Reviews - Updated on November 22, 2022

I am not a rabid fan of Playdead’s work, although I do not dispute the outstanding status of its games. And I became interested in Somerville not because it is a project “from the author of Limbo and Inside”, but because I was fascinated by the setting and plot prerequisites. Husband and wife, along with a small child and a cute dog, live in a house in the wilderness, when suddenly one terrible night they encounter a global catastrophe – an alien invasion. The head of the family is separated from his family, and the situation forces him to go on a quest: to cross dangerous territories under the control of alien invaders and adapt to a frightening and aggressive environment.

The materials on the game evoked persistent associations with the film adaptation of the “War of the Worlds”, which, in my opinion, very skillfully conveys a feeling of being driven out and fear of an unknown enemy, while carefully outlining personal human problems against the backdrop of a large-scale cataclysm. So I was counting on an emotional, tear-squeezing adventure without even thinking about the gameplay prospects. Some of my expectations were met, some of them were not.

Landscapes are sometimes very good.

Aliens are in the details

The game mechanics of sophisticated gamers will not really surprise you. Basically, puzzles are based on interaction with an incomprehensible alien substance scattered around the area after the invasion. When you press one button, the protagonist melts this goo, and on the other, it makes it solid. The nuance is that a source of energy is still needed for interaction. So sometimes you have to switch, move and find something.

Otherwise, Somerville offers standard arcade action: sometimes you have to run from your pursuers, sometimes you have to hide from the gaze of aliens. It is worth noting that, unlike all the same Limbo and Inside, the game takes place in a three-dimensional format. Locations are mostly linear, and in general, developers often keep the player in a plane that is understandable and familiar to him, but sometimes flirting with the depth of scenes and moving away from the camera still happens.

The scenes themselves are very badly drawn. There are enough details and decorative elements, there are interesting transitions from one location to another, there are both open spaces and crushing grottoes. At the same time, you regularly find objects that tell a story, present a picture of past events, whether it’s a music festival abandoned in a hurry or a dying fire surrounded by children’s drawings.

1. The goo melts. 2. The sludge hardens. 3. Profit!

However, in terms of artistic design, a number of problems and troubles arise. With animations in Somerville, everything is mostly in order, but it jars all the more when there are sharp changes in poses (it looks especially ridiculous when interacting with objects) or the main character suddenly freezes, buried in a pebble or other small obstacle.

It is doubly insulting to perceive this, bearing in mind that the Jumpship studio responsible for the game is organized not only by Dino Patti, a native of Playdead, but also by Chris Olsen, an animation specialist. Where such roughness comes from – one can only guess. Perhaps the very three-dimensionality of the game, which leaves its mark on the behavior of objects, played a role. Well, or the team was carried away by creating a model of the behavior of an alien mass, with which we constantly interact and which is really coolly implemented – but there was not enough attention to the little things.

Together with the aliens, such cute neon koloboks arrived, as if trying to tell the main character something.

Understand correctly, I’m not talking about catastrophic problems – the overall level of quality is high, and you definitely don’t grab your head during the game. It’s just that, given the narrative or even cinematic nature of the game, you pay attention to such shortcomings in the first place, and because of this, the magic of immersion in the story begins to break down.

Vital technical flaws do not contribute to its strengthening:

  • The character models constantly pass through each other without being subject to any collisions at all.
  • The game is poorly optimized: in the initial battle scenes with a mass of moving objects, the frame per second counter felt like it dropped to a single digit. Fortunately, later the game seemed to be rocking, and the thoughts that it was worth postponing the passage until the release of patches gradually disappeared.
  • Somerville simply lacks settings: it is impossible to adjust the brightness of the screen or run the game in a window, users also report that without a gamepad it is better not to meddle here at all.

With the physics of fluids, there are no tricky puzzles, but there could be – it is generally well implemented.

Remember, not a human word

There is no translation into Russian in the game, but I hasten to reassure you – it is not required here. There are no usual dialogues or notes in Somerville, the whole narrative is built on the basis of game scenes and events, which gives a strange feeling that you are in a parallel universe with deaf and mute humanity. Which, in my opinion, doesn’t suit the game at all.

If in the same Limbo, for example, there was an atmosphere of another dimension and a mysterious paranormal, the malleability of which was just amplified due to “deafness” and slowness, then here the situation is completely different. We initially play for an ordinary person, albeit caught in extreme conditions. He sometimes sees other survivors, realizes himself, albeit on a captured, but still on his own planet with the usual traces of civilization, so you expect more mundane and understandable behavior at the everyday level. Both from the main character, and from those few with whom he manages to cross paths. But absolutely everyone on the screen is stupidly silent. Because of this, again, immersion and empathy levels suffer. At some point, you stop empathizing with the characters simply because they themselves do not seem to worry, they behave very aloofly.

Music corrects the situation, but only partly. Yes, the sad piano that sometimes reminds of itself in cut-scenes is good, but a more penetrating ambient in game episodes would not hurt – it could possibly take on a heavy burden of emotions.

“Hollywood” appearances in the frame have not harmed any works of art, have they?

Well, add to this whole picture of the production that the last chapters sharply take the story away from the personal problems of an ordinary family and its survival, throwing a bunch of oddities, questions, cosmic psychologism and other branded “author’s” nonsense with abstract images, symbolism and this into the fan everyone. The game even has several endings, but their meaning is unlikely to be available in detail to ordinary players. This content is exclusively for big fans of SPGS and theory building, and those who like to get specific answers to questions (yes, that’s me), unfortunately, are left on the sidelines.

I would call Somerville a failure, but a very specific one. If we consider the components of the game separately, then nowhere you will notice a glaring catastrophe, but at the same time, almost everywhere there are offensive roughness, imperfections and nuances that the developers could not see with a blurred eye.

It’s good that Thunderful Games acquired Jumpship before the release of its debut game. Most likely, due to this, Patty and Olsen will have the opportunity to take into account the experience gained, work on the mistakes, and in the next project again try to surprise and please everyone.

Pros: sometimes locations look truly bewitching; captures the spirit of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds quite well.

Cons: a bunch of minor faults and imperfections; lousy technical condition; the game is not able to capture the player only through the narrative through the environment.

Đánh giá Star
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