Exploration games weird me out, but in a good way. You know what I’m talking about, all these games with the silent protagonist who just walks with eerie music playing? Everyone says they are relaxing, but I feel on edge all the time. That said, of all the games of the genre I’ve ever played, Laraan, made by Flynns Arcade and published by Back to Basics gaming definitely takes the cake.
When you start a new game on Laraan, you are greeted by emptiness and words flying by, a la Star Wars. These basically inform you that you are a parallel to the biblical Noah, called Zoah, and you are probably the last man left. God has tasked you with collecting some golden artifacts, after which he will reward you. The search for these artifacts will take you through various areas and landscapes, each unique in its own way.
Let’s go through the good things first. As I said above, walking/exploration games are eerie to me, in a good way. Kinda like how fear of the unknown scares you, but you want to take the plunge. Laraan compeltely captures that feeling. The music is stunning and completely fitting to the game. The graphics, while they seem weird at first, are oddly beautiful. Generally, the game is pretty in an unconventional way, inviting you to explore it.
All this would have been great, if not for one fact: The game is literally half-made. It looks like the developers had a lot of ideas for something grand, but lacked either the time or the expertise to realise them. In terms of gameplay, the exploration/walking gameplay is ditched many times in favour of platforming, some speeder bike things, some labyrinth and a fight. Some of these fit, like the platforming, but generally the tone seems all over the place.
In terms of technical issues, the game has quite a few. The controls feel sludgy, like they take way too long to respond. The camera is also very slow, taking ages to follow your character when you turn around. The terrain is in many cases not solidified, meaning you can faze through it often. Also, sometimes you can’t really see ahead of you, which ends up with you being unaware of how far the land goes until you fall.
Finally, I feel like there was supposed to be more to the story. It feels underwhelming. After the intro, there is no further communication from the developers or a narrator (which is annoying in and of itself, since I would have loved some directions at a few points). There are a few visual clues as to what happened or what came before, but, like the intro, these are too vague and cliche.
On top of all that, Laraan is a very short game. It’ll take you a couple hours to get through at maximum, and chances are you’ll be more confused at the end than at the beginning, and not in the good way other similar games do it.
Still, I can’t bring myself to rate this game below average. There is ambition in Laraan. There is a story buried somewhere in there that could be captivating. The whole time I was playing the game, looking at the visuals, listening to the music, all I could think was how this could become fantastic with some narration. Now much, just a few snippets here and there. This is why although I absolutely cannot recommend the game at its current price, I’d strongly suggest you keep and eye out for it in a future sale if you are interested in the genre.
You can get Laraan on Steam for 5 euro, where you can also get the soundtrack for 3 euro.
Laraan is plagued by many issues in many areas, like the story and the tecnhical sector, to name a few. Still, you can’t help but wonder how much better the game could have been if all that was up to par with its music and look. It’s one of those games that, while not amazing, need to be experienced in some way.
+ Great music and visuals.
– Many technical issues.
– Vague, half-baked story.
– Iffy controls.
– Philip “Snowchill” Alexandris