I’ve played through the entire We Were Here series over the last couple of weeks and had a really good time doing so. Sure, there were some imperfections along the way as well as a few technical hiccups, but the puzzle design and focus on co-op gameplay has been utterly engaging throughout. One thing that has been constant across the series is the increase in production value and puzzle intricacy with each release, with We Were Here Together easily standing out as the most polished and well-designed of the bunch. It’s the game that I’ve had the most fun with and it features a heck of a lot more depth than I’d seen in the previous titles, with it acting as the perfect evidence that the team at Total Mayhem Games have really managed to fine-tune their conundrum-fuelled formula.
We Were Here Together doesn’t drop players right in the deep end in the midst of Castle Rock like the previous two games, but actually builds up a narrative based around two explorers responding to a radio call for help. Of course, following up on that call will see you working your way to the castle eventually (it wouldn’t be We Were Here without a castle, right?) but there’s an emphasis placed around your incentive for actually being out in the freezing cold exploring this time around. The castle itself brings with it more of a backstory of its own too, with both players seeing different plot threads play out as the bigger picture of your calling to help is unveiled.
If you’re unfamiliar with the gameplay of the series, We Were Here Together sees two players work together to solve puzzles in online co-op action. However, for the most part they have to work from two completely separate locations and either provide each other with information or perform actions in tandem in order to unravel each enigma, with a big emphasis placed on co-operative communication. Fortunately, you’re both armed with radios that allow you to speak to each other, though with only one player able to speak at a time (because that’s how radios work) you need to be patient and communicate efficiently.
If you’ve got any experience with the previous two games, you’ll feel right at home with We Were Here Together. However, living up to the title, there is a stronger sense of togetherness to be found here than I’d previously seen; whilst the first two games saw you separated from the get-go, you’ll spend the first third of We Were Here Together working together closely and in the same locale. It was a nice spin on the formula and made way for a few puzzles that felt a little different to those previously seen in the series.
Of course, you will eventually get separated and follow different pathways through the castle… that’s where the fun really begins.
I feel like it needs to be emphasised that We Were Here Together is the toughest of the three games, with each of the puzzles demanding more efficient communication and clever thinking than I’ve previously seen in the series. You’ll really have to scour your surroundings to pick up every little clue as to what you need to do to solve each puzzle, whilst you can’t spare any details when describing these to your co-op partner. Does that symbol you see on the wall seem unimportant? You’re wrong… DESCRIBE IT IN DEPTH.
Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit there, but there is no doubting the importance of communication. There were plenty of occasions when playing where my partner and I had no idea what we’d have to do to progress, with the solution only coming to our heads when we fully described everything that we could see. It might sound a little frustrating (and I will admit there were a few moments of annoyance when we were stuck wondering what to do or trying to describe a complex object), but it’s also so damn satisfying when you finally put the pieces in place and solve the enigma. The puzzles in We Were Here Together aren’t unfairly designed or needlessly obtuse, but just demand your full attention to solve.
The puzzles of We Were Here Together were some of my favourite in the series, with some following simple mechanics such as matching up element symbols together on a puzzle-board or hitting levers to move lifts to make a pathway, whilst others were more complex with players having to swap around ingredients and discuss recipes to make a poison or even pin-point the differences in two seemingly identical rooms to access hidden books. I had a really good time solving them, with plenty of satisfying ‘eureka!’ moments had with each of my successes.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a We Were Here game if it didn’t have a couple of puzzles that just cause sheer brain pain, with the placement of pipes and rotation of statues making for some of the game’s more annoying objectives. Whilst I appreciate that communication is at the forefront of the experience, these puzzles offer so little in the way of letting the player know what they had to do that we couldn’t help but to feel a little agitated when solving them. Of course, we got through them eventually, but it felt like it came down to a lot of luck and experimentation than actually figuring out exactly what we needed to do. It was a shame.
Thankfully, there’s a heck of a lot more good than bad as far as the puzzles are concerned, with even the more intricate enigmas of the game standing out as fun brainteasers. There’ll be times when you want to pull your hair out, sure, but only because you’re trying to piece together everything that’s in front of you. They’re rewarding to figure out for the most part and showcase the finer side of We Were Here Together’s design.
One thing that I have to compliment are the game’s visuals, with We Were Here Together not only the prettiest of the three games but also the most varied as far as the environments are concerned. The roughly five-hour escapade will take you through a variety of different locales, with each having their own unique details and feeling much more expansive in design than previously seen – it’s certainly a huge step up from the first two games in the series.
Whilst it looks great though, it still suffers from some technical hiccups. There was one point where a lever stopped working for us on one puzzle, whilst we also saw a crash during a loading scene that forced us to re-load the game. Again, it’s nothing game-breaking, but it’s still a bit of a shame that some of these issues couldn’t be ironed out.
We Were Here Together isn’t only the best release in the co-op series so far, but a cleverly crafted and enjoyable puzzler that fans of the genre won’t want to ignore. Sure, it still has the occasional puzzle that’ll make you want to swear a LOT and there are some technical issues, but the ingenious design of the majority of the conundrums and the fantastic presentation certainly makes it stand out as Total Mayhem Games’ best release yet. The emphasis on communication has never been so strong either, with team work very much making the dream work here.
It’s been fun seeing the series evolve across each new entry, with We Were Here Together standing out as the highlight of the bunch. I can’t wait to see what the team does next in the We Were Here Forever…
Developer: Total Mayhem Games
Publisher: Total Mayhem Games
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC
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