Destination Primus Vita is a narrative, first-person and episodic puzzle game set in a science-fiction universe. Six characters – Austin, Hayao, Artemis, BrX, Geny and Coby – travel across the cosmos on the interstellar ship Beaufort, to retrieve water that was stolen from Earth hundreds of years ago by an alien species.
Played from the perspective of one of those characters, this first episode of six stand alone titles focuses on Austin, and like everyone else Austin is in Cryosleep for the long journey through space. The player experiences Austin's actions through the character's dreams, which themselves are a construct created by NIM (the AI on the ship), designed to train them for their time on Primus Vita and to introduce them to the challenges they will face and the clues they must seek.
Apparently this is based on a comic book, but it's not one I've ever heard of, and it didn't diminish my enjoyment of the game in any way, as the experience itself is one of discovery. Making your way through surreal environments loosely based around the Beaufort, you'll find yourself completing simple puzzles to unlock different areas, and hunting down clues to reveal the secrets of the other characters onboard.
The primary gameplay loop consists of collecting clues dotted around a specific area – an office maybe, or an infirmary; even a poker club makes an appearance – which enhance your dreams by providing you with specific 'memories' from the real world, allowing you to live the moments of the past which the other characters on board the ship experienced. This deepens your relationships with those characters, as you can talk to them within the game, and select dialogue responses based on the clues you've put together and the scenes you've witnessed. The clues you need are largely just piece of the environment you need to click on to activate another character's dialogue, or replay a scene from their past. When you've finished an area, you move on to the next one, and more or less repeat the process. There are other parts to the gameplay, including action-led quick time events, but I don't want to spoil them or the story arc in this review.
I have to say, the game's art direction looks great, even if the graphics are rather simple. As DPV takes place in a dream world, the level designers have taken real advantage of the freedom that brings: Expect Inception-style geometry wrap-arounds, strange environments floating in space, and scenery and characters which fill in around you as you search the environment. Bizarrely though, the animation budget only appears to have run to some lip syncing during characters' dialogue, as the cutscenes which play out for the characters you meet consist of the models being posed in different ways without any kind of animation between. It's hard to describe, but imagine you have a character on your screen which you can cycle through several pre-made poses. Well, it's exactly the same as that, and it's rather jarring.
I've struggled for weeks to write a review of this game, and that's because there isn't much to say – there's a story I can't talk about for fear of spoiling it, and the game gives you the one loop which you do over and over in different environments: Finding clues and reliving other peoples memories from the perspective of a dream controlled by an AI.
It's not really 'fun' to play, but it does have some unique mechanics and the sights you'll see on your travels can be wild and beautiful. What really kept me playing though is the story and the way it's told through the eyes of the characters you're on the ship with. They're all unique, if a little stereotyped, and it made me want to see it through to the end. The game scores slightly higher than it possibly deserves for also being a bargain at less than six quid – I've played worse games which were more expensive. So give it a try if you like the sound of the narrative and the world, because for that price you'll not be disappointed.
Developer: Epsilon Games
Publisher: Green Man Gaming
Release Date: 16th August 2018