Promesa Impressions

Promesa is a personal tale, one born between conversations between a young man and his grandfather. There’s clearly a lot of love and effort that has been put into the experience – and it is an experience – but I can’t help but feel that outside of the small familial group a lot of the impact is lost.

To call Promesa a game would be incorrect. There is zero gameplay of any kind, and in fact all we do to participate in this adventure is hold the stick forward to slowly move through an area, occasionally looking around at the scenery before the scene fades to black and we’re onto the next one. Perhaps walking sim is the best fit, but even that’s not strictly right either – think an even slower, more plodding Dear Esther and you’d be on the right track. There’s a story of memories and dreams going on but unless you’d read that prior to playing then you could be forgiven for thinking there is little happening of any interest.

The scenes are all very dream-like in presentation, but with minimal atmospheric audio and zero spoken dialogue while we play, it all falls a bit flat. There are interstitial text blocks detailing some of them themes and inspirations but again, these are ‘artfully’ vague waffle that will either hit deep or – like me – fail to grab any interest.

It takes around 45 minutes to get through one full session, and each time the scenes encountered are ordered differently, with not every scene appearing each time. After finishing it once however we’re given the option to go to any scene of our choosing, including any we haven’t already seen. I missed four in my initial run, out of around a dozen total, but even having seen them all now I still don’t feel like I got anything out of the experience.

While the minimal audio doesn’t exactly inspire, I do quite like the way the visuals are handled. The 3D models are drawn in 32-bit style, like something we’d see on the Sega Saturn, but the lighting is far more modern and quite lovely actually. The mis-match of styles gives Promesa a unique look, and presents the dream sequences in a suitably hazy way.

Conclusion

I’m not going to be assigning scores the way we’d usually do around here today though. As it is, Promesa doesn’t really align with any of our scoring categories, being more of a (barely) interactive art piece than game. I’ve no doubt that to the creators (and their grandad) this represents a touching tribute to shared memories and stories, but to an outsider such as myself it’s merely a collection of nice looking, but ultimately meaningless, vignettes. As art pieces go this will no doubt inspire conversation among those that get it and those that don’t, but it’s worth thinking ahead of time if that is something you’re willing to get yourself into.

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This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.
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Written by
I've been gaming since Spy vs Spy on the Master System, growing up as a Sega kid before realising the joy of multi-platform gaming. These days I can mostly be found on smaller indie titles, the occasional big RPG and doing poorly at Rainbow Six: Siege. Gamertag: Enaksan

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