I’m a big fan of The Talos Principal and The Turing Test, games that introduce curveball new mechanics and test the grey matter.
But one thing that those games don’t get quite right is their storytelling, as entertaining as they are.
That’s the concoction that made Portal 2 such a world-beater when it stormed onto the scene. A game I still hold in the very highest regard.
Relicta has tried to put the spotlight back on narrative just as Valve’s classic did once before but something doesn’t sit quite right in this 22nd Century Physics centred adventure.
And it’s not just its story either, as the puzzle-solving also feels both frustrating and simplistic in equal measure.
In Relicta, you play as a physicist, Angelica Patel, and find yourself on a Moon Base, trying to get to safety.
In order to reach haven, you have to solve a series of complex puzzles, centered around magnetism and gravity, and combine them together in various unexpected ways.
Angie will venture through various types of terrain, like overgrown forests and wintry valleys, walking through forcefields, gathering crates, and teleporting between areas.
Some crates can’t be taken past forcefields, so you might have to put a crate in a teleporter or use it to prop open a door. Sometimes you have to find a way around, off the beaten path.
Relicta takes a further interesting angle, though, using your gloves to be able to affect the gravity of the box. If it’s placed on a particular type of platform, you can actually impact the gravity so a box can float over ravines and wide open spaces.
This opens up puzzles in some creative new ways, as while the world is mostly linear, it also has an openness to it that makes it less like a Q.U.B.E or Turing Test which follows a room to room structure.
Relicta does a good job of getting its formula fresh, particularly in its opening few hours, mixing up terrain with fancy new ways to show off the mechanics. And it all gets tied together with a surprisingly compelling story of survival and some effective characterisation.
I actually found Q.U.B.E 2 to be one of the best examples of exploring narrative in a puzzle game of the recent crop of titles and while it doesn’t reach the same heights, Relicta does a respectable job with its characters, building up the family dynamic, delivering a believable world around them.
The game is also incredibly pretty, with stunning vistas, glorious vibrant lighting, and its own unique stencilled art style for the cast, but it really makes your PS4 work for it.
This feels like a game that’s treading the line of current and next gen with how much it pushes your PS4. I thought The Last of Us Part 2 was a worker, but Relicta really punished my launch console at times.
The result, though, is a truly great looking game, made doubly impressive by its small-sized development team.
It is truly epic what has been achieved here and Relicta, for the most part, stays enjoyable. But its controls occasionally feel quite clumsy and sometimes the consequences are accidental or not as the player intends with gravity usually sending blocks sailing in the wrong places or falling before you’re ready.
The invisible walls can also throw you off as they sometimes interfere in the places you actually need to visit in order to progress.
Relicta is a great action puzzler, though, with some great head scratchers and an intriguing story to keep you working your way through.
It’s not best in class in the genre, with many other great games releasing over the course of this generation, but Relicta was plenty enjoyable all the same and a must for those who’ve worked their way through the cream of the crop.
Relicta is now available on PC, Stadia, PS4, and XO
Code provided by Koch Media
Tested on PS4