The new PS4 game Vane, from Japanese developer Friend and Foe AB, is an atmospheric and artistic third-person journey you might want to download, if you’re into enigmatic adventures that remind you of Team Ico’s The Last Guardian. It isn’t a perfect title – Vane’s gameplay should be more seamless than it is, for example, and parts of it are truly frustrating. But Vane’s strength is that it’s beautifully evocative, with thoughtful ideas and quiet tension, and it’s quite lovely in many ways.
Vane features gorgeous visuals. The environments are elaborate and unnerving, detailed in polygonal glory. The electronica music works well in helping to evoke a brooding world with an epic feel, where an oncoming storm threatens and the architecture shifts around you. You wander through four acts that include settings like a desert, caves, a city, and a tower. You’ll find there’s plenty of exploration to be done, but it seems intimidating at first.
Vane also presents some unusual ideas as it tries to change your perspective. You start off as a bird and shape-shift into a child, but don’t worry – the game does a good job of making the metamorphoses pertinent to the surroundings and your tasks. The landscape evolves and interacts with you in unexpected ways as you work further into the game, solving puzzles and encountering new mysteries. Flying is fun in this world, and you may just want to hang out for a bit and explore the physics of movement here. In creating these mechanics, Vane intriguingly explores motifs like transformation, the power of community, and finding your voice.
If you know what you’re doing, you can get through this game in a couple of hours. Since that won’t be the case, it will probably take 4-5 hours to play Vane from beginning to end. Expect some pointless meandering. It has a short play time, which is good because parts of the game are not especially gripping. They can get repetitive and a bit dull if you aren’t able to figure out the puzzles right away. But it’s still worth playing through to see what happens at the end, and the puzzles get more dramatic later on.
Vane has a slow and measured pace. The controls vary between exhilarating (when you’re flying as a bird) and annoying (when you’re a bird trying to land on basically anything). This is not a fun game for spectators to watch, with action being so minimal.
Vane can be quite frustrating in some areas. Saves don’t happen very often (once in each scene, so four times in the whole game!), so you may find yourself repeating bits even though you don’t really die. It’s often hard to understand exactly what your quest is, and there are some almost rage-inducing glitches. The camera work can be especially spastic and unhelpful, although it’s actually meant to give you directional hints. In a game that tries so much to be an elegant and immersive experience, these kinds of unintended obstacles feel even more jarring.
The Final Word
Vane is fascinating and dreamy, but it’s also clunky and a bit glitchy. Ultimately, I quite enjoyed exploring the world, but it took me longer than it should have because I quit fairly often. It was one of those games where I wanted to see it through, but kept feeling like I should leave and come back with a refreshed attitude before I could go on. I’m glad I got through, though. Would I recommend buying it? For the $25 price tag, I’d hesitate because I’m a cheap single mom whose cash all has other places to go. But I think if you go into it knowing Vane’s faults, and work to savor the experience without hurrying through, you may just love this game.
Vane is available for the PS4 for $24.99. Learn more about the title at The PlayStation Store’s site.
*TheMommyGamers received a copy of Vane for review purposes.