Firmament Review (PS5, PS4, PC, & MacOS)
If you love Myst, the graphic adventure series that launched in 1993 and continues to release sequels up to the latest 2020 edition, you might want to check out Firmament. Both are descendants of the same gaming studio, Cyan, which also worked on notable titles like Riven (1997) and Obduction (2016). Myst is like a landmark title that drastically impacted gaming for years, so when Firmament first came onto our radar, I was excited to see what the makers of Myst would have in store for us.
It turns out that there are quite a lot of similarities between the two games that fans of Myst will appreciate. But VR enthusiasts will also have their share of fun exploring the game on PCVR headsets. Enough said. Let’s see how worthwhile Firmament actually is in our deep-dive Firmament review.
Welcome to Firmament
Players first awaken in a bunker in Curievale, where they meet a dead person who used to be the Keeper. She tells you of how the world of Firmament succumbed to an unknown evil that wiped every lifeform off the surface of the realms. You are the last remaining living soul and the new Keeper.
Keepers fix and repair the machines that keep Firmament’s multiverse running. So, it’s up to you to venture into the three diverse realms of Firmament and beyond, to explore what’s left of it, and presumably, to figure out how to restore it to normalcy.
And that’s it. That’s more or less the overarching story behind Firmament. There’s no specified higher purpose bestowed upon you. No sense of direction or goal. All you’re told to do is “explore.” So, let’s explore.
A Stunning, Desolate World
You might expect Firmament to look like a world in ruins. Smoke piercing through the air, living things decaying across the realms, anything to suggest some kind of apocalypse that laid waste to every life form inhabiting the lands.
But, no. Firmament is actually a visually stunning place. Desolate, yes, but so beautiful that I found myself constantly pausing to take in the surroundings. The realms give off a steampunk vibe, with each one distinctly different from the other.
There are lush green areas, snowy landscapes, and ones overrun with strange machines. True to word, you’re the only person alive, with the only other thing appearing to keep you company (sometimes), being a strange spirit.
Hello, Strange Machines
To navigate Firmament, you’re given the “Adjunct,” which is a silent clockwork device you carry with you to help interface with the environment and manipulate it to your will. Adjuncts can shoot out some kind of laser beam that can interface with sockets that can do things like open doors, use elevators, and operate machines.
You’d physically twist the Adjunct to the left or right on VR, or use the respective controls on your platform of choice, to do one linear thing on simple tasks or multiple interactions on more complex machines.
You can use Adjunct to bring an elevator up or down, open a door or close it, or, for complex tasks, move a crane up, down, forward, backward, or extend and retract it. Simple, right?
Slow and Steady
Adjunct is the only mechanic you can use to interact with the environment. Otherwise, you only have access to traversal mechanics, which, in itself, is restricted to pushing forward. You can’t jump or grapple. And since this is a non-violent world, you don’t need any action movesets either.
So, you spend pretty much all of your time-solving puzzles using Adjunct. Fortunately, the puzzles find a nice balance between difficult and bearable. The puzzles challenge you to think outside the box. Even the ones that seem simple enough can take more than a few minutes to crack.
Firmament’s puzzle design is not for the faint of heart. It’s an experience curated for lovers of puzzle-solving. Once you set forth into the realms, your job is to find ways to get past the obstacles littered throughout your playthrough.
One Puzzle, One Solution
There’s one thing that did bug me, though. The fact that Firmament has very specific ways of solving a puzzle. It’s part of the challenge, with the potential to experience deep satisfaction upon figuring out the complicated ones. But, sometimes, the puzzles can feel stringent with hard and fast rules.
In this day and age, puzzle games adopt more free-form experiences with more than one solution to a problem. It adds to replayability because you can return to a game and tread a completely new path.
When you factor in the desolate space you spend hours in, the experience can quickly move from intriguing to boring. And then toward the end, nearly becoming annoying.
It gets worse. Firmament came undone, with a glaring number of bugs and glitches to go around. Frame rates tend to drop more often than not. At times, I became trapped, or the screen completely went black.
There are moments when I had to retrace my steps or lower a crane an inch further simply because I couldn’t get across until I reached the exact height allowed. I truly hope the bugs present get some much-needed attention because some of them are massive enough to hinder any further progress.
Speaking of progress, there’s very little that Firmament gives as rewards for your hard work. Sure, the Adjunct does receive a couple of upgrades as the game progresses. However, the main mechanic remains pretty much the same.
I feel there’s a lot more potential for Adjunct to do more fun things. At the moment, though, it feels like a mechanic that lets you stick it into any socket you come across and then wait to see what happens next.
At Least the World is Stunning
One thing Firmament nails to the core is intricately designing an immersive world of three distinct realms. It’s so fun taking in the surroundings and being able to witness the sheer amount of work Cyan must have put into the design process.
Even though it’s desolate, you’re able to sprint surprisingly fast. That way, you don’t spend too long in one place. Still, it feels like a wasted opportunity.
In a strange world such as this, there are lots of opportunities to fill it with a myriad of strange beings. Especially when the story of something gone horribly wrong, and thus the emptiness, doesn’t seem to have any impact on the puzzle adventure itself.
In the end, Firmament feels lonely. The puzzles are challenging. Intuitive, even. But while all your time is spent solving them, very little helps to enhance the experience.
A musical silence transcends most of your playthrough, with a few moments that insert an ominous synth soundtrack and a narrator’s voice that adds hardly essential pieces to the story.
In Firmament, there isn’t much in the way of gameplay besides puzzle-solving. Pretty much all of your time in the strange realms of Firmament is spent solving puzzles. The narrative does very little to explain what the end goal is. And the audio feels too sparse and insignificant.
On the bright side, Firmament is brimming with thrilling sights to see. Every corner you turn is intricate and precise. It’s clear the developers put a lot of love and care into designing a stunning visual feast. As well as the head-scratching tons of puzzles you’ll come across every few minutes.
At the end of the day, whether you choose to make the purchase comes down to your love for puzzle games. If you love to challenge yourself with well-thought-out puzzles, Firmament will reward you with more brain teasers than you can imagine.
However, if you like your puzzles layered up, with accompanying compelling narratives and an engaging soundtrack, Firmament might be a little bit of a stretch for you. The surroundings would catch your eye, though. Overall, Firmament offers a decent one-time experience that's highly unlikely to encourage hours of replayability or, dare I say, a sequel.
So, what are your thoughts? Will you be picking up a copy of the Firmament? What game features stand out for you the most? Let us know on our social here or in the comments below.
Firmament Review (PS5, PS4, PC, & MacOS)
A Strange, Immersive Puzzle-Solving Adventure
Firmament is a strange and mysterious puzzle-solving adventure that excels in two main things: well-thought-out puzzles and stunning environments. It’s a mostly desolate experience navigating the three distinct realms of the Firmament multi-verse. Every few meters covered is an obstacle you’ll need to find ways to crack. Some are simple, yet others can really take up hours of your time, fully immersing you in figuring out the exact way to get past them.
With its stunning, steampunk visuals, Firmament will immerse you in a thrilling, mysterious adventure far from anything you’re used to. It’s filled with puzzles that are not for the faint of heart. Once you solve a difficult one, there’s a deeply satisfying rush that creates a craving for more. Yet, be warned. Firmament is a desolate experience that can potentially get lonely.
There isn’t much in the way of audio or deep storytelling to buff the experience. All you have is an Adjunct device that lets you manipulate objects and machines, and an occasional visit from a strange spirit with its own unique story to tell.