I’ve been enamored with the concept of Vane since seeing it on the big stage several years ago at PlayStation Experience. Giving off heavy vibes of both Journey and ICO, the team over at Friend & Foe was certainly setting out with big shoes to try and fill. But if anyone could do it, they would certainly be the team, as they consist of former members of Sony Japan Studio, Team ICO and Guerrilla Games. So is it as life changing as Journey was or as emotional as ICO and Shadow of the Colossus? Let’s find out.
Publisher: Friend & Foe
Developer: Friend & Foe
Available On: PlayStation 4
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4 Pro
Release Date: January 15, 2019
Game Provided By Friend & Foe for the Purpose of This Review
Vane begins with a bird perched on a tree branch overlooking a vast, open, and desolate desert. Promising a huge open world to fully explore, the team certainly wasn’t kidding. I took flight and surveyed my surroundings while attempting to figure out I was to be doing. You’ll be doing this a lot, as the game doesn’t hold your hand and point you in any sort of direction. Upon flying around for a bit, you’ll eventually notice something shimmering in the distance. Interacting with these objects spread throughout the desert will eventually allow players to progress forward out of the starting area, but not until after using some creative thinking and puzzle solving. In fact, besides exploring, the only other things you’re tasked with throughout the game is to solve puzzles and navigate through the world.
Switching back and forth between a bird and a child, you’ll need to use your wits in order to make it through the entire story. The developers have stated that they want players to truly explore the world and figure things out on their own, which is why there are next to no hints found at all. This is seemingly a positive aspect, because one you play through the game once and know exactly what to do, it can literally be finished in a mere two hours. A first time playthrough will take closer to five thanks to that need for exploration and the countless amount of times you’ll be left scratching your head trying to figure out how to move on.
Not many games choose to forgo the usage of dialogue, whether it be spoken or text, but Vane does just that. Very much like Journey, you have a button that allows your character to “call out” to their surroundings, interacting with objects, other birds, or other children. Heavy emphasis is placed on the ambient soundtrack, with it intensifying when something is about to happen, or as you get closer to completing goals. The controls are rather simplistic, as the game doesn’t call for a varied amount of inputs whatsoever.
I was hoping for a life changing or an emotional tale as I mentioned from Vane, but unfortunately I was left feeling a little disappointed. Now, this does not mean that I didn’t enjoy my time with it, as I did. I think it’s a nice distraction of a game that was able to portray a compelling story through unconventional means. It also had me hooked from start to finish, as I was invested and wanted to see exactly what was going on because I honestly was quite confused at times. Luckily, the ending does a good enough job to cap off the story and give it meaning, so I left feeling satisfied.
Which brings me to the issues the game currently has. The team released a patch the day before the game was set to launch, but sadly not everything I have an issue with was corrected as I quickly played through the game again to see. First and foremost, the camera is bad at times. Horrifyingly bad. It can get stuck on the environment, disappear into walls, spin wildly out of control as if just kicked by an angry toddler, or lose track of your character completely as they too disappear into the walls and floors. While this isn’t happening the entire time you’re playing through Vane, it occurs enough during the short amount of time you’ll spend in this world that I physically had to set the controller down at one point because I kept falling off the edge when trying to simply navigate up a flight of stairs.
My other biggest complaint happens once you finish the first two sections. Upon reaching the third area (there are four total areas to complete), the game stops providing even the small glimpses of hints that it did in the previous zones. I wandered around the third section trying to figure out exactly what to do for what felt like an hour, and oh yeah, this is also the area where I kept falling off the stairs thanks to the camera. There’s a storm encroaching from the distance, and by this point in the game, falling in to it will cause your character to more or less die and be reset. Having a tiny hint as to where to go would have made all the difference I feel, but it isn’t impossible.
All of that being said, Vane still left me scratching my head in a good way as I watched the credits roll. Featuring deep puzzle solving mechanics, a unique graphical style, and a tale that will leave you guessing until the very end, it’s definitely a game worth experiencing at some point. The technical issues and bugs currently present at the time of release really do hold Vane back from being a good game to just being mediocre, and that’s unfortunate.
5.5 / 10