by Dan Lenois
reviewed on PC
A bit of something for everyone…
Approaching the newest entry in an existing game series can be an intimidating prospect for some, but We Were Here Forever is one of those rare games that manages to find a fine line between maintaining an existing narrative that carries over from previous instalments, without alienating newcomers to the franchise. That said, to avoid spoilers, this review will not be heavily delving into story-related material.
A good first impression is everything…
To start instead with the obvious, the art style is incredibly visually appealing that gives off a misleadingly friendly and casual atmosphere reminiscent of other games like Sea of Thieves, where you can turn off your brain and appreciate your surroundings. However, when it comes to the gameplay itself, nothing could be further from the truth. Those that simply want to play a pretty-looking casual co-op walking simulator will definitely find the puzzle-oriented gameplay flow not to their liking. That said, if you find yourself not dissuaded, or potentially even invigorated, by the kinds of atmospheric puzzles that one might come to expect from a Portal game, We Were Here Forever might very well prove to be your kind of game.
Except, unlike Portal, where both players find themselves working together on the same puzzle, the gimmick of We Were Here Forever rests on the principle that both players see and interact mainly with different, separate but interlinking, parts of the same puzzle, giving off a somewhat asymmetrical multiplayer feeling, akin to games like Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes.
Every game has its own priorities…
The story in We Were Here Forever, in most respects, plays second fiddle to the gameplay itself, and is conveyed mainly through cinematics that, while not unimportant, serve primarily to transition the player from one puzzle to the next, with only a sprinkle of lore here and there to tide over diehard enthusiasts. If you’re looking for the next narrative-driven game of the year contender, this isn’t it. But since the game’s main emphasis is so clearly placed on its puzzle-solving gameplay, it’s hard to fault it too severely for not doubling down on also incorporating an award-winning story.
Stuttering to a halt is even less fun than it sounds…
One of the few key areas where the developer, TMG Studios, notably dropped the ball, was in the area of quality assurance testing. During my playthrough with a friend, there were regular instances of pop-in and frame drops that would result in visual stutter when loading in a new level. Were this a massive and highly detailed open-world game, or some other kind of next-gen visual showcase, pushing even high-end PCs to their limits, these kinds of obvious technical stumbling points would be entirely excusable. But it isn’t, and they’re not.
Communication is a valuable skill…
Curiously, following the game’s launch, the developers haven’t publicly announced any major patches to fix these ongoing issues. Hopefully, the developers have been hard at work addressing these technical concerns, and an announcement regarding the upcoming release of such fixes is already in the works. But until such fixes are introduced, it’s worth noting that whether you’re playing this game on a high-end gaming pc or a mid to low-tier one, you will likely be experiencing some degree of technical difficulty. The amount of money you spent on your gaming rig will likely only determine how much technical trouble you’re in for, compared to everyone else.
Overall, We Were Here Forever is a compelling atmospheric puzzle game with a moderately high production value. However, its strong reliance specifically on cooperative gameplay all but necessitates multiplayer participation, including voice chat communication, so if you don’t have a buddy to play with and communicate with via Steam voice chat or a third-party app like Discord, you won’t be getting the full value out of this game. Its many minor technical performance issues might very well prove to be a distraction at times to players, but none of it reaches that invisible point of no return. Whether you’re an existing fan of the series, or a relative newcomer like myself, We Were Here Forever will likely draw you in with its atmosphere, and keep you immersed with its creative puzzle mechanics and accompanying ongoing narrative.
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Gorgeous art direction, enjoyable puzzle-solving gameplay
Poor optimization, occasional minor gameplay bugs