Vaporum from Fatbot Games
Vaporum is a wonderfully polished experience by Fatbot Games, bringing a welcome steampunk addition to the grid-based RPG genre.
Crawling in My Mechanical Skin
Not unlike Legend of Grimrock, this dungeon crawler has just the right amount of a Bioshock aesthetic thrown in to deliver a product more on the science fiction side than fantasy. Vaporum puts the player in the first-person view of a man trying to make his way out of a maze wrought with mechanical traps, puzzles and robotic enemies. Throughout the adventure, found notes and audio recordings bring more clarity and substance to the story.
Upon the early acquisition of a mechanical suit, a wealth of customization options are available to aid in survival. Our character can equip found armor and weapons to boost certain attributes. As common in RPGs, each piece of equipment has strengths and weaknesses, allowing for a wide range of defensive customization.
While defending oneself in Vaporum, a wide variety of weapons are also found littered throughout the maze: blunt maces, daggers and swords for melee damage, and several types of steampunk-inspired guns, provided you hold enough ammunition to make use of them.
Solve for FE
Vaporum’s inventory reeks of wood, leather and metal. It does a great job in making the player feel invested in this fictional period piece. The puzzles in Vaporum often entail finding keys, turning wrought iron wheels or opening mechanical doors, fitting in well with the overall theme. The puzzles are also enjoyable and well-crafted, possessing just the right amount of difficulty to not be frustrating while still providing a sense of accomplishment upon solving. I wouldn’t say the gameplay centralizes around solving puzzles, but it certainly makes traversing through the maze more enjoyable.
Throughout the roughly 15 to 20 hours it takes to complete Vaporum, a variety of robotic and humanoid enemies will stop at nothing to make sure your health is regularly depleted. One might find oneself cornered quite often by enemies in the later stages. Luckily, several abilities are made available for use and assigned to hotkeys to turn the tide of battle. A skill progression tree is also essential for increasing stats such as integrity (health), energy (ability use) and weapon proficiency.
Controls in Vaporum consist of your standard WASD for movement, combined with hotkeys for certain tasks such as map and inventory. The mouse is used to inspect and interact with the environment as well as use equipped weapons. For a grid-based game, movement felt rather natural.
Embrace the Darkness
Graphically, Vaporum is a very dark game – literally, not figuratively. The developers made great use of programming lighting effects, but the majority of the game is played in the dark, with only the light from the torch in your exo-rig suit. Regardless of the dim environment, Vaporum is visually astounding, with gorgeous textures and smooth animations.
The sound design is superior as well, with realistic voice acting and phenomenal sound effect work. The visuals and sound come together perfectly to provide a significantly polished product, I dare say more polished than a lot of AAA releases I’ve seen in recent years.
Vaporum can get fairly deep in its inventory management and customization, so it’s not for everyone. It’s fairly easy to jump into, until the combat difficulty demands a more strategic approach to character customization. I highly enjoyed my time spent in this borderline dieselpunk environment. Grimrock fans will find something familiar, while RPG fans can enjoy an interesting take on the genre.
Vaporum is available via Steam.
Watch the official trailer for Vaporum below: