Vaporum (Xbox One) Review

By Gabriel Jones 19.06.2019

Review for Vaporum on Xbox One

Once there was a man stranded on a tiny island. He was a lost soul, whose memory was so shattered that he couldn't recall his own name. Surrounded by nothing but miles upon miles of open sea, it was clear that there was no hope of rescue. Just as he was about to indulge in despair, he realized that he wasn't alone. Nearby was an imposing tower, far unlike anything he had ever seen. With no other recourse, he made his way across the rocky islet and approached the tower. The doors immediately opened, as if they sensed the man's presence. Rather than a sense of gratitude, he felt something else, something foreboding. Fate never smiles upon amnesiacs that discover mysterious structures in the middle of the ocean, does it? This is Vaporum, the steampunk, dungeon-crawler.

In the world of dungeon-crawlers, it feels like we are always one step away from death, and Vaporum is no different. Patterned after influential titles like Dungeon Master, and Legend of Grim Rock, Fatbot Games has created a unique and engaging adventure that is not often seen. Admittedly, even this critic finds it a bit odd that grid-based titles are still being made. It's probably less trouble to create a straight-up FPS. Nevertheless, it's clear that the developer has an understanding of what makes this genre work. 12 floors of diabolical puzzles, merciless fiends, and bottomless pits await.

Adjusting to the basics shouldn't take very long. The tutorial covers all of the essential manoeuvres, while pointing out pertinent information. The controls can take a little while to grasp. This is mainly due to the analogue's deadzone, which is a bit on the sensitive side. A light touch is necessary when turning or moving, otherwise the hero might do an unintended 180 degree turn, or take one step too many. Seeing as how an Xbox One doesn't offer as much versatility as a keyboard, a number of commands also require button combinations. Get used to holding the left-trigger and pressing start. That's the quick-save. Loading a quick-save is accomplished via left-trigger and select. First-timers are guaranteed to use these commands a lot.

Screenshot for Vaporum on Xbox One

In battle, every move is a commitment. If the player isn't careful, they will find themselves cornered. Think of it as a puzzle with lots of moving objects. Don't be afraid to rely on the turn-based mode; accessible at any time by holding the left-trigger and pressing up on the d-pad. This allows players all the time in the world to figure out their next step, because nothing moves unless they move. Knowledge of both the enemy and the immediate area is essential. In almost every combat scenario, there is extremely little room to move around in, and the cramped corridors are often glutted with multiple fiends. With hardly any space to work with, one must devise strategies to stay one step ahead. Battles, as claustrophobic as they tend to be, are quite thrilling. One has to rely on multiple senses and get a feel for the enemy's behaviours.

Speaking of commitment, if the protagonist plans on surviving, then he needs to specialize. Each level-up awards a circuit point, which can be invested into various skills. These include, but aren't limited to, enhanced sword damage, buffs to dual-wielding, or more accuracy with firearms. He could also decide to forego traditional weaponry and focus entirely on gadgets. These special armaments can inflict damage over a wide area, or cause numerous other problems for the enemy. In any case, circuit points are exceedingly rare, and shouldn't be spread around like butter. Maxing out a skill will result in special perks, and they make a huge difference in battle. A Jack-of-all-trades (but master of none) is unlikely to accomplish much, at least not without exhausting their limited resources.

Screenshot for Vaporum on Xbox One

Just to give an idea of how this title approaches puzzles, one of the achievements is named 'Sokoban.' Sokoban is a classic game where the player has to push blocks into designated spaces. That's not to say that problem-solving in here is limited to shoving large boxes around… sometimes they also have to be dragged. Seriously, though, each floor features multiple situations that require a bit of thinking, and exceptional eyesight. Pressure plates and other traps make frequent appearances. Also, hidden doors are often uncovered by scouting out buttons hidden in the walls. One can choose to forego them, if they don't care for rare equipment, or vials that permanently upgrade their stats. Those who are interested in such useful acquisitions are probably better off consulting a guide. At times, the buttons are just a little too well hidden.

One of the standout aspects of this game is the dungeon-variety. Each floor is exceptionally realized, not just in presentation, but also in layout and design. Not only do the higher floors offer more dangerous adversaries to contend with, but they also lead to some crafty scenarios. At one point, the hero must strip away all of his equipment, and wear nothing more than a Hazmat suit. This leaves him helpless to any creatures he might run into. Therefore, his survival hinges on the player's wit and knowledge of their immediate surroundings. While the enemy variety is a bit lacking, every encounter is superbly crafted. Something as simple as a wall or a pillar can drastically alter the plan of attack. Certain combinations of enemies will produce a lot of headaches. Anyone can run up and mash buttons until their foes fall over, but landing opportune strikes is the key to avoiding damage. The brilliant level-design embraces this ideal wholeheartedly.

Screenshot for Vaporum on Xbox One

There are times however where the mechanics of combat can be a little annoying. Even with turn-based mode enabled, the baddies are always just a bit faster. Giant crustaceans tend to be the biggest jerks, as their bites will connect, even when they're still a meter or so away. Golems are also a pain, due to their ability to backhand anyone standing at their sides. Furthermore, enemies are surprisingly beefy. Having an optimal gear/skill setup helps, but it still takes a lot of thrashing to put these goons down. One's waning patience might become a factor in extended fights. They'll hurry to get things over with, only to be smacked down at every turn.

Thankfully, a selection of difficulties allows for anyone to find enjoyment in Vaporum. Four settings are available from the outset. Normal presents a solid challenge for most skill levels. Although, players are free to check out the casual or brutal settings, depending on how much punishment they wish to endure. Upon completing the game, the Old School and Elite modes are unlocked. Old School gamers have to rely on a pencil and some graph paper to track their course through the labyrinth. Elites can't enjoy the convenience of manual-saving. Their progress is saved at the beginning of each floor, and that's it. On the bright side, at least there isn't a permadeath option.

Screenshot for Vaporum on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Imperfect controls and other minor annoyances aside, Vaporum is a very enjoyable dungeon-crawler. Its insistence on tile-based movement results in battles that are decided by a rather peculiar dance. Sometimes it takes quite a few steps just to create an opening in the enemy's defences. To add to this, every decision, no matter how slight, carries weight. An action as simple as turning around can leave the player in a difficult position. It's almost as if one has to adopt a sixth sense, just to keep track of where enemies are going. Provided you give your best effort, then you are sure to be rewarded. Altogether, this is a very impressive effort that's well worth anyone's time.

Developer

Fatbot Games

Publisher

Fatbot Games

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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