Relicta is a sci-fi, environmental puzzler that takes simple concepts and builds complexity until your brain explodes, or you solve a puzzle and congratulate yourself for being so smart. Do the other aspects of the game pull you into it, or push you out?
The story of Relicta takes place in the year 2120 on the Chandra base on Luna. The base is part of a terraforming project and general research, but the discovery of a strange purple mineral named Relicta has provided some opportunities for rapid technological advancement.
We follow the main character, Dr Angelica Patel, as she communicates with difficult co-workers and family members while dealing with a mysterious entity. It’s a sci-fi story that also tries to be political, but it doesn’t do the second part very well. It’s far more successful when dealing with the more contentious and poisonous family politics. Without too many spoilers, the writing is fine, I’m happy the story was there, but it was just OK at best.
Since families can’t be fixed by purple space rocks, she spends her time testing a fancy pair of gloves that can control magnetism and gravity on certain objects. This looks deceptively simple at first. One glove gives a positive magnetic charge, the other a negative charge, and a third button can remove or add gravity to an object.
It’s how these different abilities are combined in the environment that elevates Relicta into something worth your attention. By manipulating cubes and switches, you can move through the different testing tracks. Starting on the first simple testing track, you’ll learn the basics. The game continues to teach you new concepts such as using opposite magnetic polarities to move cubes vertically or horizontally and combine these movements with fixed magnetic points to move a cube through the air to the end of a track.
The sense of scale is fantastic. Early puzzles are smaller and only consist of a few rooms. Later puzzles are enormous with a solution being separated by a river or subdivided by walls into multi-area smaller puzzles that need to be solved to unlock the gate at the end of the larger puzzle.
There is a complexity here that will stump you at first. In an AMA on Steam, the developers say that Relicta will take approximately 10 – 12 hours. If you have a genius intellect like mine, it will take you longer. Each new room builds on ideas and concepts you tried elsewhere, combining a handful of ideas you learned a few hours ago into a many step process to fully complete. Once you finally understand the solution, the puzzles are very clever and very good. Environmental puzzling like this isn’t easy to design or implement, and the level design is generally good.
Relicta doesn’t escape the downfalls of this type of game. There is some platforming, and it’s a little loose and floaty. Missing your jump usually won’t take long to reset, but some levels made me pull out a few of the wisps of hair I have left.
The biggest problem is the inconsistency in finding your solution. Often you’ll have two blocks that will need to float to another place or bounce off an opposite magnetism to reach a different area. Where floating blocks would bounce after striking something was another place this happened. Even if I knew what to do, the same trial might have a different result due to the physics in the game. Those same physics are great for experimentation, but I didn’t enjoy having to perform the same action a few times, hoping I would strike the lottery this time.
Visually, the game is very good. After the day one patch, a new option was added to play in performance or resolution modes. I stuck with performance, and the different biomes of ice, desert, and tropical areas look even better than when I first played the game. The main character’s voice acting is good, but others were not as strong. The sound and voices are still good overall.
Relicta is a very good environmental puzzler with good level design and great visuals. The story is OK and the physics and platforming may give you some issues, but the entire package is a high-quality brain teaser with rewarding challenges and satisfying solutions.
Relicta PS4 Review
Relicta is an environmental puzzle game with good level design and clever solutions let down by occasional issues with platforming, inconsistency in physics, and an OK story to weave it all together. The excellent puzzles and visuals are the majority of what you’ll experience, and these are what makes Relicta a game any puzzle fan should consider.
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Reviewed using PS4 Pro.