typically not too challenging once you learn what cues to look for to identify what ledges you’ll be able to grab hold of. Essentially if you don’t see some differently-colored highlights on an edge of a surface you’ll need to assume you won’t be able to grab it. Once you’re in tune with this these rock climbing puzzles are usually a matter of connect the dots as you need to jump to grab one outcropping, move down to pull yourself across, stand up, and then jump up to the next rock, etc. There are additionally some timing puzzles where you’ll need to shout near a few objects to trigger them all in quick succession or where you’ll need to move a glowing orb to different pedestals but overall they fall generally into these patterns. I will say that some of them can be a little picky in precisely how you line something up or you may see a potential solution to the problem the game won’t allow but as long as you recognize your method simply isn’t working and step back to find another way to do things you should be fine.


That leads to the technical side of things and while some stunning visuals are pulled off over the course of the experience there’s no missing pretty regular bouts of slowdown. While the game in no way becomes unplayable because of this, the action being relatively simple overall helps greatly with this, acknowledging it isn’t a matter of being picky or sensitive, the problems are frequent and they’re impossible to miss. In particular there are some moments in the game that are scripted, with the camera pulling out for an impactful and somewhat cinematic view of things, where the frame rate will drop and it sort of puts a hitch into what are meant to be powerful moments. While the view of the action can occasionally get muddy even in docked mode I noticed a somewhat Vaseline-like appearance to the game in places in handheld mode more often. Again, this doesn’t make the game in any way unplayable but it does interfere with your ability to be lost in both the action and the story at times and that’s unfortunate.

In the end RiME is a game with lovely massive environments, a very appealing art style, and terrific music that together help build a strong base for an engaging experience. The implementation of the exploration and puzzles I would say is likely to boil down to taste, with some people appreciating the lack of a firm hand guiding you everywhere and others finding some elements needlessly confusing. While I appreciate the story the game set out to tell I’d say that it didn’t quite carry the impact it might have if I’d come to have a stronger connection to the main character, who generally doesn’t have a personality to latch onto. That all then ends up being mired in the game’s technical shortcomings as well. RiME is a game full of ambitions and promise, it just doesn’t quite deliver it all as well on the Switch as it might have. If you’re looking for an ambitious adventure I’d first recommend it on another platform but if you don’t have that option just understand the issues going in and you should still be able to thoroughly enjoy it.


Score: 7

Pros:
  • Absolutely gorgeous core visuals with a distinctive art style
  • Large environments for you to explore
  • Generally strong environmental puzzles with some creative ideas
Cons:
  • The game’s performance on the Switch is absolutely compromised to be less than anyone involved would have hoped, though still very much playable
  • The exploration and puzzles work better in some phases of the game than others
  • Though it has the makings of an impactful story the lack of personality in your main character makes it harder to connect and give it all a punch


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