When it comes to adventure games, whether they be of the traditional point-and-click variety or more of a “walking simulator,” one of the things that always has to grab me is the atmosphere. It’s not required, just as good graphics or even any graphics at all aren’t required, but they are a nice touch, but for a game like Essence it’s almost a must have. And having finally delved into the demo that Onevision has lovingly provided for all backers, including those at just a single buck, I have to say that I’m not one bit regretful of putting my money where my mouth is.
Before I get into my critique on what I’ve managed to play through I will say this. Essence might be a small hurdle to overcome for those not used to first person adventure games like Myst. Not because the puzzles are hard. The few that there are can be easily deduced with some thinking. No, you’re pretty much thrust into the world without any idea of what to do. At least in the demo. It took me about ten minutes to figure out how to activate the elevator platforms and I’ve been playing games like this for years.
That said, though, don’t let what I just said deter you from putting in a dollar to give the demo a try. Essence is a beautifully crafted game from what I’ve seen and this is just a small portion of what to expect. I did get stuck in the third “world”, mostly because I had a hard time seeing through the glare and trying to figure out how to move on. However, the three sections that I did mange to get a glimpse of were stunning and atmospheric. Something that I long for in a game of this type. It certainly evoked feelings of nostalgia for the Myst series. Minus the mindbending puzzles, of course.
Throughout Essence you’re basically just moving around trying to discover fragments of your missing memory and making small subtle changes to the environment around you. Like learning how to use platforms or wind drafts to let you soar to new heights and areas normally locked off to you. You have a sort of guide along the way, tossing you cryptic hints and helping you move on and discover more about yourself and the worlds around you. In short, it’s a game of exploration both in the literal and metaphysical sense. Something that feels so few games these days deal with.
All in all, the hour or so that I spent in the backer demo for Essence was a treat for the senses. The visuals made each world stand out and evoked a sense of wonderment while the music was hauntingly beautiful. I really wish I was able to make it to the end on my own, but even the short slice that I did get my hands on made me want more. Which is only a good thing in my opinion. Check out the screenshots above and decide for yourself, but if you’re a fan of this genre you should seriously consider backing just to try it out for yourself.