Here I was alone on my spaceship. Minding my own business. Basking in the bliss of eternal solitude, when all of a sudden I noticed a distress signal coming from a nearby ship ‘The Alabaster’. I took one look down at my control panel and decided “not today my friend”. I turned off incoming transmissions and slowly continued on, not knowing where I was going or what I was doing. Free from responsibility and game mechanics…
…of course the game had other ideas.
For some reason before anchoring with The Alabaster my character decided not to return communications and instead just jumped straight in, not knowing what would greet him on the other side of the docking chamber. Who’d have thought it would be 300 complicated puzzles and a pilot that decided to drip feed me small pieces of plot as I advanced through the ship? Well that’s the position I found myself in when starting up Filament for the first time. And as I wander the various floors of The Alabaster dipping into puzzles here and there, finding mysterious crew logs and hearing more of the plot from this voice in the sky, I’ve come to a conslusion. This all feels like it doesn’t quite fit together.
Don’t get me wrong, the plot is interesting and the puzzles are really good, but whether the two support each other and make the game better because of each other I’m not so sure. Let’s start with the puzzles. They are not explained to you at all. No tutorials, no hand holding, nothing. Every mechanic is learned and discovered by interaction and logical thinking… and it’s brilliant. It makes you feel acomplishment from every little gain and improvement. All the puzzles are designed around one similar theme, you controll a lightbulb and as you move about the screen a power cable follows behind you and lights up various pillars. Sounds simple, and to start with it is. But as you move on you discover the variety in these puzzles is much larger and more complicated than you first imagined.
The puzzles get tricky fairly quickly and there are lots of them to do. Thankfully you can revisit areas you’re stuck on and not all of them are essential to the completion of the game. Sometimes an attempt will just become a tangled mess of power lines, other times you might happen acrosss a solution without really knowing fully what you were intending to do in the first place. As with all good puzzles there is a steady logic to it all and some trial and error required. You can always see what your aim is, just making it there can seem a bit daunting especially once the puzzles begin to ramp up in difficulty.
The game environment in Filament is really well designed. There are lots of hidden bits of information and clues as to what happened on the ship and the whereabouts of the crew. Much like other puzzle games have done in the past, including an explorable open environment really boosts the rewarding feel of spending time within the game itself and allows you to better visualise what you are trying to achieve.
Unfortunately the story narration seems a bit disjointed at times and just didn’t sit well within the game. I almost feel it would have been better without any voice acting at all. Why is this remaining crew member telling you everything that’s going on, bit by bit as you advance through The Alabaster trying to save them? Why do they insist on trying to justify the existence of the puzzles on the ship but then claim to know nothing about them. “Whatever it is you are doing seems to be working” says the voice in the sky as I struggle to remember who they are or what the last piece of dialoge contained from 3 hours ago.
Thankfully the other parts of the game more than make up for the apparant discord of the narration and before I knew it I found myself with more than 20 hours play time and a couple of hundred puzzles solved. Filament really shines in it’s design and and works perfectly in the indie game envoironment it’s placed itself in. It’s a game that puzzle lovers will enjoy getting their teeth into but also contains a lot of interesting environment that contain those puzzles well.
The Verdict – Headshot
Platforms Available – Switch, PC
Platform Reviewed – PC
Please see this post for more on our scoring policy. Steam review code supplied by PR.