Primordia is the latest offering from Wadjet Eye Games, the company that previously brought us Resonance, Da New Guys, the Blackwell series, Gemini Rue, Puzzle Bots, Emerald City Confidential, and The Shiva. Primordia was developed by Wormwood Studios using the AGS engine. If you love any of these things: point-and-click adventures, puzzles, robots, the post-apocalyptic genre, and/or a cyberpunk aesthetic, I bet that you’ll love this game as much as I did. Check out the launch trailer:
The official plot summary goes like this:
“What happened to the humans?
Set in a post-apocalyptic world strewn with cast-off machines, Primordia tells the story of Horatio Nullbuilt, a stoic robot who values his solitude and independence. Horatio spends his days studying the Book of Man, sparring with his droid companion Crispin, and tinkering with the airship they call home — a peaceful existence that becomes threatened when a rogue robot steals the energy source that the pair needs to survive.
When Horatio and Crispin’s search for energy brings them to the dazzling city of Metropol, the simple quest to recover their stolen power core leads to unexpected discoveries about Horatio’s origins and a new understanding of the legendary humans who walked the earth before him.”
Right from the start, I was drawn into the story. I’m a sucker for all the things I listed above, so it’s like the game was made for me. Horatio and Crispin are really awesome characters, and their dynamic is part of what makes the story so compelling. Both characters are decidedly more human than most all of the other robots you encounter throughout the rest of the story. Their personal journey meant as much to me as taking down the big bad. I also laughed a lot during the game – it’s really funny. This humor manages to blend well with the Biblical and mythological references throughout Primordia.
There are two main areas to be explored in the game – the dunes and your ship, and the main city of Metropol. Despite there only being two locations, I never felt like I wanted to explore anywhere else. It also was nice to not be completely overwhelmed with options for places to go; it meant that I only had so many places to try solving a puzzle!
I found a ton of pop culture references, and I’m sure I missed some, but here’s what I got. I enjoyed these; they didn’t seem too out of place to me, especially since sometimes Horatio or Crispin would call out typical adventure game tropes. Let me know what references you picked up on!
- Fallout series
- Mystery Science Theater 3000
- The Big Lebowski
- Planescape: Torment
- Battlestar Galactica
- The Aviator
- Monty Python
- “99 Problems” by JayZ
- Half-Life series
- Shakespeare (specifically Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet)
- Lord of the Rings
- Star Wars
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
Graphics and Sound
If you absolutely need state-of-the-art graphics, this game isn’t going to be one that you glance twice at. While I personally love the pixel art graphic style (with more detailed, painted-looking closeups), I realize this may not be for everyone. But if you don’t look past the graphics, you won’t get the awesome story that this game has to tell. Another nice thing about Primordia was that I experienced little pixel hunting – despite the overall brown palette (hey, it’s post-apocalyptic, whaddya expect?), I never had a problem figuring out what I was supposed to be clicking on.
Logan Cunningham (of Bastion narrator fame) voices Horatio, and Abe Goldfarb (a Wadjet Eye Games veteran) lends his voice to Crispin. The two of them work perfectly together, with Horatio having an extremely dry sense of humor while Crispin’s leans heavily toward sarcasm. You can change between voice and text, voice only, and text only, but I can’t imagine playing with only subtitles on – I feel like a lot of the game’s charm would be lost.
If you’ve never played a point-and-click adventure, gameplay is simple – sometimes deceptively. You walk around looking at things, picking things up and stashing them in your endless pockets, talking to people, and solving puzzles. The only controls you need are the left button (walks around/pick stuff up), and the right button (look at things). Be sure to look – the dialogue for looking at things was sometimes quite helpful…or funny. Something I really appreciated about Primordia was that all of the puzzles (save one) were logically solvable. Even if I got stuck, once I figured out what to do or looked at a hint, I was kicking myself because I missed something really obvious – which is generally the way it goes in adventure games, at least for me. Not all the puzzles are the same either. There is the usual inventory item combination shuffle, but there are also verbal puzzles, puzzles you can solve just by remembering what people have said, and one spatial/drawing puzzle.
That being said, if anyone figures out the puzzle that involves a kiosk and a monocle…let me know. Yeesh.
By the end of the game, half of the papers I was taking review notes on were covered in notes to myself about puzzles or things I wanted to try. However, if you’re not a pen-and-paper person, Primordia has a couple of awesome features that will give you a nudge in the right direction. First, if you’re stuck, you can talk to Crispin, who will give you a hint about the puzzle you’re currently working on. He also helps if you’re just standing around not doing anything. This saved me quite a bit of frustration sometimes! Second, Horatio’s datapad both takes down notes about important data AND lets you fast travel.
Endgame and Extras
There are SEVEN different endings that I found – something I have never before experienced in this genre. During my playthrough, I made choices that meant I could only try out five of the seven possible endings (I saved before I made the final choice so I could check them all out), so I’m definitely going to go back and play again to see those last two endings. There are also twenty-nine in-game achievements to strive for (not all of which can be gotten on one playthrough) and a commentary track, which I’m really excited to listen to. All of these things add a lot of replay value to Primordia. Also, the song chosen for the end credits is absolutely gorgeous.
I would estimate that it took me somewhere around ten hours to beat Primordia, using a walkthrough only when I was absolutely stuck.
Aside from the aforementioned kiosk/monocle puzzle that made me want to tear my hair out, I loved this game. Point-and-clicks have always been one of my favorite genres, and this one did not disappoint. The story, characters, atmosphere, and beautiful art design make this game well-worth playing.
The game is out now for PC through the game’s website in both digital download and limited edition DVD formats. You can also get the game at GOG and Steam.
Let me know what you think of Primordia!
[Disclaimer: A review code was provided for me to review this game.]
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Great review! Definitely want to check out this game now, it’s been a while since I played a good old-school puzzle/adventure game (besides the ones I replay for nostalgia haha). Post-apocalyptic stuff kicks ass.
Thank you! This game definitely went to a darker place than most adventure games do while still retaining humor (especially in the interaction between Horatio and Crispin). You can never have too much post-apocalyptic stuff!
The shopping list you can find at the beginning of the game is a direct reference to the novel “A Canticle for Leibowitz.”
Thank you! I will have to check that out!
Nice review! I just played the demo and am completely in love with that strange and beautiful piece of art. Its atmosphere reminds me on my favourite game of all times, Planescape Torment, and the protagonist and his sidekick are the perfect team.
Thank you for reassuring me in that decision with your great review!
I think I’ll float over to GoG right now and use my shiny plastic-card to get that baby now. 😀
Thank you so much! The relationship between Horatio and Crispin definitely has a Planescape: Torment vibe, and Crispin even points that out at one point. Enjoy the rest of the game!