In most sci-fi books and movies humans appear as naive, stupid and greedy beings, and machines created by them usually rebel against them as soon as they get “smart” enough. In Primordia, debut game made by not really famous Wormwood Studios and Wadjet Eye Games and released on December 5, 2012, everything is different: robots do not want to harm humans; on the contrary, they believe that humans are supreme beings, perfect machines.
These holidays I played Primordia for the first time. I was tired of playing The Witcher 2 and waiting for its new installment or Cyberpunk 2077 to be released, so I wanted to try something new. I didn’t think I could ever like a 2D game with bad graphics, but…
Horatio Nullbuilt and the post-apocalyptic planet
On Primordia’s post-apocalyptic planet robots haven’t seen a human for ages (heh, that’s why they think humans are cool!). Left without their creators, the machines built large cities, invented a religion praising Men, and now they try to “speak the Word” and “keep the Code”, waiting for Men to return to them.
Unlike most other robots, the protagonist of the game, robot named Horatio Nullbuilt, isn’t waiting for anything or anyone. He lives in solitude with his droid companion Crispin, reads “The Gospel of Man” and seems to want nothing more… until a rogue robot steals the energy source he needed to survive. Horatio has to start searching for it, and his journey seems to have much in common with the fate of Nameless from Planescape: Torment.
Horatio is actually the fifth version of the Horatio Nullbuilt model; during his trip he will meet characters that remember the previous three versions, know his old (real) name, say they were friends or enemies long ago and open up interesting details of his past. Horatio is usually called The Silent One by the locals, and Crispin, his companion, has much in common with Morte from Planescape: Torment (remember that flying skull with cool sense of humor?). Besides, you can also hear the G.E.C.K. abbreviation here, order a drink from a robot-bartender, or even detonate a nuclear device (is it just me or did you remember Fallout, too?).
When you start playing Primordia, you understand that its developers have definitely read Philip K. Dick’s books and played Planescape: Torment and Fallout. But does this mean Primordia is just a copy-paste of those games with some minor changes? No. It definitely is not. The guys from Wormwood Studios managed to create their own universe with its original religion and a special blend of humor and melancholy. This universe is inhabited by original and interesting characters, too: you’ll encounter a mad server that dreams of total independence, an inadequate leader of fighting robots with Shakespearean-style speech, and many others. Funny and ironic scenes followed by tragic ones also make this universe really special. So Primordia is not a copy-paste, it’s an independent game with its own world and atmosphere.
The beginning of Primordia isn’t really interesting – the puzzles are like sysadmin survival quests that involve repairing generators, looking for spare parts, cutting cables, assembling scanners and searching for codes. If you think it’s too boring, just wait for a little bit, and the quests will become more interesting soon enough (though you’ll still have to continue searching for codes).
In terms of gameplay, there isn’t anything extraordinary or surprising here: you’ll solve funny puzzles, interesting mini-games, and really challenging exercises for the mind and memory. There’ll also be crime investigations, and interesting tests and puzzles in dialogues. You’ll also have to answer different questions by using your logic skills or studying the local droid Bible (by the way, the dialogues are really well-written here!).
One more thing — the puzzles here in Primordia are non-linear, so there are several ways to solve the same problem, and the endings are also different (10, to be more precise), depending on the choices you make throughout the game. The life and death of some characters will also be in your hands.
However, the most attractive thing in Primordia is the plot and not the puzzles. Yeah, sometimes you get tired of those endless jokes and Crispin’s comments on lack of armor, and sometimes the storyline becomes too “slow”, but it’s still very, VERY cool.
And here we come to the sad part. Low resolution pixellated graphics isn’t what one would expect from a game with such a nice plot and cool characters. But, on the other hand, even the graphics couldn’t spoil the atmosphere. Those muted colors and low-quality textures look kind of surrealistic and evoke a lot of feelings and help you better understand the universe of the game.
What would Primordia look like if it had 3D graphics? Maybe it would attract more players then, but I really think the game is good even the way it is now (though I’m a big fan of beautifully designed games).
So what do we have here? Even despite the 2D low-resolution graphics, Primordia has a lot to offer: interesting and likeable characters, a good storyline and, of course, great atmosphere. Intimate, “human” atmosphere, even despite the fact that all the characters are made of cogs and chips. I’d give it 8 points out of 10 for that atmosphere only. And I really, really enjoyed playing it.
And here’s a small trailer: