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Golem (PC) artwork

Golem (PC) review

"A girl and her magical rock-formed monstrosity"

Golem is one of those games; the ones that attempt to tell a story without pages of backdrop and encyclopaedic lore. Without what it may consider burdensome, outdated mediums such as heavy-handed narration or any other kind of written or voiced communication. Instead, youíre left to pick through a wordless tale that relies on environment and exploration. It starts with a lone girl trying to collect the last pooling dregs of water beneath a crumbling ruin who uncovers a faintly glowing orb. The orb has the ability to open up parts of the collapsing building that have been seemingly abandoned for generations, allowing the curious girl to delve deeper and deeper into the structure.

Thereís a story to be discovered if youíre into that kind of thing, hinted at through numerous murals scrawled on the walls, highlighted in faintly glowing blue once the orb draws near. But nothing is ever made clear, and this is Golemís greatest strength. It doesnít want you to know the exact ins and outs of its tale and in keeping you uninformed, thrusts you into the same predicament as the little girl explorer who plays protagonist. Here she is in the belly of some massive structure long thought unexplorable with nothing but curiosity, the lingering sense of hope at discovering a water supply, and a strange artefact for company.

Itís a strength because this lack of clarification extends into every facet of Golemís being. At heart, itís a puzzle adventure game, meaning thereís a lot of trying to figure out which lever to pull to open new corridors of access or to shift roving platforms to make new walkways. But youíve simply no idea what that lever or pressure pad might do until you activate it and find out. To begin with, this trial and error sleuthing is all down to you; the cumbersome orb youíre lugging around is of very little initial help outside of being the worldís bulkiest key.

It wonít stay that way forever. At certain checkpoints, youíll stumble across glowing energy pools. Heartlessly drop your orb into these, and it will obtain further mass, slowly evolving through several stages of staggered usefulness. Its infant form grants it a couple of bulky legs, which do little more than let it travel under its own power. While this sounds basic (and it is; you can only issue simple orders such as stay and follow), itís still a significant upgrade from its near-useless lifeless sphere stage.

The Golemís worth ramps up alongside the intricacy of the puzzles presented in each of the ten stages. In its basic plodding form, it can be tasked with standing on pressure pads or ordered to wait on shifting platforms, but as the level complexity increases, more energy pools are discovered to make the golem a more worthwhile companion. Its more mobile forms are able to leap gaps the girl has no chance of clearing, or clamber across the scenery to reach far off platforms in a way she has no chance of otherwise accessing.

The stages themselves are rendered in 3D, but enacted in 2.5D, letting you delve in and out of doorways in the background to access different areas of the ruin. Once upon a time, as the intricacy of the stages dialled up, this was a nightmare to traverse due to stubborn camera dynamics. While you can control the girl and the golem with the mouse, you have complete control of the camera with the keyboard. But early builds had it far too keen to snap back to the girl, regardless of what you were trying to dictate to the camera at the time. Much complaining was had. To Longbow Gameís credit, theyíve cycled through numerous fixes before setting on the current build, which allows much greater control over the camera, but will wrest that control away from you to rightly focus on certain environment actions to ensure you donít miss them.

Itís a sensible fix. To begin with, there was no guarantee that you would see the consequence of that lever pull, or know for sure if your cerebral combination of puzzling shenanigans wielded your preferred result. Itís also added more noticable hotkeys to the bottom of the screen allowing you to snap back to either the girl or the golem who are often several sections apart. Itís relegated several pre-written paragraphs of my complaining to the scrapheap and ensured Iíve produced a review a bit later than the nefarious site editor probably wanted (screw you, The Man!) but itís shown a willingness on the side of the developer to implement player feedback thatís ultimately improved their product.

Golem is still often a little clumsy and somewhat cumbersome journey, allowing the girl and her stoney friend to stumble through a mysterious ruin, prodding at weird objects to see what happens next. Thereís an end goal in sight that might just contain salvation for one and purpose for the other, but itís not especially easy to get to. No longer able to rage at the camera for working against you, though, a curious player now only has their own lack of wits to blame for the snooping pairís lack of resolution.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (June 20, 2018)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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