Wireframe

Pattern review - a ho-hum wander-'em-up

By Paul Walker-Emig. Posted

Pattern appears tailor-made to irk people who get angry about the very idea of an ‘art game’. It’s a procedurally generated walking simulator – the premier genre for prompting those aforementioned angry individuals to exasperatedly proclaim, “It’s not a game!”.

Then there’s the fact that it bills itself as “a video game about making video games” (an admittedly navel-gazey tag). You can imagine Monster Energy-filled-gamer-veins pulsating on foreheads across the globe.

Pattern isn’t the kind of game I’d get even slightly angry about, but then again, I also wish I could muster any level of passion about it.

Pattern starts off with you waking up in a grand-looking, glass-topped dome, smoke rising from what appears to be an altar at its centre. Look at it, and you’ll be given the option to rest. You then wake up in a procedurally generated landscape, smoke in the sky providing a beacon to a campfire that will allow you to rest and start the cycle again.

These worlds can be incredibly beautiful at times, with sunsets over scenes resembling Northern Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway, deserts dotted with signs of former civilisation, and natural environments turned into an unexpected canvas for bold strokes of violet and turquoise.

A game like this needs an algorithm that can consistently generate captivating landscapes, and Pattern is able to do this with reasonable regularity. The ability to climb terrain and glide from it complements the more interesting areas, and provides an impetus to explore without worrying about straying too far from your goal. If I’m honest, though, it was rarely long before I wanted to head for that goal, a couple of pleasant views the most I could get out of exploring any given landscape.

Pattern’s procedurally generated landscapes often have a touch of surrealism about them.

Later on in the cycle, you encounter blue orbs that reveal bits of text reflecting on the process of making games. That sounds pretentious, but these excerpts mostly feel like earnest personal thoughts or theories, rather than a self-aggrandising attempt to make profound proclamations about the creative process.

Regardless, they’re perhaps more useful for the creator than for the player, and do little to enhance our experience in the game or make us consider it in a different light.

Harsh as it may sound, this leaves Pattern doing little more than looking nice sometimes. Plenty of games have gotten mileage out of doing just that, of course, but they’ve been doing so for at least a decade or so – Proteus immediately springs to mind as an example.

Pattern fails to find a way to stand out from these titles. It’s a pleasant enough place to be for the short time it lasts, but I left Pattern with little that will live long in the memory.

Highlight

Procedural generation can be an unpredictable beast, but when it all comes together in Pattern, you are treated to some very pretty, screenshot-worthy scenes to enjoy.

Verdict: 57%

An occasionally beautiful but forgettable walking sim.

Genre: Walking sim
Format: PC (tested)
Developer: Galen Drew, Michael Bell, Badru
Publisher: Ice Water Games
Price: £11.39
Release: Out now

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