A beta for hot upcoming indie title Journey landed on the PlayStation Network this week. While the beta is limited to a relatively small number of playtesters, I am one of the fortunate few. Having played through the beta several times now, I would like to share my thoughts on the Journey experience with you.
With Journey thatgamecompany is crafting an entire experience that focuses an aspect often overlooked in gaming. Doing something new and interesting would be enough for most developers, but the Los Angeles-based studio isn’t just stopping at reinventing the adventure game with Journey, players are also in store for a refreshing take on online multiplayer.
Simply put, Journey is a game about exploration and little else. With Journey, thatgamecompany focuses on an aspect of games that is oftentimes overlooked. Rarely do we remember travel as an entertaining aspect of a videogame. Usually it’s something to get out of the way before you go on to the next big thing.
The beta begins with a cloaked traveler sitting in the desert sands alone. The traveler eventually rises to his feet and climbs to the top of a hill, looking out on a gleaming mountain. From my time with the beta, I suspect that the entirety of the game is about getting to that peak.
What you do along the way is what makes the game. Any semblance of conventional “gameplay” is tossed out the window, leaving players experience the passage across the desolate and mysterious world. So, if you’re not self motivated or require a lot of feedback from a game, this one might not be for you. But, those that can dig it are in store for something really special.
As of now I’ve played through the beta half a dozen times. As rewarding as it is to explore the world that thatgamecompany has crafted, soaking up that unique aesthetic beauty, it’s Journey’s unique take on multiplayer that really helps this flesh out the gameplay. If you’re familiar with their previous work, you know that this studio makes wonderful games that, oddly enough, aren’t very game-like. It’s this distinctive multiplayer experience that keeps Journey from being a pretty picture book that you get to walk through.
In my time with the beta I ran into other players twice. When I was on my own I had a tendency to power through the beta leaving vast areas of the game unexplored, a “bad habit” from games where getting from A to B is just a waste of time. However, interacting with another player often lead to new discoveries and made the long road an enjoyable experience. Playing with another person allowed me stop and smell the roses.
Journey’s multiplayer is so unique because of the anonymity. You can’t speak to the people you play with. You don’t get to know their username. You’re not even forced to work together. However, you will be working to solve the same simple puzzles to move ahead with your quest, so it’s in your interest to do so.
Though I was unable to talk to my co-op buddy, I was able to communicate. The traveler can make sounds, similar to that of the chirping noise a bird makes. So, chirp we did. We travelled the desert together, playing with kite-like flying carpets, exploring ruins, and acquiring items that enhanced our abilities to jump and glide on the wind.
Whether it was soaring on the desert breeze or trudging through the sand, we steadily made our way towards that ever-present mountain in the distance. I’m really looking forward to the day that I get to finish that journey, not necessarily to see what is at trails end (though that intrigues me), but to experience everything else along the way.