WAN­DER OFF

Tak­ing a trip through por­tals in Shape of the World.

PC GAMER (UK) - - CON­TENTS - By Philippa Warr

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.

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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.

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