What is it?
review, I'm back in indie-land. This is always a more difficult place to
review because I'm even more aware than usual that the game under the
microscope is the result of someone's personal passion and dedication.
Hardly any games these days are built by just one person, but
independent games like The Five Cores are much closer to that old
model of 'back-room' or even 'bed-room' programmers than the latest
triple-A games ever are. So, I'm going to try to strike that complex
balance between unrealistic expectation and appropriate admiration for
the efforts of a small team; in this case, Neebla Games.
Games are a French outfit, founded in 2012. This makes the release of
The Five Cores quite remarkable: the developers have released a
quite complex game within 12 months of the creation of the company. I've
not seen many much larger organizations achieve anything even remotely
like this so quickly.
Is there a plot?
Five Cores opens with your arrival on a
strange and rocky island, where you are the recipient of a cryptic note
suggesting that only you can help the collapsing world around you that
is somehow connected to a dreaming child in 'the temple'. As plots go,
this is a pretty sketchy one, and I have to say that that's about all
the plot you'll get. The rest of the story is about what you make of the
environments in which you find yourself.
How do you play?
mechanics of playing the Five Cores is very simple: you explore a
series of deserted islands in a largely free-roaming manner from a
mouse-driven, first-person perspective, with mechanical puzzles
integrated into the environments in manners which could be said to be
logical if only you understood the culture through which you are
roaming. There is no inventory, and most of the puzzles boil down to a
combination lock in some form or another. There are electrical switches,
coloured plant combinations, several variations upon mechanical
tumblers, and a music puzzle (which can be done by a process of
elimination if you haven't the ear for it).
initially wanted to avoid comparisons with Myst because that
would have been too obvious from the early stages of the game, but now
that I've completed The Five Cores, such comparisons are
not only obvious but absolutely necessary because the gameplay is so
similar to realMyst (the fully 3D version of the original Myst).
The natures of the islands of The Five Cores even appear to be
similar to that of the worlds of Myst, albeit with some of the
elements mixed around between islands. The only things really missing
are the characters Atrus, Sirrus and Achenar, and the extensive
backstory that goes with them.
previously read descriptions of Myst that suggest that the
puzzles are really obscure and difficult, but I have to say that the
solutions to every puzzle in that game are given (or at the very least,
strongly hinted at) somewhere in the appropriate world. There may be
multiple steps to the solutions, but they are there. This is a serious
shortcoming in the Five Cores; I really struggled to find hints
to the puzzles in the game and had to resort to a walkthrough
sufficiently often that my suspension of disbelief was seriously
enough whinging about how The Five Cores isn't Myst. We
need to consider what it is. This game has a number of islands of
a variety of styles - desert, crystalline, organic, architectural. The
locations are often reasonably elaborate, although unpopulated. The game
was developed using the Unreal Engine - a 3D engine originally used to
build first-person shooters, but no less useful in an adventure game
setting for all that. The big advantage for the developers of using a
pre-built 3D engine is that they don't have to pre-render backgrounds,
or spend time building their own engine from scratch, and all the time
that is spent designing locations goes directly into the game - which I
suppose goes some way to explaining the short timescale in which Neebla
Games were able to go from formation to game completion.
only one 'person' in the game other than you, and that's the dreaming
child in the temple. My personal feeling is that this makes for a very
lonely experience - even more so than in other games of a similar
nature. Perhaps the lack of domestic detail and backstory contributed to
this feeling. The islands have clearly been inhabited but the
signs of it are very sparse.
experience of playing The Five Cores was disappointingly
bug-ridden. It's not only possible to get trapped between rocks in lots
of places, it's very easy to do so. Later in the game I was able to fall
off a cart track (repeatedly!) and end up deep under water, inescapably
walking around the bottom of the sea. These glitches mean frequent saves
are important. On a later island where you have a lot of suspended
walkways, you can get caught up on the edges of walkways so easily that
it becomes quite frustrating, although this wasn't a game-reloading
top this all off, I managed to turn off the Escape key, so that beyond a
certain point, I couldn't save my game, so had to complete it in a
of The Five Cores is that it is an impressive work for a
company less than 12 months old, but one that would have benefited from
another twelve in fleshing out a backstory, refining the lives of the
characters, and more work on the frequent sticking points in the
positive side, I'd definitely say we need to watch out for Neebla Games,
as they clearly have some talent that needs more opportunities to
What do you need to play it?
PC WINDOWS XP SP3 or higher
2.0+ GHz dual-core processor
NVIDIA 8000 series (or equivalent) (GTX
460 recommended); Shader Model 3 compatible video card
2 GB RAM
600 MB disk space
used a home-built 64-bit
Windows 7 Home Premium (Service Pack 1) PC running on an AMD Athlon 64
X2 Dual 5200+ processor,
with 6 GB RAM, and a Sapphire Radeon HD4670 512MB video card, with
on-mother-board, built-in sound card)