With a cast of characters as eclectic as its mind-bending physics and as varied as its gameplay mechanics, Destination Primus Vita offers us Episode 1: Austin, the first installment of what we believe will be an interesting series.
The world Primus Vita paints is a bleak one, evolved over time into a dystopian mix of scientific viewpoints and religious interpretation. The Earth is dry, its water drained by The Shatters — mysterious creatures worshipped and feared, perhaps in equal measure. You and your team have set out to find water for dying Earth and uncover truths about The Shatters along the way. And so the story begins with you waking from stasis, then being thrown into a training simulation by the AI Nym.
You can tell its a simulation, not just because the world reveals itself a step at a time, building a outwards in an endless void, but because the animation and gameplay choices reflect it. Characters blur from one posture to another. Objects appear and refine as you unlock memories or knowledge. Memories become concrete locations to draw you in and release you somewhere else. The simulation is a dynamic landscape — and that’s the key to finding your way out.
As you explore this strange new landscape, you come across odds and ends that tell you about Earth’s current predicament, its history with The Shatters and your character’s involvement in this mission. Some of these, along with environmental clues, double up as hints for puzzles.
The puzzles you come across are often quite abstract to solve, featuring colours and shapes that need to be matched up or travelled through in a particular order. Sometimes these are intuitive enough that you don’t need hints, but as you progress and the puzzles get more difficult, this is less and less the case. Trawling a scene for hints and clues becomes an essential undertaking.
It’s along this puzzle-solving journey, between one simulated location and the next, that you come across your crewmates by revisiting memories of them. Transported to scenes from the past, recreated by the simulation to bring up defining moments, you fit the pieces back together until you have the complete picture of the person. After this, they appear throughout the simulation as hint givers and sources of conversation. One may help you decipher runes; another may help you see things from a different perspective. The scenes change as you interact with them, so you need to keep an eye out for where your friends appear next.
Your own character doesn’t seem a particularly social type, dedicating herself to work first and foremost. It seems that the simulation wants to address (or assess) this, as your responses to your friends affect your relationship with them. We’re not yet sure what the long-term effect of this feature is, but it’s safe to assume that speaking carefully may be a wise idea.
There’s more on offer in this first episode, though. Each area is split from the next by encounters with The Shatters — the increased urgency of these situations prompting a move to quick-time events instead of puzzle solving.
In actual fact, there’s not much we can knock Primus Vita for — a fact you may have noticed by the fact we haven’t mentioned anything negative yet. The only concern we did have was with one of the later puzzles, where even with all hints available, the connection between those and an answer seemed quite vague. Because of the way Primus Vita’s autosave system works, we had to collect the hints again every time we reloaded.
Primus Vita is an intriguing tale of puzzle interspersed with quick-time events (which can take you by surprise if you’re not expecting them, so here’s your warning). It’s intuitive to play and the puzzles do become more challenging as you progress, which is good to see. If you’re a fan of science fiction and want to experience a story outside the norm, Primus Vita will be a good buy for you.
Destination Primus Vita is available now on PC and Mac.