Set in a post-apocalyptic world strewn with cast-off machines, Primordia tells the story of Horatio Nullbuilt, a stoic robot who values his solitude and independence. Horatio spends his days studying the Book of Man, sparring with his droid companion Crispin, and tinkering with the airship they call home — a peaceful existence that becomes threatened when a rogue robot steals the energy source that the pair needs to survive.
When Horatio and Crispin’s search for energy brings them to the dazzling city of Metropol, the simple quest to recover their stolen power core leads to unexpected discoveries about Horatio’s origins and a new understanding of the legendary humans who walked the earth before him.
What We Think
Primordia is a bleak, and yet thoroughly engaging point-and-click trek through a crumbling post-humanity dystopia.
Land of Sand, Unmanned
Horatio Nullbuilt is determined to bring the Unniic, a dilapidated airship, back to a flight-ready state. Horatio’s memory is spotty at best, but he has maintained enough of his personality to create Crispin, the floating droid (who will at times offer up hints and comic relief). When the power core is taken, Horatio surmises that a trip to Metropol will be necessary to retrieve it. Though he can’t explain the reasoning, he knows he detests the very concept of this vast urban sprawl.
Creation in the face of decay is the prevalent theme in Primordia. The progeny of robot species continues via robots building their offspring, appending the name of the new robot with he who came before. For example, Horatio Nullbuilt is unaware of his creator’s identity. He constructed Crispin, thus his last name is Horatiobuilt. While all traces of mankind have vanished, some robots still cling to their reverence of the Gospel of Man. These followers consider humankind to have been the most advanced of machines, and the builders of the first cycle of robots that now inhabit the wasteland the Earth has become. Other robots insist that belief in any such creators is pure folly.
Remembering the Future
Wadjet Eye has established itself as the new Sierra Online for graphical point-and-click adventures that emerged when “multimedia” was a huge selling point for PCs. The choice to use a somewhat muddier palate serves the dominant aura of rust and decay, and gives a softer edge to realm ruled by machines than one might expect. The robots themselves seem as though they are a cross between 1970’s British sci-fi with the dawn of the industrial revolution-era machinery. Or maybe a the lost chapters of the Jawa. The beguiling ambient soundtrack underscores with somber, albeit arid tones with winsome quirkiness peaking in every so often to remind us of the somewhat whimsical tone that transports us through the desolation.
The point-and-click mechanics serve the story well, forcing the player to explore all aspects of the realm to find solutions to the various inevitable roadblocks. Some puzzles will come unraveled easily, while others may induce some extended head-scratching. Regardless of difficulty, all of the solutions make a great deal of sense within the context of the play, and none end up feeling tacked-on. Additional puzzles will reveal more about Horatio’s past and details of what fate befell mankind.
Buddy Comedy Reboot
While the music and artwork intertwine to create a mournful tableau, the dialogue, particularly between Horatio and Crispin, manages to keep the bleak surroundings light enough to bear; Horatio is voiced by Logan Cunningham (the voice of the narrator in Bastion, IGR’s top Indie Game in 2011) and his delivery is appropriately jaded and commanding. Crispin is the ideal sidekick, trading barbs and slinging veiled insults to strike a delicate counterpoint to his sire’s oftentimes dour demeanor.
Truly, there are no weak points to be found in the entire voice cast. There is a wide range of personalities to discover in the robots encountered along Horatio’s journey. Some functional automatons will sputter inanely, bound by limitations in their code, while others ooze with bourgeoisie gravitas.
Though Metropol is portrayed as a vast domain, the player is only able to explore a few select areas. Certainly, creating artwork and scripting for an entire metropolis would be a daunting task, but it still made the last huge city on Earth feel a lot smaller. It’s a small gripe, as otherwise the pacing and length of the game felt immersive enough.
There are several endings available to the player, depending on actions performed leading up to the final resolution. Unfortunately, while attempting various endings, I managed to create a few scenarios that would crash the game due to logical errors. In one case, an item I had combined with another remained in my active inventory, and clicking it caused the crash. In another instance, I recreated the conditions for one of the endings, but while Horatio was in another room, again crashing the game. Both of these were avoidable, and fortunately I had saved just before the glitch.
I Wanna Be Your Robot Man
Minor glitches aside, Primordia delivers a thought-provoking yarn through a richly authored, crumbling realm. With the amount of design and mythos called upon to create the scorched Earth found in Primordia, one can hope that this won’t be Horatio’s last venture out into the wastes.