Traverser on PC
For whatever reason, I’ve noticed that a lot of indie developers out there really love to embrace the steampunk movement and the unique aesthetic that goes with it. Traverser, which follows the tale of a brave young woman named Valerie, does so with gusto. Set in a dystopian future in which the Sun has died and the last survivors of humanity have fled underground, Traverser takes place in the two-sided city of Brimstone, a complex and dangerous place guarded by the mysterious Traversers, the only ones allowed to move freely between the Upper and Lower Cities.
Traverser begins on the day of young Valerie’s Traverser examination. A private security force put together by Raven Corporation, these guards are the only ones with access to both of Brimstone’s levels. While they’re supposed to be a peacekeeping force, bizarre events surrounding the disappearance of Valerie’s father, an esteemed scientist, begin to hint at a darker purpose behind this mysterious group. Players will guide Valerie as she seeks to uncover the truth about her father, her city, and the corporate structure that oversees everything in this underground settlement. Armed only with her Traverser-issue Gravity Glove, Valerie must overcome puzzles, guards, and other obstacles in her quest for answers.
What Traverser does very well is create an engaging atmosphere that’s fully realized throughout the game. The look, the feel, and the music all come together to make a fantastic and interesting world, with a number of interesting characters — most of whom, aside from our silent-protagonist heroine, are given voice roles. It’s a fun, immersive world, though exploration is a bit limited. We’re not looking at a full-bore open world experience here, but there’s some freedom allowed when it comes to making it from point A to point B within Brimstone. A good number of quests follow linear paths, but I feel that’s the nature of these things, and the puzzles that must be solved to move forward at least keep the going interesting when it’s guided.
With such a great atmosphere, Traverser shows a ton of promise and gets a lot of things right. The story, while a bit slow-moving, is compelling, and the world is finely crafted. Unfortunately, many of the puzzles aren’t of quite the same vintage. While the novelty of the Gravity Glove is great to play with for a while, the objects it can affect are entirely predetermined, and most of the puzzles you’ll face are simply variations on using the glove to move something from one place to another. That’s not to say that stacking up boxes or barrels to create your paths isn’t enjoyable, but it wears thin, and some variety would go a long way. There’s the occasional, well-done boss battle to spice things up, but other than that, gameplay is largely in the form of repetitive tasks and simply sorting out which items should, or can, go in which places to let you keep going.
In all, Traverser creates a compelling world with numerous interesting quirks and a solid story. While the puzzles aren’t what they likely could be, given the intriguing design and mechanics, they’re also not so awful as to make the experience entirely dull. It’s certainly worth a look at the Steam price of $14.99, though holding out for a sale may be the better choice if you’re on the fence. The rich, imaginative world is worth checking out on its own merit, and there’s just enough to the gameplay to keep it moving even when the going gets a bit monotonous. While Traverser has its issues, the overall experience is a positive one that’s fun to explore and weaves a well-told tale.