Sometimes, the best stories are told by illustration rather than written text. In fact, such a method is difficult to achieve, for illustrative learning requires attention, interest, and proper execution. Aporia: Beyond the Valley embraces both sight and sound to tell its own story, one that requires not words, but an observant mind to unpack the puzzles and unfold the beauty that surrounds this game. It is a tribute to older point and click computer games like MYST, a virtual love song to that genre.
What This Game Is
Aporia: Beyond the Valley is a first-person, puzzle, story game that takes place in the fictional world of Ez’rat Qin, a grand civilization and people that have mysteriously been wiped out by something unknown. You, having awakened after centuries of sleep, journey among this crumbled world and uncover the truth behind this civilization’s end, and what danger is truly out there, beyond the valley.
What This Game Is Not
Played in first-person, you are one of the last survivors of the Ez’rat Qin. The game primarily a puzzle game that conjoins with exploration and discovery like MYST and is just as challenging and gorgeous. Some puzzles are easy, others are LOZ Ocarina or Time Water Dungeon level pull your hair out hard. You will find certain artifacts to solve puzzles, light your way past obstacles, and endure the pains that your own species has endured before you to seal away its inevitable fate.
Compared to other puzzle games, rather than reading about a puzzle and then solving it, you will instead observe the world around you and find illustrative clues and key objects like glass shards and aqueduct pieces to help you solve the puzzles. This is a game that tackles a rare path of puzzle-solving: illustrative learning. You will not find texts, documents, or inscriptions lying about to give you hints; the hints and clues are all around you, you just need to open your eyes and look around.
Journey Through Aporia
Exploration in Aporia: Beyond the Valley is enjoyable as it is immersive, and the game makes you explore without force. You will look from one ruin to another without frustration, anger, or irritation, only with an appreciation to what the developers have created for this game. Everywhere you search is relevant to understanding what really happened to the Ez’rat Qin; not one ruin is irrelevant because each is different and tells its own story to be later included in the main one.
When solving the puzzles, there are no guided pathways; every puzzle has its own route that you need to figure out, and exploration is inevitable. You are not following one narrow hallway to victory; you are running here and there to gather the necessary keys to unlocking the next stage of the game.
Truly, this is a grand display of storytelling by exploration and observation. You can tackle areas and puzzles as you want to in any order, and the freedom is truly exhilarating. No rails here! (looking at you FFXIII)
How Aporia Feels
In a game that is heavily-dependent on sight, the world within is beautiful. When you enter this world, you can see the crumbled surfaces of the ruined buildings, feel the smooth, leafy textures of the plant-life that pervades every place you go. Nothing is left out, nothing is missing, nothing is gone. You can literally immerse yourself in this game and feel as if you are actually there because of how well the developers created and animated their environments. Lush forest and swamp, tall tree house structures, old stone ruins and caves and old holy temples pervade the landscape of this mystical world. Super immersive.
The visual storytelling will make you care about what has happened to the Ez’rat Qin. Without a word, you empathize with the worlds former inhabitants and feel sad as you see what is left of them and their civilization. As you explore Ez’rat Qin, you will hear the sounds of the world around you, from the wind against the trees, to the rushing of the fierce rivers, to the sound of charmed lights. It is atmospheric as it is realistic, and it makes this game more enjoyable than ever.
Audio and visuals are top notch and run smoothly at high resolutions.
How Aporia Works
The game has a few systems, but not many. One is a light-fuel system, where unlocking certain puzzles will use up some type of fuel that will require charging from the engine of their civilization, their light ore energy source, forged into both liquid and sold energy pickups for your cylindrical lantern (which serves as your primary puzzle solving and world interaction tool) scattered around Ez’rat Qin.
Another is a light-fragment system, where you will find certain fragmented artifacts that you will utilize to solve puzzles you cannot normally solve by walking and running.
Additionally, there is a health bar mechanic, where there are certain features of the game that can and will kill you, like fall damage, ghosts, and drowning.
Otherwise, most of the game is illustrative observation.
Play This Game!
I love a good story, and this game definitely brings it to the table. You cannot call this game an amateur’s work, or a waste of time. Aporia: Beyond the Valley is one of a few great ambient world visual storytelling games out there, and it has been a pleasure to play. Check it out!