- Developer: Highwire Games
- Publisher: Highwire Games
- Platforms: PS VR
- Price: $39.99
- Release Date: November 15th, 2019
- Date reviewed: November 21st, 2019
- Review Code Provided: Yes
- Reviewed On: PS VR
Golem is the first title from Highwire games, an independent studio consisting of former Bungie developers. The game has been in development since 2015 and has gone through a fair share of delays. The game has finally released and after such a long development, maybe it should’ve been delayed a little longer.
In Golem you play as a girl named Twine who isn’t able to move due to an injury. Even though you are bedridden that doesn’t mean you can’t explore the world. You discover you have the ability to create and control Golems, controlling there actions and seeing what they see. When you discover this you quickly find a workshop your sister had dedicated to Golems and discover a world untouched by people, filled with treasure, threats, and family secrets. It is up to you to explore this land and learn it’s secrets, while trying to find out what happened to your sister. This premise is very strong and was able to grab me fairly early on, but sadly the game never lived up to what it was trying to convey.
Sights and Sounds
I will start with what this game excels at, the world itself. This game has a small open world that feels handcrafted and very interconnected. The city you explore is beautiful and filled to the brim with scenic locations that you can easily get lost in. There is something beautiful about exploring this city in ruins that makes you feel like a real explorer. I wanted nothing more than to just walk around the city and explore. The city has it’s own character down to it’s design and noise. The sound design is immaculate and so is the music. You primarily hear the noises of an empty city, from your own footsteps, to the screams of enemies around the corner, and weapons being drawn in the distance. You hear music during when you do an action like find a message from your mother or enter a battle. You also hear the games main theme during cut scenes and it is beautiful. The score may not be vast but it is amazing. When music actually plays it is always well composed and a delight to listen to. Now none of this should be a shock as Martin O’Donnell, famed Halo composer, did the music. A musical prequel to the game was released in 2017 called Echoes of the First Dreamer that I highly recommend listening to. These aspects come together and make a world that feels real and lived in. It really helps get you into the game, but sadly the rest of it isn’t like that.
Now while I have been complimenting the design of the world I do have some issues with it. Earlier when I said you could easily get lost I meant it. The game doesn’t have any form of map so you find yourself walking around in circles a lot. The design of the world also makes it hard to distinguish what is an actual path you can walk on or just part of the design. I found myself walking into invisible walls just because I though I could step over some rocks. The game also has very poor sign posting. Every once in a while you see a red flag showing you’re going the right way, but for the most part you just wander aimlessly hoping to find the right path. The more progress you make, the more the world interconnects making it easier to traverse from area to area, much like a metroidvania. The one issue with this though is there are no checkpoints, so when you die or restart you half to walk from the beginning all the way back to where you need to go. Even with all the paths you unlock, you find yourself spending way too much time walking back to where you need to go. Combine all these issues and suddenly the game becomes very tedious. Now all these issues don’t ruin the game but they don’t help it either, especially with what I’m going to bring up next.
Stiff as a rock
The way this game controls will break your back. That’s not a joke, if you want to play this game with it’s default control method get ready to strain your back. Since you play a character that can’t leave their bed, the way you control Golems in this game is by pressing a button and inclining your body any direction to move. Yes it gets as uncomfortable as it sounds. The game also requires a Move controller, because it controls whatever weapon you give your Golem. You can only move when holding the trigger on the Move controller so there is no way to accidentally move when you don’t want to. There are other control methods you can play this game with, but nothing felt comfortable so I stayed with the default method because it’s clear that’s how they want you to play. The game also adds a quick turn option by pressing the Square or Triangle button on the Move controller, which actually does help with movement. So that’s the basic control scheme, you hold the Move controller in one hand, press a button and incline your body the direction you want to move, and flail around the hand you have the Move controller in so you can fight other Golems. This control method is not fun, it gets extremely tedious, and it puts your body in uncomfortable positions just so you can make progress. Now all of this is a problem, but it becomes way worse when you add how unoptimized this game can be.
This game needed more development time. The number of issues I faced forced me to put down the game many times. From not detecting the position of your controller to not detecting your movements at all. The amount of runs I had abruptly end because the game decided to move the position of my weapon when in a fight was staggering. Movement is one thing that should feel smooth in a VR game, and this games movement varies from walking at a snails pace, to inducing actual motion sickness. There were moments the game would not detect my movements and I would have to pause it and do some re calibrations to make it work, only for it to happen again. Fine movements aren’t really detected so half the fights you enter can be won by pointing your weapon in a vague direction to deflect attacks. The only times I would actually lose battles is when I would try to properly deflect attacks only for the Move controller to not be detected in the right place. All these problems just make the game unplayable at moments and annoyed me to the point I almost threw my PS VR across the room. If this game had another six months of development then maybe they could iron out the bugs and make something fun cause something is here. There are moments where everything just clicks, the game play is smooth, the battle feel epic, and it’s actually fun to play. Sadly that’s just a handful of minutes, out of a game that’s a handful of hours.
It all comes crumbling down
At the end of the day Golem is something I can not recommend. It’s clear that Highwire put a lot into this game and wanted to make something special. The world is spectacular and I genuinely love the story this game tells. The game sounds amazing and I want nothing more that to just be able to explore this world in a more comfortable setting. Sadly all of that gets thrown out the window when you try to play. From the uncomfortable positions it puts you in giving you pain, to the tedious amount of backtracking it forces you to do. You could beat this game in an afternoon, and it will feel fun for about 10 minutes. No matter what way you play, at it’s current price it just isn’t worth it. Now if you excuse me, I need to find someone to crack my back.