This is meant to be a positive mini review of Baron Wittard: Nemesis of Ragnarok. Not because I got it from the Adventure Point giveaway, but because I fully enjoyed my 14 hours in Wittard's Utopia.
However, when I try to write down any specifics of this game, it comes off as if it's no good at all. Somehow the game is enjoyable in spite of its features.
You play a photographer that is hired to 'make as many photographs as possible' for a coverstory on architect Baron Wittard. Guess what you won't be doing during the entire game.
Once you solved 2 puzzles on the easy side of the spectrum to get inside the Wittard Utopia, a small city inside a building, the story takes a turn and from there your goal is to find 10 rune stones and 10 devices designed to 'dissolve' them. Some stones are just lying around but others are hidden behind a puzzle and all of the devices are puzzles. There is also talk of children that disappeared.
Does this stir any memories? Alone in a locked building where children disappeared, solving mostly stand alone puzzles. The similarities to Shivers are so obvious they can't be overlooked. And unsurprisingly any comparison between the two games will be in favor of the 1995 classic. But then anyone that liked Shivers will probably enjoy BW too.
Your movement through Utopia is node based, but on each node you can pan around 360 degrees and look up and down. Although the building is very big, the game only allows you to visit a very limited part of it. With all the panning that is still a lot of detail to cover though. And you need to search very carefully for stones and clues because some hotspots are small and the difference between the static cursor and the action cursor is also very small, so they are easy to miss (or maybe I should more objectively say that I missed a few).
Another similarity to Shivers is that most puzzles, save for 2 or 3 more creative ones, are of the standard variety: slider, tower of Hanoi, magic square, Simon says etc. And most are slightly more difficult than usual. And a few are really difficult, but wich ones those are will be different for each player. I did not reach the end without a few peeks in the walkthrough. Also I found a coded message (the well known tic tac toe code) but I never decoded it. I'm not sure if I missed the clue or if this is a loose end.
And although you are frequently reminded that 'time is of the essence', I didn't get the impresion that anything in the game was timed.
The whole environment is very atmospheric both visually and in sound, with water dripping, sounds of electric current and the omnipresent low humming of the building's installations. The ambiance doesn't change much though, whether you are in the pool, the cafe or the security office.
There isn't much music and what there is almost unnoticeably blends in with the soundscape.
As much as I enjoyed the game, there are two design choices that I wished had gone the other way. You can only collect rune stones in your inventory. Everything else stays where it is, and that's including the numerous clues, so you will be using pen and paper intensively.
And why, why only 8 save slots! I saved much less than I usually do because of this and still needed 22 saves. I didn't encounter any dead ends or game overs, but cutscenes and phone calls only appeared once, so it was not possible to freely review them.
But other than that I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the Utopia and solving Wittards's puzzles.
There are two endings so it is worth sacrificing one of the save slots after solving the last puzzle. One of the endings suggests a new photography assignment at another Wittard construction, so who knows.