I’ll be honest, if there was an alien invasion on Earth, I’d just give up pretty quickly. Why bother? I’ll take the anal probing and just hope they let me go free after it, easy-peasy. Fortunately, the hero of Somerville is a lot bolder and braver than I, with his haunting yet beautiful adventure to reunite with his family one that kept me fully engrossed until the very end.
Check out some screenshots down below:
The opening of Somerville is fantastic, with players given an insight into a small family of a husband, wife, and little child (and a dog, of course) as they seemingly live their ordinary life. Unfortunately, things soon take a sour turn when an alien race starts smashing their crafts down into Earth, causing all kinds of destruction and leaving the trio in a desperate struggle to escape their farm. A brief interaction between the father and one of these invaders leaves him seemingly dead, forcing his wife and child to flee without him. The catch? It turns out he survived and gained some peculiar abilities in the process. It’s up to him to try and reunite with his family, all whilst surviving through the now perilous world and trying to evade the alien species that are stalking him.
There is no dialogue in Somerville, but it’s still easy to follow the narrative and understand the plight that the protagonist is facing. The moments of desperation feel dire, the moments of danger are intense, whilst the moments of happiness are poignant; it might not use words, but it certainly does a good job of conveying its emotions. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and whilst the ending might raise some questions, I certainly won’t be forgetting the experience anytime soon.
The core gameplay experience sees players venturing across a linear landscape, all whilst solving puzzles and keeping out of the way of danger. Whilst there is room for a bit of exploration throughout each area, it’s always pretty clear where you need to go next and what direction the game wants you to go. In fairness, the environments are gorgeous and atmospheric so you’ll want to spend some time checking them out anyway, though players will find it easy to simply follow the beaten path if they want to.
“The moments of desperation feel dire, the moments of danger are intense, whilst the moments of happiness are poignant; it might not use words, but it certainly does a good job of conveying its emotions.”
Somerville’s puzzling is tied to the abilities you gained during the game’s introduction, with the player able to utilise light in order to liquify peculiar metal objects that have been left behind throughout the invasion. These objects are typically blocking your path, so it’s mostly a case of simply finding a way to get rid of them to clear the way – the game also introduces more clever puzzling-mechanics as you progress that require a bit more creativity, so you can certainly expect to be perplexed throughout your playtime. You’ll eventually be able to harden the substance later on in the game, adding an additional element to the puzzle-solving where you’ll have to utilise your abilities fully in order to work your way through each conundrum. It’s a clever idea and makes Somerville’s puzzling feel unique, with plenty of variety to be found throughout that’ll keep players on their toes.
Want to know what else will keep you on your toes? The aliens themselves, who are a constant threat throughout the game. You’ll spend plenty of time carefully timing your movement and using the environment around you to evade them, whilst there’ll also be times where you’ve just got to run and hope for the best. It’s rare that you’ll ever feel like you can fight back against them efficiently, whilst the game does a really good job of making them feel like ominous creatures that could get you at any time. You’re rarely safe in Somerville, and believe me, the game isn’t afraid to remind you.
It’s clear then that Somerville gets a lot right from a gameplay perspective, whilst it just so happens to look gorgeous throughout too. Whilst it embraces a somewhat simplistic visual style, the world feels packed to the brim with detail and manages to make every scene feel beautiful. Whilst the world is in a desperate state, there’s still so much beauty to be found within it, with Somerville highlighting this with some extraordinary vistas and landscapes that are always eye-catching. It’s gorgeous.
Check out some screenshots down below:
I had a really good time playing Somerville and was fully invested in the story, but the experience itself wasn’t always perfect from a performance perspective. There were a few occasions where I couldn’t seem to progress without re-loading a checkpoint, whilst I even had a full crash during gameplay too. Other times, I found myself stuck in the environment or not able to walk across a path that I should have been able to, with plenty of finicky little moments like this souring the experience a little. Don’t get me wrong, they were inconsistent and it was rare that the same issue would occur twice in the same place, but they were common enough throughout the game to feel like something that needed fixing.
They certainly don’t make Somerville unplayable though and mainly felt like minor hindrances as opposed to game-breaking issues, so it never feels like a big problem. Just don’t be surprised if you find yourself having to re-load a checkpoint on a few occasions when playing.
Somerville is an engrossing sci-fi adventure that offers some clever puzzles and an absolutely beautiful world to explore. Whilst I did face some bugs during my time playing, it didn’t stop me from enjoying my plight against the alien threat, with it certainly standing out as one of the more memorable puzzling-adventures I’ve played as of late. It’s just a really, REALLY good game, and one that’s only going to get better when the developers iron out the bugs.
Platform(s): PC (Reviewed), Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One