What if robots survived the apocalypse that wiped out all humans on Earth? Well, then society might end up looking a little something like it does in Primordia, the first major release from indie developers Wormwood Studios and publishers Wadjet Eye Games. Recently ported to the Nintendo Switch, Primordia is a tale of war, persistence, obstacles, and robots, not necessarily in that order.
The story of Primordia follows robots Horatio and Crispin, living in a damaged warship outside of society, minding their own business until their power core is stolen by an invading robot named Scraper. Of course, being robots, they need the power core to survive, and this theft sets off a chain reaction of events and starts them on their journey to confront a power-mad dictator and discover the truth of what happened to the last vestiges of human society. It’s a compelling story, with absolutely fantastic worldbuilding. The history of the world is laid out and explained throughout the story, revealed piece by piece, and serves as an intriguing and well-built mystery in its own right, aside from Horatio and Crispin’s personal quest.
Unfortunately, the plot and the world are underscored by a weak cast of characters without much depth or motivation, aside from our protagonists. Horatio is the serious leader of the duo, also on a journey of personal discovery throughout the story, and Crispin is the wisecracking sarcastic sidekick who saves the game from being completely bleak. The two have a great dynamic and a close bond, and you grow to genuinely care for them over the course of the story. The fact that they are voiced by the ever-excellent Wadjet Eye staples of Logan Cunningham and Abe Goldfarb only adds to this. The only really notable supporting character is Clarity, a law-abiding and enforcing robot that they meet along the way who decides to help them as their goal changes from retrieving the power core to bringing justice to a crumbling city.
Primordia’s point and click interface did not, unfortunately, translate as well to the Switch as Unavowed did. Lots of unnecessary clickable background details and annoyingly precise joystick movements made it a pain to navigate at times, though it was infinitely easier playing with the touchscreen alone and using joy-con buttons only for shortcuts. The game’s interface also takes some getting used to, with things like the data-pouch note screen not being explained unless you specifically click through the options menu, and the interact menu button also serving as the talk button. Besides these, the game gains no real advantage from the Switch port, other than the obvious portability that the console brings.
Puzzles in the world of Primordia are mostly inventory-based, and the fact that almost all of your tools are bits of junk is lampshaded more than once in the narrative. While the game has the traditional Lucas Arts set-up that doesn’t allow players to fail, you can keep trying combinations and items until you hit on the right one, that unfortunately doesn’t save many of the puzzles from being sub-par at best. Leaps of bizarre logic and sometimes just bizarre shots in the dark are required to solve many problems, and the hints system that can be used through Crispin is frustratingly unhelpful most of the time. Occasionally, there are very clever puzzles, but those are few and far between.
The color palette of Primordia is mostly oranges and browns, with some dark greys thrown in for flavor, and a small slice of blue on Crispin’s screen. Comparing it to Wormwood Studio’s Strangeland, I can’t help but think their art designer has a thing for two-tone themes. Nevertheless, the design choices do an excellent job of reinforcing the bleak, dismal atmosphere of the plot and story themes of the game, down to the fact that the small blue Crispin is the only real bright spot in the world, both literally and metaphorically. The art itself is the usual, high-standard, and gorgeously detailed pixel art that you expect from any game published by Wadjet Eye, though the squishing to fit onto the small Switch screen does it no favors.
Primordia is an interesting, well-built world, with a great plot and compelling protagonists. Unfortunately, the bland supporting characters and the depressing atmosphere does wear on you after a while, and the illogical puzzles are frequently frustrating. While it’s not an experience for everyone, those who enjoy bleak storylines or are particularly fond of robots, but don’t mind poorly designed puzzles, will certainly find enough to entertain in this fleshed-out world with wonderful art direction.
TechRaptor reviewed Primordia on Nintendo Switch with a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PC.
- Gorgeous Pixel Art
- Stellar Worldbuilding
- Compelling Main Characters with Wonderful Performances by Cunningham and Goldfarb
- Bleak, Depressing Atmosphere Gets Stale
- Illogical Puzzles Quickly Frustrate
- Bland Side Characters