STAFF REVIEW of Vaporum (Xbox One)

Monday, May 6, 2019.
by Brent Roberts

Vaporum Box art It's been seemingly years since I've had the chance to dive into a dungeon crawling adventure game. Lately I feel that this genre is in desperate need of some fresh blood, and Merge Games has decided to step up and deliver Vaporum from its PC format to the Xbox One platform. Filled with puzzles, enemies and dungeon exploration, Vaporum is poised to deliver a Bioshock-esque steampunk RPG adventure priced at $24.99. Yes, you read that right. Merge Games released a budget friendly, dungeon crawling RPG game that delivers a haunting steampunk environment for $25, and to say I'm excited for this is an understatement. Let's dive right into this and see what we can piece together of Vaporum.

Starting out similar to Bioshock, the story of Vaporum involves you taking control of a man who has no idea who he is, where he is, or more importantly, where everyone else is. This controllable character is who you'll use to navigate the Arx Vaporum. This is a spire like tower where each level constitutes a different map, different enemies, and hopefully provides insight as to the murky details that remain a mystery. This story is propagated by numerous reading materials and audio diaries that try to give more of a backstory behind the Arx Vaporum and its previous inhabitants. I found the overall design of the game itself to be a Bioshock meets Bruce Lee's Game of Death with traps, enemies and an ever growing and shifting layout between levels where the main character tries to discover more about himself and solve an overall mystery. Starting out, Vaporum isn't shy on delivering potential and possibilities for quality gaming.

Even though the character will climb through the Arx Vaporum tower, the story itself will not. This is because the narrative itself isn't very well constructed and/or executed. Yes, the main character does have a full voice script, but whether you're reading it or hearing it, the story must be built that actually makes the reader/gamer want to experience it. This is a tremendous setback because while the environment is set in this dystopian steampunk setting, the story can't match the quality of the environment of the Arx Vaporum. This, however, isn't the only major drawback against Vaporum. The controller gameplay is remarkably poor.

This, I'm willing to wager, is because Vaporum originally was launched on the PC, and when you start factoring in the differences between the mouse and keyboard interaction vs. the console controller input, it seems as though the transition hasn't been good to Vaporum. The gameplay mechanic is setup in a grid style movement system, but the controls feel both hyper-sensitive and clunky, but thankfully you will be able to manage time as needed, turning it into an almost turn based experience, and you'll need it. The combat is incredibly clunky and very challenging as well. This doesn't bode well for your character when you take into account that pushing to rotate the camera one direction will more than likely cause you to rotate two spaces and not face the direction you want to. This is especially bad when you're trying to navigate traps, environmental hazards and fight enemies simultaneously. The other gameplay controls as well feel cumbersome and clunky and all of this was quite honestly the knockout punch of Vaporum.

In Vaporum, instead of leveling up your character, you spend your time leveling up your rig. In the beginning you're going to select between 1 of 4 different rigs, each of which provide their own specialty and range, from your basic tank setup where you go looking for the fight, to traps where you try and navigate your enemies to their doom. These exo-suit rigs are now your lifeblood. Vaporum sports a basic grid inventory system and provides multiple skills that your character can develop throughout your adventure, but ultimately at the end, Vaporum has an uncanny focus on one principle; don't let your rig break down.

All your skills and items won't matter for anything if your rig becomes broken. All this means is that you're going to want to watch your repair kits and the damage you take in combat. While you may want to play a more ranged or crafty style of gameplay, the vast majority of the combat you'll encounter will be up close and rely on you either swinging wildly away with a melee item or shooting a firearm. Whatever the weapon though, get ready for a lot of close quarter combat, which means that there are some rigs that naturally put you behind the 8 ball when you're starting out.

While Vaporum does post some entertaining puzzles, they quickly become more of a change of pace tactic than actually something worthwhile. This sad reality combined with the previous disappointments and letdowns means that in all good conscious, I cannot recommend purchasing this game for $24.99 when you can get better dungeon crawlers for less money. When your game thrives on a quality story and entertaining gameplay mechanics, and both of those areas become lackluster and suffer, thus hindering the enjoyment, then it's time to move on. Vaporum may be set in a steampunk environment, but the game itself ran out of steam.

Overall: 7.0 / 10
Gameplay: 6.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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