Taking a trip through portals in Shape of the World.
Shape of the World is fine. It’s a meditative explore-’em-up where you wander the landscape, pass through triangular portals and interact with the environment. As you wander you find and activate strange objects which cause pathways to unfurl, leading you to other parts of the world. There is beauty to be found here, but the rougher edges combine to push the overall experience into mediocre territory.
You spawn in a bright, pale area and head off towards a distant upsidedown V. Following this breadcrumb trail is how you encounter creatures and see them react to your presence.
Left-clicking allows you to prod animals and see how they react, or interact with trees in order to get a little movement boost. Clicking big glowing objects is how you trigger walkways to new areas. You can also collect seed pods which you right-click to throw out and plant trees.
Armed with these tools, you potter about, passing through a series of portals. Each portal triggers a change in the colour palette of your surroundings and, sometimes, a
change in weather. The combination of colour, landscape and weather expresses a narrative arc broadly in line with the monomyth template.
In case you’re not familiar with it, the monomyth refers to a narrative structure which underpins many stories. A simplified version is that a hero sets out on a quest, has some kind of crisis/ turning point which results in victory, and returns home.
The game most famous for following the monomyth structure is probably thatgamecompany’s Journey. But where Journey had a tight, minimalist execution, Shape of the World marries its arc to a looser exploration akin to moving around in Proteus. The result is frustrating.
If I wander, instead of following markers, I can lose my bearings and get stuck in a section. If I fall off a vital pathway I have to trace it back to the beginning to get back on. SotW can’t decide whether it wants to funnel you along or let you explore.
Another odd irritant is that you can plant trees and you can click to fly towards trees at speed, but you can’t combine the two to glide around. Instead, movement is just a bit dull.
Shape of the World lacks the finesse needed to elevate it into something memorable. If you’re new to the genre and like the sound of the exploration, save a few quid and pick up Proteus. If you prefer the mood, borrow a PS4 and try Journey.
If I fall off a vital pathway I have to trace it back to the beginning
Those triangles mark portals for you to activate.
A shimmering waterfall punctuates this landscape.
Trees pop into view as you approach.
Elaborate staircases unfurl across the sky.