Separation is an ambitious game from a small developer that uses the PSVR to great effect. The journey in the game is short, but it feels complete, even if the ending leaves me with more questions than answers. If symbolism is another puzzle you like to solve, Separation may be something you need to check out.
Dedicated to people who suffer from depression, Separation was designed as a way for the developer to cope with the death of his father in 2010. It pulls inspiration from works by the artist Caspar David Friedrich, but its gaming inspirations come from Ico, and it evokes a similar visual design in some places.
The world of Separation is one of ruined beauty. The landscape is littered with monuments in varying states of decay, but the decrepit condition doesn’t keep them from eliciting wonder as you discover a new one. There are some truly epic and massive structures throughout the game. You’ll explore these in a very surface way, but that sense of scale is made more impressive through the PSVR.
There is also an overwhelming sense of loneliness and isolation. The massive area is empty of any life other than the birds that collect around the Sorrows. They are still, human shapes with a red gem inside. Each one appears to be frozen in some form of misery or suffering. They need to be freed, and you’ll watch as their black outer shells fragment and blow away, leaving you to read some short text visible after picking up their cores. These are messages from a mysterious individual that pull you forward in the game.
To rescue the ten Sorrows, you’ll need to solve some puzzles to open your path. The majority involve your positioning crystal obelisks to extend a ray of light. This will power machines and open doors. Other puzzles task you with clicking pedestals in a certain sequence to make sure every one of them is lit. Another puzzle requires you to move different objects on a control panel horizontally or vertically to make a path for another piece.
The game is designed to be more relaxing than difficult, so none of the puzzles are overly complicated. That didn’t stop me from being stuck on a couple. If you look around and move the items in the world, you’ll find your solution. Just know that the game doesn’t give you much guidance. There is a great sense of exploration baked into Separation, and figuring out what to do next is part of that.
The music and sound are sparse, but I enjoyed it when a melody would crescendo louder after I accomplished a task or moved into a new area. You’ll hear the birds, the wind howling as you soar into the air, and the soft sound of your own footsteps. Even though I think the minimal sound and music are intentional choices, I really wish there had been more of both.
Outside personal choices, the game unfortunately suffers from some technical issues. I would become stuck in the ground or move higher than normal. I would clip through a wall. I would have a terrible time trying to get the valves to recognize that I wanted to turn them. I had to restart the game a few times, because it stopped recognizing my inputs in the game when I wanted to click a button.
General movement can be a chore at times. You can increase how quickly you walk, but it will just be less slow. When you move in some areas, you’ll catch on the edges and have to turn yourself to unstick and reposition. Turning can shift you outside or into a rail, and I had to fight with the controls at times. It wasn’t all the time, but, when it happened, it kept me from losing myself in the world.
That’s really where Separation shines, but it seems to be one step forward and one back. The visuals aren’t the best, but the design is really interesting. The puzzles feel good, and it does some cool things in the world, although activating them can be a chore sometimes. There is a mystique to the dialogue that allows you to interpret the world and story any way you like with a real ending, even though I’m still not sure what it means. That hasn’t kept me from thinking about it.
Separation is all of those things, great and not so great, and it was an experience that won’t take you more than a few hours to complete. It’s a great concept and works well on the PSVR. There are amazing spectacles to behold as you work your way to the end. I just wish the journey was a bit smoother.
Separation PSVR Review
- Overall - Good - 6.5/106.5/10
Inspired by Ico, Separation nails the atmosphere of a lonely explorer in a ruined world, and the puzzles are fun while keeping a relaxed pace. That wonder and exploration can be marred by the occasional problem with controls or movement through that world, but it's a good experience with an ending that will make you look back across the journey for meaning.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Pro.