First Looks// EGX First Looks: Ether One, Even the Stars_, Futuridium

Posted 24 Oct 2014 11:37 by
Chris has been at it again, haunting the floor of any games show careless enough to leave an air vent accessible from the outside. Recently he was at EGX, putting his hands on any- and everything he could. Here, he reports back.

Ether One by White Paper Games

Mental illness is a difficult subject to cover in any medium, but for video games to attempt it is bordering on the foolhardy. That hasn't stopped White Paper Games, the makers of Ether One from doing that very thing, though, and I'm quite pleased they did.

Set in the near future, Ether One takes place in the mind of a patient who is suffering from some form of mental illness.

The aim of the game is to seek out the cause of this illness by walking through a representation of the patient's mind that is reproduced as an enclosed environment that has a central hub. This hub is used as a base to collect key pieces of information that the player gathers from the surrounding environment. As more data is gathered, the player gains a greater understanding of what is causing the patient's malady and hopefully finds a cure.

Ether One is a first-person puzzle game, something that is becoming increasingly common, with a more obvious example being Anti-Chamber. However, Ether One is not as simplistic in its presentation, with the imagined environments being fully rendered in very high detail via carefully defined textures. In many ways it looks not too dissimilar to the Fable games, only in first-person.

The player can interact with some items that are highlighted in blue and through these interactions can open up new areas that will lead to discovering more about the imagined world that represents the patient's mind.

Narration plays a key role in Ether One as the player is constantly directed by the stern voice of a woman who is explaining what they should be doing and how they are progressing. There is a sense of urgency on the part of the narrator as their concern for the patient's wellbeing becomes ever-more their focus, over and above the player's own at times.

The more I delved into this imagined realm the more intrigued by it I became. I too wanted to know the cause of this patient's pain and the only way I could do that was to piece together a mishmash of seemingly unrelated objects that would eventually lead to my ultimate goal of finding the cause of the illness. But, hopefully, not at the expense of my own character's mind!

Ether One has been out on Windows PC for a while now, but at EGX 2014 it was being demonstrated on the PS4 for the first time with improved visuals and optimisation for joypad controls.

Even the Stars_ by Pol Clarissou

The Left Field Collection is one of my favourite parts of EGX 2014, as I always find a gem in there that sticks with me weeks after I played it. This year, Even the Stars_ was that very game.

It is deeply esoteric in its nature, to the point where many walked up to the demo station where it was placed, frowned in utter confusion and then promptly walked away. Even the Stars_ does an excellent job of generating such a reaction initially, but once you get over the unfamiliar aspects of it, Even the Stars_ opens up to be something rather special.

The setting is a pocket universe, which the player traverses in a ship that can warp to any part of it via a six-digit coordinate, all in the X,Y and Z protocol. Controls are split between keyboard commands and direct input via WASD. This split is what confused most, as the concept of requesting the ship do the player's bidding via the use of words is far too a slow for most, hence Even the Stars_ creates a state of 'what exactly am I playing here?'.

Add to that the fact that at each warp time rushes by, to the point where the player's character dies of old age within a few jumps, and the game can cause some anguish, to say the least. Ostensibly Even the Stars_ is about loneliness and to some extent the futility of existence. But what it's really about is experiencing the universe and leaving your legacy behind once you shrug off your mortal coil.
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