Review – Journey For Elysium
I’m a huge fan of Greek Mythology just from my own interests as well as fantastic games like the original God of War’s and Hades. Naturally I was intrigued by a VR game that takes you on a journey focusing on the River Styx and a purgatory/afterlife setting. Does Journey For Elysium do enough to reach paradise? Or does it stumble into the embrace of Hades?
In Journey For Elysium you play as an unnamed hero who has passed away. You’re trapped between life and death, forced to travel the River Styx learning of your past. However, this is not such a simple float down the stream. You’ll need to solve puzzles using your wits and various tools you’ll obtain throughout the journey. The main draw of this title is its setting and story which I won’t spoil, but there just isn’t enough here that really drew me in. The story is a fairly basic tragic hero backstory and it’s all delivered through a handful of exposition dumps.
You’ll travel down the River Styx in a canoe, which can be a little frustrating with the motions controls at times, but it works decently. Periodically coming to a stop at the next dock there will be a handful of very basic puzzles to unlock the next portion of the river. At times there will be parts where you’ll need to collect coins to offer to a spirit which will unlock a portion of your memory. The memories are played out with golden sparkles outlining various characters with the narrator dumping the story on you. These sections weren’t engaging to me as the golden outlines weren’t animated and you simply sit there listening.
There will be items introduced like a bow and arrow or a lute that will help you pass some puzzles. Unfortunately, these are simple distractions offering little challenge as it boils down to simply shooting arrows through fire to light things and plucking the correct strings shown on a rune. Besides the simple puzzles and gameplay, there was unfortunately some performance hiccups that caused me to feel sick. With only a run time of around two hours, I should have been able to finish this in one sitting, however, I was forced to stop due to feeling ill.
One of my favorite things about Journey For Elysium is the visual direction with making the majority of the world black and white. Besides some key items and things in the world, the black and white helps sell the idea you’re in purgatory. While I do appreciate the decision of this, I can’t help feel that it also limits the game. It makes everything feel too similar and there were no moments where the environments made you look in awe.
Much like the visual direction, the soundtrack is also limited to help the feeling of being on the border of the living and dead. There are moments where the music will make an entrance and it is appreciated, but with no big visual moments there are also no big musical moments. The various sound effects are well done with the cackling fire, turning stone, lute strings, etc. But I feel it was missing an ominous howling from the souls in the River Styx.
Journey For Elysium has some great ideas and a setting that I do really love. The art style is deliberate and for the most part works well along with the sound design. However, it is let down by a meandering story, simplistic puzzle design, and performance issues. The run time is around two hours, but it felt longer due to forced dizzy breaks and a story that isn’t engaging.
The visual style is mostly all black and white besides key objects. It’s an interesting decision for the theme, but ultimately makes the fantastic Greek mythology come off bland.
Gameplay is fairly basic only offering the most elementary of puzzles. The story segments have you hardly interact with environments leaving you to sit and listen to exposition.
The soundtrack isn’t as grandiose as I was hoping, but it does a fine enough job in some moments. Various sound effects are well done and the voice acting can be a bit hit or miss.
Fun Factor: 4.0
There is an interesting theme here, but the story didn’t pull me in. With the simple puzzles and game design, and some performance issues that caused dizziness, I was wanting to leave early even though the run time is only a couple hours.
Final Verdict: 5.0
Journey For Elysium is available now on PC, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Valve Index.
Reviewed on Oculus Rift with an i7-9700k, RTX 2070, and 16gb of RAM.
A copy of Journey For Elysium was provided by the publisher.