Somerville is one of the coolest video games I’ve played in years. It’s also one of the most frustrating.
Something like a spiritual successor to 2D classics limbo and Inside (both developed by Playdead, whose co-founder contributed to them), Somerville sees her take on the role of a man who must pull himself together in the face of a cataclysmic disaster, first to save his ass and then be reunited with his wife and son.
As with both of these games, there’s an haunting simplicity Somerville. There’s not a single word of dialogue in the whole thing, and while there are brief moments of action, you’ll spend most of the game’s time wandering around, completing basic platforming tasks, and solving light puzzles.
Again, like those two games, there’s a reason for that: the slow pace and lack of distractions Somerville’s surrounded by the world, her stillness and restraint leaving enough space for every scene to tell a story and every gesture to have meaning.
Unlike these two games Somerville it’s actually a pain in the ass playwith bugs, a lack of polish, and some odd design choices that combine to rob much of the joy one finds in just soaking up its wonderful art design.
Much of this is due to this Somerville’s Decision to leave 2D behind for a 3D adventure. Previously, these types of games worked so well because perspective constantly took you forward, its linear nature allowed you to control the pace of your adventure, and made the boundaries of the world crisp and clear.
in the Somerville, the world is more 3D, almost isometric in some places. I found that with larger spaces to explore, I often…explored them, sometimes intentionally and more often not, constantly hitting dead ends or heading down paths that looked like they should be the way forward, but it wasn’t. What sounds like a small complaint is a big deal with a game of this nature (and length of around 4-5 hours) as there is absolutely nothing to do unless you’re headed in the right direction. There are no NPCs to chat with, nothing to collect, every second spent wandering around a screen instead of following the designer’s intended path is draining Somerville’s pace of its potency.
Add in a series of frustrating instadeath scenarios – in which again each replay attempt deprives the short, concise story of its breakthrough – and a series of glitches and errors during and at the end Somerville I wish this was just an animated film instead of a game.
What may sound scathing is also a dubious compliment, because despite all my problems with Somerville, I got really into it anyway because the focus here is on the world and its history, not your up-to-the-minute actions. Its sci-fi designs are fantastic, its world-building totally immersive, and its cinematography, while occasionally insane for gameplay reasons, is always anything but breathtaking to watch.
Somerville’s Intro is particularly memorable. I’ve seen a lot of people compare it to when Spielberg’s opened war of the Worlds, And for a good reason; It’s real heart-to-mouth stuff, creating an incredible amount of tension and suspense for an adventure game that’s essentially an adventure game where you walk around the whole time.
I’d even go so far as to recommend a second playthrough, because not only does your muscle memory help tighten the pace of the game by taking you through stages quicker, but it also allows you to piece together a bit more of it Somerville’s Story that will surely find its place in the second half. You might even want to revisit some key choices towards the end, since the game has three different endings depending on some choices you make.
https://kotaku.com/somerville-jumpship-playdead-limbo-inside-review-1849783516 Kotaku’s Review of Somerville, Jumpship’s Alien Invasion Game