While exploring the depths of EGX Rezzed earlier this year, there was one game that truly stood out amongst the rest: RiME
With crowds surrounding the screens, the public discovered the puzzling story of a young boy. I was even featured on the Gadget Show playing this game at Tobacco Dock!
Tequila Works has birthed a game that takes the subject of exploration to a completely different level. All though not unseen, it is an option rarely picked by developers: a journey with no information, no back story, just questions induced by the surroundings.
This particular type of game mode might not be for some as many titles are appealing due to their depth of story and detail amongst the protagonist however, RiME has not failed in standing out for its uniqueness.
Having such a positive impact, we have taken apart everything about RiME to discover why the game is so popular.
What is RiME about?
You begin on a beach to see a small boy. He seems to have washed up on shore, from where we don’t know. A nudge on your controller wakes him up.
And that’s it, that’s all the backstory the player receives. Questions are already circling minds: Who is he? Where did he come from? Why was he left in the sea? Why is he on his own? And so on.
From there, we are left to explore the island. We can go in any direction we want to find puzzle pieces, collectables and find our way around the island. In order to complete the journey, we must complete puzzles in order to unlock new routes.
With the power of his voice, our hero can, what I would describe as, unleash spirits from certain statutes in order to open doors.
We meet a fox early on but, with no dialog, we are not sure the purpose of the fox however, we can assume that the fox is there to guide us around the island. There is also a red, hooded figure that we see from a distance and, as soon as we get close, they vanish.
There are many mysteries behind this game.
We get hints from ac collective of gold butterflies that gather at places of interest. The game will also give help with certain controls so players aren’t completely in the dark.
As there is no dialog, hints about the past are told through pictures scattered around on the the ruins. Despite no obvious story, there is plenty about the protagonist left to discover.
RiME is set in what appears to be a gloriously sunny mediterranean island complete with historic white buildings for us to climb upon and beautiful scenery, one could only dream of this island.
The boy himself is wearing traditional rags and leathers suggesting the game is based in a much older, maybe ancient, time. From research, we know his name is Ino and that’s about it. He has no particular super powers; he seems just like an ordinary boy.
Ino’s innocence is obvious given by the fact the game will try to stop you from pushing him off the edge of ledges. He can’t survive falls nor does he have some incredible super jump – he’s just a boy!
For any more information on the protagonist, you have to play the game!
What are the main themes in this game?
The famous quote “The world is your oyster” certainly comes to play in RiME.
Even though you are left on the island due to, what we to believe to be, circumstances out of our control, we then have the choice of where to go and what to do without a crowd saying you can’t do that!
With no back story or dialog, you are in complete control of discovering your way around the island. As you don’t have another character saying, “You must go this place by taking this path”, you have the ultimate freedom of where to go.
This game is full of independence and sometimes, it’s nice not being told what to do.
And I will keep mentioning this because it is so prominent but the island left for you to examine is so utterly beautiful that the journey you take makes you truly wish you were there in person!
The scenery is so breath taking that it almost forces you to continue exploring as you want to see more of it.
Depth of Detail
The graphics behind the game are absolutely stunning! Bright colours are used throughout and characters have such neat designs; it is incredibly satisfying for the eyes playing RiME.
Designs are sketched into stone that light up as you pass, other paintings react as you move your character. Developers have used design in order to give hints to the game and the character’s past.
In fact the design is beautiful that it also calming to play. If you need a gentle, relaxing game to play after a hectic day, I would definitely recommend this.
Your character doesn’t wear an armour but just some old rags adding to his innocence and young age. The design of our protagonist explains that this is a calming game that isn’t a race but a journey.
Not only are the graphics impressive but the music that follows you as you explore just adds to the experience.
Every time there is a major development, we find that the music melodically builds to show we have somewhat succeeded in advancing in the game. It subtly adds the feeling of success within the player without making it incredibly obvious like other games.
It also builds the music up without affecting the calm feeling already developed.
I, myself, am a classical fan so that is why the music has made such a positive effect on me.
You spend the majority of this game alone. There are no villages full of residents on this island or even passers by for you to come across, it is just you and the land (and the occasional fox).
You see a distant, red figure from time to time but you can never get close enough to see them.
However, RiME approaches isolation in a very different way.
Despite being alone, I wouldn’t say the character was lonely, it is not as if he is searching for company. He is quite content exploring the island on his own.
Commonly in games, if a protagonist is alone, they are usually seeking company or discovering why everyone has disappeared.
However, as there is no dialog, we don’t quite know what our protagonist is thinking. He does the occasional giggle and smile so he doesn’t seem distressed so, therefore, doesn’t seem particularly bothered about his current situation.
And that is one of the reasons I adore this game.
It’s one of the few games where you can be selfish. You’re not completing quests for the village people or saving lives as a super hero. You are merely exploring a beautiful island and completing puzzles in order to complete your journey.
You are not responsible for anyone else. I believe this can make the game more therapeutic as there are no time restraints and no one else’s well being to take into consideration.
What Other Games have Mastered Isolation
There have been a number of games that have excellently demonstrated isolation within their story. Here are some examples:
You follow the path of a small alien part of a larger group in hopes of taking over a planet.
They are small and designed to portray innocence, not necessarily looking to harm. The graphics are adorable and just add to the charming nature of the unidentified being.
However, your particular mascot has fallen astray and you have to help them find their way – no other of their kind at hand.
You complete puzzles, similarly to RiME, in order to find your way.
With a similar art style and peacefulness to its story, Journey equally has gameplay equipped for the solo gamer.
“You wake alone and surrounded by miles of burning, sprawling desert, and soon discover the looming mountaintop which is your goal.”
Like RiME, you start alone, asking a number of questions, before setting off on your journey (if you’ll pardon pun).
This game is all about self exploration; finding out who the character truly is. And you get to do this in the scenic sandy desserts.
From the makers of Limbo, playdead released a game not for the faint of heart.
You play as a young boy avoiding the evils and horrors as you travel across a dark world.
Monsters will try to eat you, mysterious people will try to hunt you down but your job is to escape them.
No one is there to help you tackle all of these villains and devils, you feel completely isolated. That’s why this game can be difficult to complete as there are no characters there to motivate you, no one on your side. It’s up to you.
We Asked the Developers some Questions…
Most developers will know that being an Indie Developer can be hard.
Having created RiME, an incredibly successful game, we asked Tequila Works for some advice for Indie Studios. CEO & Creative Director, Raúl Rubio, was quick to answer.
What are the benefits of having a smaller team work on a bigger game?
Raúl initially mentioned how being a smaller team allows you to know your teams weaknesses and strengths much easier. This can certainly be used to your advantage.
“A smaller team can work closely – the obvious analogy would be a football team where players know how the others play and react without endless meetings!
The human scale makes contributions more meaningful, everyone feels the game as theirs. This collective approach (not to be mistaken with design by committee by any means!) enhances any idea a single person may have had.”
Along from this, ideas are much easier to be heard from members of the team as they don’t have hundreds of voices to compete with!
“Being small allows you to be agile. Thinking out of the box and in essence adapt faster to an ever-changing environment.”
Games such as No Man’s Sky over-hyped the audience’s expectations. How do you manage people’s expectations as a smaller developer without tarnishing the reputation of the game?
No one wants to overhype the public and end with a game that seems disappointing on release.
Raúl explained that honesty is definitely the best policy:
“We try to be as honest as possible. That’s why after showing RiME twice, we decided that we wouldn’t show it again until they could play it and judge for themselves.
The silence on the radio helped to lower the pressure on the team, deep breath and not over-hype. Our publisher Grey Box has been also a supporter of this policy.”
So without pressuring the game on the audience, developers didn’t feel pressured into creating the game that everyone was asking to see. The could continue to direct their creative flow effectively.
What are the main difficulties of having less of a budget than other AAA titles?
Many will probably know a few answers to this question already. However, Raúl may have a few more key points up his sleeve that people forgot to even think about!
The most obvious one is that you can’t pretend to compete openly against those giants. We are mice, but mice can do great things.
“Mice can scare elephants! (laughs). Now seriously, making games is hard. Having too much time and budget is as bad as having none. Because you need restrictions, you need a motivation to push yourself beyond your own limitations.
The downside of that is not being able to sleep at night because you don’t know how you’ll pay your team’s salaries next month.”
Having less of a budget means you’re keeping your minds down to Earth; you won’t be overstretching your game in any way as money isn’t pouring out of you ears. However, budgeting then becomes an issue.
“Also the perception by the public. Gamers don’t distinguish between games with a budget of 1M or 100M (even if they think they do). Gamers don’t differentiate between games with a price of 15 or 60. Gamers don’t care if a game has a Metascore of 70 or 90.
They do care about good experiences, good games. That’s all that counts for them and that should be our measure. Obviously it’s easier to show top quality with a bigger budget.
But remember, the higher the budget, the lower the risk you can take as you are responsible of the jobs of hundreds and the welfare of their families…”
Having less of a budget doesn’t mean a terrible game, at the end of the day, Gamers just want to play quality games. But having the budget means more security, more guaranteed work can be completed and more people you can hire to get the job done.
Is RiME for You?
If you are looking for a more calm relaxing game to play solo, then RiME is definitely for you!
The soothing scenery and lyrical background music can keep you entertained for hours, especially after a hard days work!