Traverser – What We Think:
In the dark underground world of Traverser, breathable air is the most valuable resource, controlled by the enigmatic and all-knowing Raven Corporation. Developed by Gatling Goat Studios, the player follows the story of Valerie Bennett as she searches for her missing father and delves into the secrets of the corporation as a result.
Utilizing the combination of stealth and puzzle-solving gameplay, the game’s greatest strength is the sheer level of detail given to the robust, if not slightly depressing world Valerie lives in.
Oh Father, Where Art Thou?
Valerie Bennett just passed her Traverser Exams. She’s acquired an awesome glove that has the ability to grab objects from afar and use them to bypass obstacles like high walls, electrified doors and poisonous water that’s not meant for skinny-dipping. She can use her glove to “flip” between the upper and lower portions of the city of Brimstone, allowing her to monitor citizens with ease. She’s also learned the art of stealth as well, in order to be a good guard-in-training for the Raven Corporation.
When she goes home to tell her father the fantastic news, all she finds is the empty chair where he has been sitting, bullet holes in the walls, and overturned furniture. With no idea where he’s gone or why, she looks for answers throughout the city and delves into the secrets the Raven Corporation doesn’t want anyone to know.
A Dismal World We Live in
Brimstone city is unique in the way that the upper and lower portions of the city contrast so much. Where upper Brimstone is bustling – with plenty of folks moving around and talking to each other – the lower half is nearly deserted, save the desperate beggars that will trade anything for a tank of breathable air. It’s this clear distinction between the two districts that has made my journey through the city so enjoyable.
Scattered throughout the city are numerous propaganda posters, from informative directions on how to properly wear a gas mask to inspiring words from the Raven Corporation and how trustworthy they are. It’s a very good look at the state of the world.
There are also tracebots that can be found nearly anywhere. Once caught and destroyed, they divulge conversations from the people they had spied on, much akin to Bioshock recordings. It’s yet another small yet substantial attempt at solidifying the game’s universe for the player.
Our Silent Heroine
Valerie as a character follows in the footsteps of the traditional silent protagonist. Yet there’s something endearing about her. In spite of the fact that the player never hears her talk, it is through her journal and the interactions with other characters that solidifies her personality as one who is determined and defiant.
She is the sort of character that will run out to fetch her father a tank of air, risking being late for the Traverser exams in favor of making sure he is okay. Rather than get upset at her father’s disappearance, she immediately takes action, going to great lengths to find him. She’s an enjoyable character, and one that I found myself caring about immensely while I played.
The other characters aren’t too shabby, either; even the NPCs have a personality and multiple lines they say when Valerie passes by them. None of them stands out nearly as well as our protagonist, but they add to the overall atmosphere of Brimstone and feel like they have lives of their own.
Like a Power Glove, but Cooler
Most of the gameplay revolves around using Valerie’s glove to manipulate objects and solve puzzles. These puzzles vary in difficulty, and some took a lot more time than others.
There was one puzzle early on that involved rotating and attaching a number of broken pipes. These needed to be turned in such a way so that the ends would pour water onto the bottom part of the area. It took me a good 20 minutes to configure the pipes correctly, as I had to retrieve parts I hadn’t expected to need as well as rotate them in the right manner.
While the glove itself is very fun and interesting to use, the controls applied to it can feel tricky and not nearly as smooth. Grabbing an object is easy. Lifting and dropping said item isn’t hard, but requires using the mouse wheel, which slowly moves it in the direction the player wants.
The most frustrating aspect of the glove controls, though, would be the act of rotating objects. I felt it took too much time to manipulate the object to turn on its own and in the “correct” way to interact with other objects.
Stealth is also a vital aspect of the game, as there are plenty of Raven Corporation guards on patrol who would like nothing better than to get rid of our heroine. I think that it’s implemented well and haven’t had any difficulties with using it – though it can get rather tricky to get rid of the guards if they do happen to see the player. Guards will go into alert mode and chase after Valerie, though it isn’t clear how far Valerie needs to be before they go back to sleep, and sometimes I just had to let them kill me in order to replay the area, as they wouldn’t reset.
Steampunkish Work of Art
The art direction chosen for the game is fantastic, and makes all of the areas vibrant and original. My favorite aspect of the design comes from the sheer amount of detail given to the city layouts and what can be discovered in every nook and cranny. The insides of buildings are wonderfully detailed, and I found myself looking at every poster, every book singled out from the rest, eagerly looking around for different things to interact with.
While some of Traverser’s more ambitious mechanics come off as slightly awkward at times, I can forgive and forget, as it’s never been anything that completely detracted from the gameplay. Instead I found myself captivated by its enchanting world and the little heroine that would guide me through it. It’s a gem of a title, and is very much worth a second look.
Watch the trailer for Traverser below: