You will feel the wrath of gods in Peregrin.
When I started my journey into the depths of Peregrin the first thought I had was, “Is that Captain Janeway, AKA Kate Mulgrew?!” No, sadly, but the voice acting is incredible. More on that in a bit.
I didn’t know exactly what to expect from Peregrin. The trailer for the game was rather vague but after my time with it I am very glad that it was. Peregrin has a deep and somber story to tell about its characters, and society as a whole. The developer calls Peregrin, “a story puzzle game” and I feel that truly fits. It’s a game which seriously reminds me of the memorable Old Man’s Journey in the way the game paces its dosing of gameplay and story.
Peregrin feels more like a storybook at times than it does a game. That isn’t to say the gameplay is ignored but the universe and world building around the gameplay is far more important. To the point where I felt the puzzles became a bit of a grind near the end.
Peregrin feels like it starts at the end of another game where everything went wrong.
You play Abi, a young gifted girl who is on a mission seeking atonement. Having volunteered for this dangerous mission, you start at the beach of a ruined land. At first you feel lost as the game alludes to why this mission is so dangerous in a vague manner, only telling you that no one has ever returned or succeeded. Obviously, Abi is going to be different. I personally thought what a cake walk the first couple of areas were and that the village elder was an idiot.
Then the game begins opening up more and you realize how messed up things are. While I don’t want to get too spoilery, the ending left me shocked, confused, and thinking. There is a huge focus on mortality and personal loss, but the way the characters issues wraps themselves up in the larger picture is very well done. As you progress deeper, you see abandoned military installations, weapons of war laying around like some ghost war was about to take place. The developer did a fantastic job of making things eerie. This world was over and you were the remnant. What could’ve done this is for you to discover.
One thing that I didn’t see coming is the way the game plays with your perception. It almost feels like a cheat but it is a compliment to the narrative and seeing the world through Abi’s eyes. I believed what she believed. Even if it might not be what she thinks it is.
All of the eerie atmosphere is accomplished using Peregrin’s fantastic art and the camera placement being far away. The game wants you to feel small in this vast ghost world. This is effectively used to hide some of the weaknesses in the character models. The camera is far away from the action but leads to incredible moments where huge monoliths tower over you. There is quite a bit of detail put into the terrain as you travel through canyons, tundras, installations and more. I never really got tired of seeing the world.
Outside of the art there isn’t much else to speak about. The characters models get the job done but are very simplistic. There are some decent combat animations from time to time. The graphics are simple and the menu aesthetics scream mobile port. A part of me wonders if that’s what held the game back graphically a tiny bit. Just expect a story book when it comes to art, minimal but with a grand canvas.
Behold your tools! A frog, a bull, and a troll thing?
Now on the flip side of things we have that gameplay. There are two forms that the gameplay takes place in. Combat and puzzles. Abi has the ability to possess/mind control animals and enemies. It’s a rather nifty ability to have, as traversing a dilapidated city usually involved moving boulders, making your own bridges and all sorts of trouble. This possession ability is the big aspect to the game and you will become intimately familiar with it.
The basic gist is that you have three animals that you can possess. The frog can push buttons with its tongue, and also move food/bait. The bull can push things and knock stuff down. The troll is a big strong dude who lifts things. These animals are EVERYWHERE for some reason, even when it seems silly and shouldn’t be there. The puzzles revolve around these simple mechanics of push, lift, buttons and you making sure that you have the right animal in the right spot to do it. You can’t possess things unless you activate totems in any given area. Getting to the totems themselves can be a bit of a puzzle sometimes as well.
I will be honest, the game is rather easy. Why? Well, the game highlights everything for you. When the Troll lifts a rock, it displays on the ground where it can and cannot be placed. This removes all the brain power required to figure the puzzles out. Flip through each animal and see what can be manipulated and chances are you solved the puzzle. I wish this possession system was way faster as well. You will spend most of your time moving these slow animals across screens. Other hiccups and frustrations come in not being able to possess something unless it’s on the same screen. Even if you can see it, you have to load into the area it’s standing in to possess it. It comes off clunky and slow, especially in later areas where the puzzles span three to four screens long.
I wish there was more diversity to the animals or that the three you have had more personality. If you are only going to have three animals to possess then why not make them part of Abi’s journey? This could’ve offered some levity in a rather grim game. Instead you keep finding the same three nameless creatures conveniently everywhere you go. It’s odd. Lastly because the camera is so far off, knowing where the edge of certain terrain is can be tricky. Leading to deaths and wasted time.
Then you have combat which I personally enjoyed quite a bit. As you traverse the Divide you will face its guardians. Abi is just a small human girl, she can’t afford to get wounded or slowed down. Essentially she dies in one shot. Combat also makes use of the possession system in really clever ways. Why fight when you can make your enemy turn on themselves? However, Abi is stationary and helpless during possession, so making sure you possess things in the right order is key. The guardians come in many forms, giant bruiser types, casters, and basic fighters. Each can be dispatched by Abi easily when alone.
What this boils down into is a vicious rock, paper, scissor game that I wish was way more explored. Sadly, combat isn’t the focus as much as the puzzles. The three animals have no part in combat either and the guardians just ignore them completely. Being able to use the Trolls strength in combat would’ve been awesome. Perhaps the bull could gore the enemy and the frog make casters useless. It feels disjointed for sure.
In all, the gameplay is enjoyable but could’ve been so much more. At times the puzzles feel very grindy as you more or less know what you’re getting into ahead of time. You know you are going to move a rock or knock down that bridge, etc. The narrative is definitely the focus for me and I just wanted to see more of this lost world. Being slowed down by animals and switches left me feeling forced into the gameplay, instead of welcoming it. There are minor bugs I encountered on start up and one major bug involving a bull and moving bridges. Trust me when I say, leave the bull where you found it!
The voice acting is top notch!
Moving back to the themes of Peregrin, one has to mention the voice acting, which is excellent. Throughout the game you have a narrator who describes what Abi is feeling and gives you insights into her mind. While the narrator does a good job of explaining things there are times that I felt his dialogue was unnecessary. I can see the door opened, you don’t need to narrate that, as an example. Otherwise I have little complaints when it comes to the music, sound, and voices of Peregrin. It’s excellent work and I think the experience of their former title Calvino Noir shows that. The woman who plays the village elder, I swear with every fiber of my being sounds, like Kate Mulgrew.
Despite some of the puzzles feeling long in the tooth, Peregrin is a short game. I beat the game in about three hours. If you stop, smell the roses or suck at puzzles you could maybe get four hours out of the game. Replay value is going to depend on how much you enjoyed the story as beyond that initial first play through; there isn’t anything else. No new game+ mode or anything like that. The game does have Steam achievements/cards. Peregrin also features full controller support. I played with keyboard/mouse and found it to be just fine. It’s a pretty relaxed game.
As a story, Peregrin does deserve your attention.
There are some really deep and emotional topics explored here. From man’s fear of death to the loss of a loved one. Peregrin is an excellent story first and foremost. The gameplay on the other hand hits a couple of bumps on the road, but it does what it needs to do. Peregrin isn’t aiming to refine an age old genre or innovate you into the ground. It wants to tell a good story and it accomplishes that. I reiterate that the ending left me quite discombobulated but in a good way. Maybe this won’t be the last time we see Abi and there is more to her tale. So go check out Peregrin if you are looking for a game that will keep you entertained for a short while and tells a good story.