Penumbra: Requiem Review

Penumbra: Requiem is Frictional Games’ expansion of their stellar first-person adventure game from earlier this year, Penumbra: Black Plague. While Requiem is an immediate continuation thereof, it appears to draw almost equally as much design influence from Valve Software’s critical darling, Portal. Unfortunately for gamers, Requiem doesn’t quite live up to the standard set by either of those titles.

Requiem picks up where Black Plague left off, in the minutes after the game’s final scene. The team has shifted focus this time around from a story-driven adventure to a segmented first-person puzzle game, where players are placed inside a series of loosely tied, fundamentally different environments, with the sole purpose of reaching each successive level exit and moving another step closer to the game’s authoritative resolution.

Within each stage, players use the game’s physics engine to manipulate objects in the virtual world and solve the many puzzles that lie before them. Rather than a targeting reticle, as in first-person shooters, Requiem features a hand icon that is used to take hold of cranks, levers, doors, drawers, ladders, ropes, boxes, etc., and players must make the appropriate gestures while clutching said items in order to accomplish their goals. This unique approach to environment interaction is still very functional and still very enjoyable, but many of the puzzles seem somewhat contrived.

The puzzles in Requiem have taken a step away from the practical and intuitive setup of Black Plague towards more arbitrary solutions and a small dose of trial-and-error gameplay. Operating random levers and cranks or rolling an electric ball through a series of chutes are a few that come to mind. There is little consequence or motivation for the player’s actions other than to gather the “keys” that open the portal to the next relatively disjointed arena, and there is no crescendo in difficulty as the game progresses.

That’s not to say that the core gameplay isn’t enjoyable. Requiem features strong platforming elements along with the puzzle mechanics, and players will find themselves jump across many sets of static and moving platforms, navigating narrow ledges, and using boxes and other objects to create paths up, over, around, and through all sorts of obstacles. What they won’t find are enemies, and consequently, weapons of any sort. The game is a non-combative affair.

Like other puzzle games, Requiem is very light on plot. Voice-overs by a few characters from the Penumbra series sprinkle esoteric philosophy and references to previous games, but without a fleshed-out storyline acting as a point of reference for many of the themes involved (or without having played the game’s predecessors), much of the monologue becomes superfluous. Players are likely to simply focus on the game’s puzzles and trudge forward for the three to four hours of gameplay Requiem offers.

With Penumbra: Requiem, Frictional Games has taken parts of the Portal design philosophy, coated the product in the Penumbra series skin, and injected their own unique style of gameplay to make a sort of mixed-breed game that’s fun, but ultimately less captivating than its predecessor. For $10 by itself or $20 bundled with Black Plague (required to play Requiem), however, this expansion to the Penumbra series is still worth picking up.


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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