NEED TO KNOW
What is it? A first-person puzzle adventure from the makers of Myst.
Expect to pay TBC
Developer Cyan Worlds Inc
Reviewed on Nvidia 2080 Ti, Intel i9-9900k @ 4.9ghz, 32gb RAM
Steam Deck Verified
Link Official site (opens in new tab)
My brain has never quite agreed with how Cyan Worlds design their adventure games, primarily the iconic Myst series. Much as I’ve enjoyed exploring their strange puzzle-filled alien worlds, I still have flashbacks to fumbling around Teledhan in Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, wasting hours poking strange machines that were clearly doing something I couldn’t intuit. It was with some trepidation that I dove into Firmament, but what I got was an easy-going, graphically stunning adventure that could actually stand to be a little tougher.
Firmament is an easy place for Cyan newbies to start. While thematically similar to the Myst series (a lonely puzzle adventure through a series of otherworldly environments), Firmament has its own setting and canon, although you’ll be left in the dark on the specifics until its final sequences. You’ve woken up in a plush steampunk sarcophagus, and a wistful-sounding French ghost lady says you’re a “Keeper of the Realms”.
Sounds like a lot of pressure, but it’s actually a pretty chill job. Le ghost says you’ll need to find your way around with the help of the Adjunct, a chunky extendable gauntlet that acts as nearly your sole method of interacting with the worlds as you wander.
They’re gorgeous worlds at that. As with Myst, it set me loose on a central hub area and three miniature “realms”: Curievale and its colossal ice quarry; Juleston and its lake-sized acid batteries fueled by sulfur mines; and my personal favorite, the lush, overgrown St. Andrew. Each environment feels like a single art-deco/steampunk megastructure nestled into nature, packed with machines all working towards a single end goal. They’re stunning and evocative, metallic monuments to erudition and industry.
As is my experience of Cyan’s adventures, my ghostly mentor wasn’t much help on the puzzle-solving front, but she occasionally chipped in with commentary on the environments and her personal laments while carefully avoiding explicit exposition. An excellent voice performance made me glad to have her along for the ride. Firmament is a game carried more by vibes than narrative, and it’s easy to focus on those as her narration was just about the only human voice heard in the whole journey. The wind, thundering machinery, and brooding, ominous synth soundtrack are your only other companions.
(Image credit: Cyan Worlds Inc) (opens in new tab)
I sometimes came to a jarring stop while walking around, looking down to find a gap of just an inch or two preventing my progress. Other times my character would easily step across a similar crack. Some puzzles let me attach my Adjunct through solid walls, and the acid-battery puzzle allows its rotating bridges to clip through each other in particularly ugly fashion. I only mention these blemishes because they’re distracting flaws in an otherwise stellar presentation. Firmament’s Realms are picturesque and eminently screenshot-friendly.
I enjoyed my time with Firmament, perhaps more as a work of otherworldly tourism than a challenging puzzle game. Between a thinly spread story and only a handful of genuinely juicy puzzles, it relied on its environments and atmosphere to hold my attention, and it absolutely did. But outside of the imagery and scope of its megalithic sci-fi structures, I don’t think Firmament leaves much of an impact. It’s a nice stroll, but no one’s going to be making a sequel to Pyst (opens in new tab) off the back of it.