Format: PC, PS4 (version tested), Switch, XboxOne
Developer: Tequila Works
Publisher: Grey Box Games
Release Date: 26th May 2017
Once you’ve become accustomed to the vast variety of games over the years, it becomes increasingly more difficult not to compare games that share similar attributes within them. When a particular game is objectively superior than what has come before it, it will set a standard for which all other games aspire to maintain or even surpass. Then there’s games that, despite sharing a lot in common with one or numerous titles, will use the foundations set by other games and include its own unique flavour to the fusion, and RiME is one of those games.
Throughout the game’s extensive development cycle, it has gone through some major design changes. The original proposal meant that RiME would have contained a more survivalist model behind it, with even survival meters such as hunger and thirst were penned in to the design. Thankfully though, that suggestion got scrapped in the former stages of the game’s development, for if it was to contain such attributes it would have been a hindrance on the superb journey that this game contains and induced an element of stress and restriction in consequence of a world that brilliantly encapsulates a sense of freedom.A boy regains consciousness, clothes ragged and torn, on a beach of a mysterious island. Pushing the left stick motivates the protagonist to slumber to his feet. Looking around, its instantly apparent that the land’s ambiguity is reflective of Ico, or perhaps more relevantly, The Last Guardian. There are absolutely no sign-postings to direct the protagonist onwards, so he sets forth on the journey with nothing but the visual aid and instincts and try and navigate through the secretive island in search of progress. Our attention is almost immediately drawn to the colossal structure that’s towering distinctively above anything else we’ve laid our examining eyes upon. It would seem that that is our destination.
Apart from a few button prompts at the initial stages of the game, there’s no explanation on the game’s mechanics and it doesn’t even have a HUD to clutter the screen, leaving it up to the player to use their own initiative. It would be easy for the game to overwhelm with its vast world and limited directives, but the game compensates for these facts and in return only has a handful of mechanics that can be executed. Climbing and crossing from ledges is like Prince of Persia, but has the steady flow of Uncharted and the traversable ledges are clearly displayed. After pressing triangle, the boy lets out a tuneful hum or shout which is later discovered to be a key element in the various puzzles that is presented in RiME’s relatively short journey. The boy’s vocals are used to resonate with the small statues scattered across the island that perform different actions depending on the type of statue, which changes the environment and opens the way for progression by opening doors or by changing the location’s structure. The boy’s voice doesn’t carry very far however, so when a statue is out of vocal range the boy is required to use the jade spheres that amplify his voice and effects all statues in proximity, which is also useful for puzzles that require multiple statues to be activated in a certain time limit. Some of the puzzles uses lights and shadows too, where the boy is required to change the environment to cast shadows or light onto the light sensitive surfaces. One particularly memorable puzzle had the protagonist manipulate the time of day to elongate the shadows into the required position. None of the puzzles presented to you throughout the game are overly difficult, but the variety of ways that each one is solved means that progression is never a grind, and even if you do become halted along the way, there’s enough freedom in the game to go and explore other areas that you previously might have missed. As good as this freedom is however, it does pose occasional problems. With the games ambiguity combined with the ability to backtrack through quite a length of previously journeyed areas means it induces a sense that you’re missing something vital. On numerous occasions, exploring areas that seemed to be the area forward to progress but in the end, it turned out to be somewhere entirely different that we needed to be.However, RiME does make the most out of its resources in supplying the player with subtle directions. Images from unknown beings have helpfully decorated images on the walls that vaguely displays a way forward, reminiscent of Journey, and fireflies flutter around points of interests such as movable objects and ledges. Combat is absent in this game, and the few instants where it’s necessary to defeat foes requires you to use the environment to your advantage. One instant with a giant bird that the protagonist falls prey to necessitates the boy to stay under shelter and systematically seek shelter from open areas lest the bird hunts him down. Stay for too long in the expansive areas gradually renders the screen red until the hunter seeks out its prey and swoops down for the kill. The penalty for death doesn’t postpone progress severely, as the next checkpoint is usually just a few steps away from where the protagonist dies, and it’s all the better for it as it reflects the free and unconstrained nature of the game.
Interactions with other beings is a rare occurrence in RiME, apart from a delightfully charming fox that the boy comes across who seems to be in aid of protagonist’s success. A mysterious red robed figure appears at regular intervals too, and always seems to be just out of reach. But the fox’s appearance with the figure suggests that it’s a being that can be trusted.RiME’s cell shaded visuals bare similarities with Breath of the Wild, which often stun in its beautifully crafted world. The game goes through a variety of settings, and each are as breath taking as each other in its active day-night cycle with music that perfectly complements its disposition. The ambient sounds of the docile wildlife in unison with the soft melodic soundtrack promotes a brilliantly tranquil world and when the game takes a more serious approach, its musical score takes a generally more emotional and effective turn. All this doesn’t come without consequences however, as the framerate does drop quite severely particularly when the view presents a larger draw distance, and on rare occurrences, the boy would jump in attempt to grab a ledge but miss entirely despite being obviously in range.
The game’s vague story never reveals itself until the very latter stages, but its small variety of collectibles that can be discovered throughout the journey shows a lot of insight into the concept of RiME. The collectibles in this game aren’t mundane and pointless, and they suggest a deeper and diverse variation of the main narrative that entices you to replay after its conclusion to seek out the rest.As the pieces fall together at the end of RiME, it presents an emotional and interesting finale. The world’s beauty in which the game’s set perfectly encapsulates the concept, and the charming and endearing adventure consistently remains throughout. There are a few design issues which hinder the flow of play, but it’s uncommon regularity means it doesn’t obstruct the pleasure of traversing through this game. RiME bares similarities and borrows concepts from a number of titles that have come before it, but ultimately its engaging, delightful journey offers its own exclusive and exceptional features that encourage you to go back for more.
Final Verdict – 8.5