Review: Vane

I first heard about Vane around five years ago, a tantalising glimpse of a game made by some of the Team-ICO guys that looked like it could be the next indie hit.  Well, it’s finally here on PC, but will I be disappointed?

If there was a prize for catchy intros, Vane would most certainly win.  Playing as a young child, you find yourself running along what seems like a corrugated metal pathway, the storm pulling up parts of the floor as the lightning flashes around you, it evokes Journey’s intro but with a little more sense of urgency before an unexpected and abrupt ending. It even has an excellent soundtrack that seems to follow the action.

At this point the game changes pace and turns into something very different, as does the player.  You now find yourself as a crow-like bird, souring over the hills and through valleys as you get used to the flying mechanic.  It’s an interesting switch that isn’t really explained at first, but then this game, like Journey, which it seems to be emulating a little, is designed for you to make your own mind up about the story and message that it tries to tell.

From here, transforming from bird to boy becomes a regular thing in order to solve fairly simple puzzles.  Some, though, are a little more obscure and require a little lateral thinking or just moving things around to see what happens.  The puzzles are hit and miss but always provide a pleasing animation once solved and further your mysterious journey.  The game is, sadly, over too quickly, though.  There seem to be branching endings which will help with replayability, but I would have liked to see a bit more before it finished.

The graphics throughout Vane are an interesting mix of high quality detailing, such as on the bird’s wings and feathers and a more barren landscape.  The landscape is mostly desert dotted with cliffs and the odd building at first and then, once inside the buildings it becomes darker and more claustrophobic.  It’s one of those styles that people will either love or hate, though, but once you see the re-building mechanic being used for a huge area near the end of the game you can’t help but be impressed.  Likewise, the soundtrack ebbs and flows in the same way, sometimes disappearing altogether before coming back stronger to emphasise an important piece of action.

The PS4 version arrived back in January and was, sadly, quite buggy in places.  In the time since that release, Friend & Foe Games have tidied up the code to provide a version that works far better on PC.  There are camera issues still, with a semi-fixed camera that seems determined to work against you at times, but for the most part the game ran well.

Generally, though, Vane is another one of those titles like Journey, Abzu and others where you get mild hints to explore and find things out as you journey deeper, with the story elements being hinted at through the environment.  These tend to divide people quite a bit, but if you like the aforementioned games then you’ll probably get enjoyment from Vane, too, just like I did.

Vane

Vane
7.5

Overall

7.5 /10

Pros

  • Beautiful artwork
  • Interesting concepts
  • Simple but effective puzzles

Cons

  • Story is only incinuated
  • Won't be for everyone
  • Rather short

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