REVIEW : Seed of Life (PC)
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: a lonely, modest, and unwilling hero embarks on a vague mission before understanding that the task’s success determines the fate of the planet. Dangers will be encountered, talents will be acquired, and allies will add to our hero’s developing mastery. The Hero’s Journey may be the oldest notion in storytelling, but it remains a great structure when done correctly and effectively. It’s the motor that drives Seed of Life, not to bury the lead.
Seed of Life is a fascinating and occasionally challenging mixture of elements set on a wonderfully imagined dying planet named Lumia, part of action-adventure and half puzzle games. You play as Cora, a young girl who, after stumbling across a message written by her grandfather, sets out on a quest to find her ancestor and ultimately save her gloomy world. Unfortunately, as peaceful and idyllic as it appears at first, Lumia is unfriendly in nearly every way. Cora’s quest is hampered by magical, extraterrestrial poison in the water, energy barriers that obstruct movement, and alien life forms that kill her in one bad shot not long after her journey begins.
Lumia is full of mechanical and environmental problems, and you’ll spend most of your time exploring and learning to survive the inhospitable planet’s hazards on your way to locating the Seed of Life and restoring health to the globe. However, you will come across allies on occasion, such as the alien Nar, who both assists Cora in achieving her goal and provides her with a series of instructions and gadgets to help her survive. In addition, Cora gets vital abilities such as the power to detect secret passages and items, change gravity, and fend against hostile aliens by collecting Talismans.
In addition to the Talismans, Cora’s talents are powered by an organic substance called Lumium, so she’ll be spending a lot of time collecting the yellow lighting substance. Just don’t refer to it as mana. But, unfortunately, that is not the case.
Seed of Life does an excellent job of gradually introducing new abilities and “powers” in a smooth, steady development that never leaves you feeling stuck. The setting and gameplay are linear, despite new paths and locations opening up when Cora gains a new power or solves a mystery. While you will frequently have several objectives in Seed of Life, the way to the next big mission is rarely in doubt, and you will receive a device that leads you in the general direction of your goal early on. However, the tutorial level in the game might do a better job of guiding the player through the strange area and explaining some mechanics. For example, what’s the point of tapping on lampposts? It turns out that the goal was to obtain a Steam achievement.
A World of Hostile Beauty
While finding answers to the game’s environmental or other puzzles is rarely a problem, its less-than-perfect mechanics might make applying them hard. Opening a magic door, for example, necessitates a precise amount of Lumium. Lumium is released in a constant stream after one button press, but it must be applied to the door with a second button press. Unfortunately, the game has a hard time recognizing where the character is standing to prompt the second button press, resulting in a significant waste of Luminum, necessitating multiple visits to the checkpoint (where health and Luminum levels are replenished) and collecting more Luminum from the respawning supplies in the area. Neither is enjoyable, challenging, or rewarding. Cora’s deteriorating health, which has limited her ability to travel far from a checkpoint for a long time, isn’t helping matters. Adding additional timers or constraints on top of completing riddles seems like an arbitrary method to make the game more challenging.
There are two types of platforming games: those that are designed for it calibrated to it and made it enjoyable and painless, and those, like Seed of Life, that have floaty, inaccurate platforming that invariably leads to death or failure due to poor execution. Seed of Life’s exploration and mobility features may turn you off if you’ve been frustrated by games that allow characters to climb over some barriers but not others or jump to reach some ledges but not others. They are the game’s weakest elements.
With superb lighting and textures that pull from desert, mountains, and woods, Seed of Life shines at world-building, presenting a planet that is shifting from a place of stark beauty to one of darkness and danger. It’s post-apocalyptic, but it’s not a scene of ruins and wreckage; instead, it’s a landscape of vibrant, occasionally lethal alien plants and creatures that range from inventive and ethereal to the touch ridiculous. Unfortunately, for the most part, ambient music remains out of the way as part of a sound design that trails behind the graphics. Cora gets the most lines as she narrates her journey inwardly, but most of them are delivered with befuddled despair that lacks range.