I’m not what people would call an art connoisseur. I mean I like the beauty of things and will take time to appreciate it, but I’m no expert on anything related to the subject. The only thing I do know is that I suck at drawing, painting, and the like. From this point of view I can say Shape of the World is one of the most abstract and interpretive video games I have ever played. In fact, and it may blow minds to hear this, if I were to summarize the title in under ten words: No Man’s Sky meets Journey. The review will explain in further detail but believe me when I say Shape of the World takes more positive than negative aspects from those two.
There’s no concrete story, even less build up than Journey, as the player controls some type of being from a first person perspective. You’re plopped into a bright white area and only a distinct triangle shape is easily made out. Immediately the level design of Shape of the World tells you that this is the objective. Reach the triangles that appear on your journey and seek them out wherever they may reside. Once you do it will trigger changes around your location like a transition to a new area, a different colored hue brushed upon the land, or objects being spawned in to move you along. Across nine levels of varying environments, there will be a handful of these shapes to pass through with one of them being the main triangle. The rest act as side pieces that do nothing more than get you to explore each level.
On the adventure are interactive rocks, animals, trees, and stones. A game design that almost threw me for a loop was interacting with a tree gives you a small, speed burst to push the character forward. Not that you walk too slow, it can just help you cross certain distances quicker. Shape of the World also has glowing seeds left around for you to collect. There’s a few different kinds and they essentially allow you to “plant” them and grow specific trees. To interact with them again or make up for destroying said trees for your speed boost is your choice alone. One of my favorite moments in the game was when you had to touch a group of stones and they would spawn a pathway with a calming click-clack sound. This path would then hastily glide you to another area and drop you off after a nice ride. Finally, there are circular stones that when pushed send you flying in a specific direction. Most of the time it will be for progressing purposes rather than fun.
The gameplay may be basic, but this title more than makes up for it in art and sound design. The bright, vibrant colors matched with any of the soothing or dramatic tunes will make anyone feel at ease. Even with a beautiful downpour soaking everything in sight Shape of the World aesthetically marvels. The way certain objects glow or the way animals flourish is something so simple yet sublime. I have no doubt that people will come to see this as on equal footing art wise as Journey and Abzu.
Shape of the World isn’t a terribly long game. Depending on how much you decide to explore, with no reward other than exploring, a playthrough can last anywhere from sixty minutes to an hour and a half. Plus, another title that shows judging games based on a cost per hour formula is clinically dumb. Now due to trophies not being live for the title at the time of this writing, it is hard to say with certainty on the replayability here. Upon completing my first playthrough I was awarded a trophy called ‘Completionist 1.’ So I’m definitely interested in what remains to be seen here regardless of how small. With the short run time it won’t be too much of a bother to find out.
With all that being said, Shape of the World isn’t going to be for everyone. As I’m sure you’ve picked up it’s all about exploring for the sake of seeing what’s there. There’s no reward other than moving on to the next area and seeing what other artistic delights await you. It’s not the most exciting title in the world and it’s not trying to be. Even the trailer proclaims, “it delivers a rare non-combat experience that is lacking in today’s gaming world – with no points or death, exploration is the player’s only goal “ after all.
Shape of the World PS4 Review
Shape of the World is another excellent experience like Journey or Abzu. There’s nothing to do except explore and take in the wonderful sights. No clear story, way to play, or combat of any kind. This is best played in a laid back manner when you want to be chill or relaxed. The astounding visuals and sounds will more than be up to the task in that regard. The experience may be short overall but one worth playing.
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Reviewed using base PS4.