Ever Forward - Preview

Ever Forward is an upcoming puzzle/adventure game from Chinese studio Pathea Games.  Taking place in a dream world somewhere between reality and imagination, you take on the role of Maya.  Trapped alone in this world, you must confront your fears and unlock your memories to discover the mysteries of Maya's past and unravel the mysteries of this world.
Penned for a release in August 2020, the game recently received a prologue on Steam. 

As someone who played one of Pathea's previous games, My Time At Portia, this game came onto my radar a while ago and I jumped at the opportunity to give the prologue a shot.  In an interesting decision, the developers have made this prologue (containing approximately 40% of the game) free to keep, but don't worry if you don't want to have to replay this large chunk of the game as save files will carry across to the full game, should you choose to purchase it.

With the aim of trying to keep this as spoiler free as possible, I'm not going to go into the same depth as I have with some previous games as I get the impression from my initial look that the game will reveal quite a rich story as your progress.  Upon loading the game you don't need to negotiate any menus and are dropped right into the game world.  Something which really stands out to me is how much quicker the load times are than in My Time At Portia, and the general performace of the game feels a lot smoother.  You can access the menu using Esc which will allow you to switch between 4 save slots, continue or quit the game.  You start on a beach with some sort of destroyed structure in front of you and a mysterious cube floating behind you.  After walking towards this, there is a short cutscene and you are transported into this other world.

Maya on the beach when you enter the game
The game takes place in the 3rd person with a hover cam behind Maya.  This is a great decision as it clarifies that Maya appears to be a young girl, but also as she appears to be the sole character (t least in what I've played so far) it helps to contextualise your actions where, for me, a first-person orientation would not.  From the back story it is clear to see where the adventure tag for the game comes from, and once you start to play it's very quickly apparent for the puzzle tag.  You must navigate through the world, sometimes where the path does not appear evident, or where there is no path at all.   

As you wander along the paths and platforms which make up the world, you will come across various items and structures, ranging from small Roundy-bots, to devices which produce mysterious cubes and large beacon.  It is using the cubes and the power within them that you will solve many of the puzzles.  The puzzle aspects of the game have been 3 years in the making, with the aim of challenging seasoned puzzlers and also allowing some puzzles to be solved in multiple ways depending on the way individuals approach them.  Other puzzles are quite straight forward.

Very quickly you will start to encounter these Roundy-bots, which look like a small floating spherical security droid.  These emit a blue cone of light, which shows the area of effect (AoE) of their sensors.  When in range of these bots Maya will automatically enter a sneak mode, crouching slightly and slowing her movements.  You will need to pass with caution though as if you come too close to one of these, or step within the blue cone you will be sent back to the start of the puzzle.  To ease the effect of this there is a checkpoint mechanic included in the game.  To set a checkpoint (essentially a quick save point) you simply hold R for a couple of seconds.  Should you fail on the next part of the puzzle you will be returned to this checkpoint, or, if you feel you have got yourself to a point where you cant solve the puzzle, holding F for a few second will return you to your checkpoint.

A Roundybot which has been alerted due to a noise, get caught in the red cone and you are sent back to your last quicksave
Often when you come across a hurdle and part of a puzzle to solve, you will see a small grey and yellow item on the ground.  By interacting with this you can obtain a cube which channels some other worldly powers.  By placing these in the correct spots you can alter the layout of the platforms, alloying you to progress.  You will also need to transport one of these cubes to a structure containing a whole in the centre which marks the end of each level.  Upon success fully completing the puzzle and reaching this end point, you will be presented with a cutscene which will start to piece together Maya's story. 

The game boasts full controller support and, having recently got an Xbox One gamepad I decided to give the implementation of this a shot.  As you would expect for a game being released on multiple platforms the game handles equally well with both gamepad and keyboard and mouse controls.

Another strange structure in the overworld
Graphically the game is stunning, but then I'm a sucker for this kind of art - I don't necessarily want my games to be too photo realistic as they are a way for me to unwind and get away from 'real' life for a bit.  The audio track is also beautiful with a simple ethereal, ambient soundtrack playing throughout the game.  During the story advancing cutscenes there is not full dialogue voicing, rather than sound which give an impression of the dialogue.  Initially I thought this was a strange decision not to have the story narrated, however as I played and viewed another few cutscenes I realised that this actually works very well due to the dream-like world. 

My main concern with the game however with be longevity and content.  The developers have said that the prologue contains approximately 40% of the content with 8 puzzles.  After about 10 minutes of play my save already indicates that I am almost 10% of the way through the game.  With such a huge chunk of the game being available for free, it will be very easy for the developers to price the game too high for the additional content, as I don't see much scope for replayability with the game as the story won't change.

I've been enjoying the prologue so far and I would definitely say to give it a shot to appreciate the world Pathea have created, if it only takes 40 minute or so to play through it hasn't cost anything.  For the full game I would hold off to see what the price is but reckon anything over $15-$20 may be a bit high.

Ever Forward Puzzle Starting Beacon
A beacon indicating the starting point of a puzzle
Ever Forward Roundy Bot Scannning
Carrying a cube device whilst avoiding the gaze of a nearby Roundybot
Ever Forward Standing By Gap
Holding a cube on the edge of the chasm with the level endpoint just beyond the gap
Ever Forward Platform Revealed
Placing the cube on the blue squares on the ground can manipulate your surroundings, in this case by creating a bridge

You can download the prologue for free on Steam now.

Ever Forward - Preview Ever Forward - Preview Reviewed by Parcival on June 08, 2020 Rating: 5

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