By Leah McDonald / May 3rd, 2021
|Title||Ryte – The Eye of Atlantis|
|Developer(s)||Orichalcum Pictures, Ebim Studio, Digiteyes, VR-Connection|
|Release Date||Jan 27th, 2021|
|Genre||VR, Adventure, Puzzle|
|Platform||Valve Index, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift|
I’m a sucker for Greco-Roman ahistorical fiction, especially if it involves Atlantis, so when I heard there was a VR game specifically revolving around that mythical city — and a puzzle game, at that! –, I jumped at the chance to play it. How would Ryte – The Eye of Atlantis stack up against other properties that tackle that ancient civilization? What sort of inventive puzzles would there be that took advantage of the city and its people? I really wanted to know. Unfortunately, what I got was a too-short experience that did not do nearly enough with its premise to be satisfying.
The game begins with a simple gimmick: You’re a time-traveling tourist at the Historia Time Travel Agency and you’re about to embark on an exploration of the ancient city of Atlantis, one of the agency’s most requested experiences. You’re given a briefcase to carry around items you find while traveling the city, as well as an emergency escape button should anything go wrong. Then you’re off to the past with your robot guide, taking a long stroll along a rocky beach and onto the docks of a decidedly Greco-Roman city, but not one that immediately invokes Atlantis. It’s dirty and mundane, with almost no people populating its fabled streets. Don’t get me wrong, the attention to detail is actually pretty good, but it isn’t what I expected from a game about the Lost City.
Simple puzzles litter the wharf, and there’s a handful of items you can pick up to take with you, from useless shipwright tools to broken talismans you’ll need to solve later puzzles. Each section of the dock is barricaded by a door of light, and you need to piece together the “key” to get through. There’s nothing particularly mind-bending about the puzzles here, but this is where my issues with the game began in force. After making my way to the end of the dock, I opened my briefcase to retrieve the key pieces I needed to open the final door and they just… weren’t there anymore. At some point in time between the previous barricade and this one, the key pieces had simply scampered off from my storage space, never to be seen again, and even a restart didn’t bring them back. Thankfully, this was only about 20 minutes into the game, so beginning a new file wasn’t an issue, but it set the tone for the rest of my playthrough and was the first of several glitches I encountered.
Once you finish the dock, the initial time-traveling premise just sort of… ends and never comes back. You’re just in Atlantis with new guides. There are a handful of locales in the game, some more inspired than others. The wharf and marketplace are dingy but pretty accurate recreations of ancient Roman streets; there’s a wide open desert that is actually really pretty thanks to the star-filled sky filling the horizon; the forge is maze-like and surprisingly dreary; and the barracks are clean and sparse, but I found them cozy. In between these bits are where Ryte shines the most – dreamscapes with towering giants that blot out the sun, skewering each other on swords; and a massive tidal wave you cannot escape that swallows you without a care. These moments were honestly breathtaking and the most immersive sequences of the game, leaning into the VR nature of the title to make you feel like you’re actually in the mythical city of Atlantis. It’s too bad they’re so few, because the lore in Ryte is its best feature, but it’s squandered behind janky gameplay and frustrating puzzles.
As I noted, the first few puzzles are nothing special, but they ramp up in difficulty as you go. The game styles itself as a modern Myst, and in terms of opaque puzzle solutions, it’s dead accurate. I don’t expect a puzzle game to hold my hand, but I do expect some logic. There’s little to indicate what is, and is not, part of the puzzle, and even when I did find what I needed, I wasn’t sure if I was actually solving them correctly or if the game was glitching out again. At one point in the marketplace, some magic discs I was using to open doors became inactive halfway through the puzzle. I had to take a break halfway through this section, and when I came back, one of the puzzle pieces – a torch – stuffed itself into my briefcase but the part of the puzzle it interacted with was still active despite the torch’s absence. The game also does not stop you from walking through and into the scenery, so at one point I accidentally walked through a wall into an out-of-bounds area and then could not walk back out, forcing a restart. Technical issues like this hampered my playthrough and made me acutely aware I was playing a game. It was the exact opposite of how I felt standing in front of a world-ending tidal wave, but the technical issues were far more common.
These issues might have been less egregious had the game been longer. Clocking in at around three hours of playtime, the vast majority of my time was spent fighting with the VR teleport walking system, or wondering if I was just bad at solving the puzzles or if the game had glitched. The story bits were interesting but went nowhere, and the lore made me wish it was part of a different game. I really, really liked the lore and wanted more of it. For being called The Eye of Atlantis, Ryte did very little with that premise outside of some mystical bracelets and a towering pyramid that only ever existed in the background. The dreamscapes were neat, and the temple near the end of the game was the most Atlantean location, but nothing ever hit the grandeur I expected.
Ryte – The Eye of Atlantis is a perfectly okay game hampered by janky physics and technical issues. When the game leans into its Atlantean subject, it’s the best part of the experience, but unfortunately, it’s few and far between. The music is good and I liked the attention to detail in the locations, I just wanted more from them. The French voice acting is fine, but the English was stiff and amateur at best. If you like Greco-Roman architecture or are big into Atlantean lore, you could pick the game up on sale, but at $19.99 USD, it has too many technical issues to recommend over other VR puzzle games out there.
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