Relicta is a first-person physics-based puzzle game very similar to games like Portal, Q.U.B.E., or Quantum Conundrum. The game has a lot great content…albeit with a glaring few caveats.
You start as a female scientist, combining magnetism and gravity to unravel the secrets of Chandra Base—a collection of bio-domes on the moon used as a facility to test out the capability of the game-mechanic gloves, cubes, gravity, and magnetism. Throughout the game, you spend your time talking with different characters and working to solve different issues on the moon base—while having personal banter.
I’d like to first point out that it’s refreshing to see a game including an Indian protagonist—a nationality not explored often enough within games. The cast’s voice acting is top notch, but with the unfortunate failings of the dialogue it doesn’t feel natural. An example of this is discussions with Alani seeming very schizophrenic. One second she will come off as rude, angry at your actions and overall acting hostile, then will enjoy some teasing banter—with you calling her “bae” in response. Similarly, rather than turning off certain obstacles to save your team from near death (which is doable for story reasons, mind you), she chooses to proceed through them at a slow pace—also not informing HQ that there’s an emergency that must be dealt with. The story, the dialogue, and the puzzles just don’t mesh into a cohesive structure.
Also, the characters are very…normal…just plain people. Not to say that’s a bad thing but, when contrasted by puzzle games whose eccentric characters and dialogue entice you to continue playing, there is a risk of motivational burnout.
The best part of Relicta, though, is it’s puzzles. They start off simple, and slowly but surely get more complex and interesting—working in its very simplistic mechanics of positive and negative magnetism, and zero gravity. The puzzles made me feel smart solving them, but of course there’s a slight caveat to the puzzles as well.
While I felt a great satisfaction from reviewing the area and figuring out how to solve the puzzle, there were times where the execution would sometimes be difficult to master. Not based on my skill, but based on the high variability that sometimes comes with magnetism. Trying to have two blocks gravitate towards each other to get out of an area that you can’t access? Well you’re going to have to repeat that process two or three more times until it eventually drags out. Need to hit another box diagonally through magnetism? You’ll spend at least ten attempts trying to knock it off and another five attempts trying to knock off the one you accidentally just placed on there trying to get the other one. This wasn’t an issue with half of the puzzles, but it did make me lose momentum and the satisfaction of completing a puzzle.
There were also times where I would spent a fair moment trying to figure out a puzzle only to find that there was a cube hidden in a not very noticeable place. I felt a HUD marker would have eliminated this issue, as well as the issue of walking around aimlessly in the hub area trying to find the next puzzle set.
One thing I found without flaw is the visuals; the game has a great design and artistic feel to it. The indoor quarters feel very much like the smooth, white, sleek designs of being indoors in Subnautica; the outdoors have a nice semi-realistic art style in each of its domes, which is quite beautiful. Luscious botanical gardens; cold, frosty glaciers; and beachy, arid lands give a nice variety of theme to the eleven-hour game.
Listen, Relicta isn’t a bad game, but it does have its flaws. Flaws which, with a little bit more time in the planning room, could have been turned into an asset. Would I say it’s up there with the first-person puzzle greats? Not really. But it’s definitely worth your time if you’re looking for a decent puzzle experience in an interesting atmosphere.