I should probably start this by pointing out that I never did play Adam’s Venture the first time around. Now bundled together as Adam’s Venture Chronicles, the three-episode collection has managed to build up something of a cult following. It’s all thanks to its inclusion of some rather interesting puzzles, the Indiana Jones vibe thanks to the early 20th-century setting, and the charm of its main character (according to the interwebs.)
In a bid to get a new audience to check out the series, developers Vertigo Games and publishers SOEDESCO decided to reboot Adam’s Venture in the upgraded Unity Engine 5. Considering how impressive Dreamfall Chapter’s transition to the latest version of Unity was, it’s a move I consider worthwhile just for the visual improvements alone. So, as a newcomer to Adam’s ventures (apologies, that pun was unavoidable) I dove into puzzle-based adventure with no preconceptions, ready to be impressed.
Unfortunately, that never happened, and the whole thing went south in record time.
Before I explain why, here’s an overview. Adam’s Venture: Origins follows archaeologist Adam Venture as he goes on an adventure (sorry, that too was unavoidable.) Alongside his father’s new research assistant, Evelyn, he hunts down the long lost secrets of the Garden of Eden (yep, Adam… Eve… Eden…) before being swept up in a whirlwind tour filled with conspiracies, dangers and mystical discoveries. Or at least that’s the aim, but the problem here is that the writing is some of the worst I’ve come across during my time as a reviewer.
In comparison to something as entertaining as Tales of the Borderlands, as touching as Life is Strange, as gripping as Dreamfall Chapters, or as overall fantastic as Gemini Rue, Adam’s Venture: Origins comes off as positively amateurish. The story is disjointed, the change in locations all too sudden, and dialogue is beyond dreadful. The voice acting doesn’t fare any better for the most part, such as Evelyn’s actress sounding like she’s never felt emotions before. While Adam’s actor occasionally manages to hit the mark with the odd quip, it does nothing to save the game. At all.
It doesn’t help that within minutes it became clear how poorly implemented the animations were. Stiff movements, heads and necks moving unnaturally, and hair moving independently from the character models were just a few of my observations. I could have forgiven this, but the controls are just as unrefined and frankly sluggish, meaning Adam handled as awkwardly as the animations looked. Even interactions are slow in comparison to other titles. I was often waiting a second or two between actions, such as grabbing a ledge and then pulling Adam up. Sadly, this lack of flow is just one of many problems.
Issues such as terrible collision detection for the camera, on-screen prompts bugging out when I touched my controller instead of my mouse & keyboard, and the audio level mixing being utterly dreadful. That said, the visuals of the environments do manage to create some pleasing vistas at times. As previously mentioned, this is no doubt thanks to the versatility of using Unity Engine 5. The lighting effects really help to build an effective atmosphere, and some of the scenes really do appear expansive.
But this only leads to another problem – the illusion of freedom. With the addition of the grappling hook mechanic (something that wasn’t included in the original release) it suggests that players may be rewarded by looking off the beaten path. The problem is that, beyond the first room of the game, there is almost absolutely nothing to interact with outside of critical objects and puzzles. Eventually, I just followed the most obvious path instead of looking down dead ends, as it was quite clear that I was in a linear corridor broken up by puzzles.
Which leads me to perhaps Origin’s best feature – the logic puzzles. While some were fairly obvious, the later challenges were actually quite enjoyable to beat. There was admittedly an overuse of numeracy puzzles (not to mention many of the contraptions used feeling out of place with the setting) but at least the puzzles kept me engaged, which is good considering everything else was so disappointing.
Speaking of disappointing, here’s a quick note to all developers – adding stealth sections for the sake of it is an awful practice, and you should stop doing unless you plan to add some interesting changes to the gameplay. The temperamental detection mechanics in Origins meant I would be discovered when I thought I was hidden, yet perfectly fine despite standing the other side of some see-through shelves. Thankfully, the checkpoints throughout the entire game were incredibly forgiving, so restarting a section never meant going over too much old ground repeatedly.
I can see what the developers were going for – a hark back to the adventure games of old before they became focused on multiple-choice narratives – but at the end of the day the execution here is severely lacking. It’s one thing to have poor gameplay mechanics or a badly written narrative, but suffering from both meant that I couldn’t pull myself out of the nosedive of disappointment that set in early on. I’m not even sure why fans of the original releases would want to buy it either, despite the addition of the grappling hook and some reported changes in the story.
Have I been rather hard on Origins, a game made by a relatively small team with big dreams? Absolutely, but here’s why – it costs £29.99 on Steam, and if you’re going to set that kind of price on your game you can expect my critical standards to match. Considering it took me under 6 hours to complete the game, most of which was unsatisfying, it makes the current asking price not just absolutely outrageous, but incredibly insulting.
- A number of good looking vistas thanks to the Unity Engine 5.
- Some challenging and enjoyable puzzles later on in the game.
- Awful writing and voice acting.
- Sluggish controls that lack any kind of flow.
- Asking for £30 for under 6 hours of poor content is unacceptable.
The Short Version:
While capable of some good looking vistas thanks to the Unity Engine 5, the unfortunate truth is that Adam’s Venture: Origins is an awful game, let alone a series reboot. Other than a few of the logic puzzles, the lack of quality in most areas makes it an unenjoyable adventure game that I honestly cannot recommend to anyone, even genre fans.
Developer: Vertigo Games
Publisher: SOEDESCO Publishing