P.O.L.L.E.N is a first-person mystery exploration puzzle game developed by Mindfield. It will launch fully in VR but this review is based on the PC version. It will be available on Steam for PC and Oculus for US $24.99.
The story is set on Saturn’s moon, Titan. Humans have built research stations throughout the moon but on Station M, everyone suddenly disappeared overnight. The player is dropped onto the harsh conditions of a hostile moon in search of his colleagues but as s/he delves deeper into the station, he discovers that he is not alone.
I admit that it took me way longer than I anticipated to finish this game because I am a chicken when it comes to horror games. Is it really horror? No, but the darkness, the footsteps, the breathing and solitude really put me in a state of unease AND I WAS ON THE PC. I can scarcely imagine how immersive it would be if I was wearing a VR headset.
P.O.L.L.E.N is beautifully crafted and very detailed. The developers really took the time to make every single item in the game unique. There were random mini games scattered throughout and even a working dart board. Graphics wise? Much impressed.
You are a new employee being sent to Saturn’s moon, Titan to discover the truth behind the disappearances of the researchers at Station M. On your arrival, you hear the voices of these researchers, but when you enter the research station, you find that everyone has disappeared. So of course, being the eager new employee you set off into the dark, scary, haunted research station to figure out what happened because that is not the start of every horror movie ever.
The first thing you realize is that you are not alone. The “entity” is some form of energy/alien/time manipulating form that can change the
mental state of humans and eventually disintegrate them, leaving behind an energy source that can transport you to another period of time. This entity is something you constantly run into as you try and figure out what happened to your colleagues at Station M. You look for clues and decipher puzzles and go back and forth between the ‘void’ and the present. The void is probably some time in the future where everything has gone to hell and the station is breaking down. The ‘present’ is when everything looks clean and new but also completely devoid of life.
Tapes are scattered throughout the station like diary entries. One lady, Karen, was the first to disappear from Station M and it seems she was transported to the ‘void’ where everything is in the dark. As you progress through the story, you find that Karen has been alone and was waiting in the dark for rescue for over a year. Using the “entity’s” power you can move between the void and the present to find records of shit hitting the fan as the research members begin to disappear one by one.
Eventually, you find the ‘entity’ which is a giant block of rock/crystal structure that reminds me of Hydaelyn from FFXIV. It sucks you in and you go on a virtual LSD trip that lasted for WAY too long and finally see Earth again (wut?) THE END.
The ending was an absolute disappointment. For such an incredible build up of details, back story and graphics, the ending did nothing for me. In every mystery game you eventually find out the who, what, when why but in P.O.L.L.E.N it seems they opted to focus so much on the immersion that the story was left with much to be desired.
Simple controls to interact with objects and walk around. It was very much an advanced point and click game/ walking simulator. The atmosphere was INCREDIBLE. An eerie silence is always enveloping you, emphasizing the point that YOU ARE ALONE AND THE ENTITY IS GOING TO EAT YOU atmosphere.
Incredible graphics. Nearly every single object can be moved and books are scattered through with titles and their own summary. Anything you’d imagine a space station to have, you could probably find it in the game and pick it up.
While I am not a fan of the endings LSD trip, I felt it was more like a showcase of: HURR LOOK WHAT WE CAN DO ON VR AND HOW PRETTY IT IS, than an actual plot device. That being said, it was really pretty and if this is the future of VR then I am very excited for what is to come as virtual reality becomes more mainstream.
I believe that games are a medium of storytelling and that’s why I often put more emphasis on whether the game connects with the player on a deeper emotional level.
Did P.O.L.L.E.N make me feel the feels? Not really. What is the connection between the name P.O.L.L.E.N and the plot? Is the floating powder that makes everything go haywire? Did the entity kill the player and hes stuck in a permanent loop of tripping balls OR did the entity bring them home to Earth? Why did the entity do this? Is the entity like a seed trying to spread its P.O.L.L.E.N around the universe? WHY? @.@
That being said, of the many VR games that are currently in development, this is one that really sticks out in the graphics department. Immersion was done incredibly well and it should be used as an example of “how to immerse a player into your game when plot doesn’t matter.”