Penumbra: Overture Review
Posted May 10, 2010 by Jallen (146)
Another day, another review, courtesy of Wolfire’s Humble Indie Bundle. The first being Lugaru HD now I bring you a look at Penumbra: Overture or Penumbra: Episode 1 if you refer.
Penumbra opens with us receiving a letter, the author of the letter tells us he is dead and the story we’re about to play through is a lesson on what not to do, learn for our friend Philip’s mistake and don’t play in abandoned mineshafts. Philip received a letter from his father (who went missing 30 years ago) giving him the location of a series of documents that he should destroy. Philip doesn’t destroy them and instead researches these strange papers but can’t make any sense of them; the only clue is some cliff-notes giving a location in Greenland. He sets out on a long voyage and through lack of common sense gets lost in the snowy wilderness.
With the onset of hyperthermia setting in Philip stumbles around in search for a shelter, he comes across a hatch and bashing it open dives in. With no way out of hole he now finds himself in, he ventures further into a labyrinth of caves and mine shafts. Quickly Philip realises that he is not alone in this dank abandoned mine, there are things scratching in the dark, the walls moan as subterranean creatures burrow and the mutterings of crazed men are heard through the cracks of locked doors.
That’s only the first hour. While Philip may speak like he’s come straight out of Lovecraft (although it is set in the year 2000) the dialogue in interesting, all the characters are fleshed out (although Philips reasons for coming aren’t) and the amount of excellent written material you’ll find throughout the game is a joy to read. You piece together multiple stories detailing the background, ranging from when the mine first opened, when it was used in WWII, from lost hikers and modern-day mine workers. If really helps the atmosphere and these reports will often detail something you only ever get a glimpse of.
I was very impressed by the graphics; it’s on the same scale of Half Life 2 when it was first released, just much better lighting. The game is set underground in dark mines so naturally everything is very dark which does help to mask it shortcomings but it also showcases its dynamic lighting techniques which also casts real-time shadows. It’s a good thing too, as the game is very dark and you’ll be relying on limited lighting throughout the game. The team clearly so happy with the lighting decided, to name the whole series after a lighting effect, a barely lit area behind an object blocking light.
Sound effects shine through even if light sources don’t, you’ll hear that ravenous dog long before it sees you, the very mine itself moans and groans as old passageways give way and giant worms squeeze their way through seemingly impenetrable rock. Oh and if you suffer from arachnophobia don’t think not being about to see them will ease your fears as you hear them scurrying behind you, ready to take out a chunk of your flesh.
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