Seed of Life | PC Review
Updated: Nov 19, 2021
Seed of Life is a third-person action-adventure puzzler, developed by MadLight Studio and published by Leonardo Interactive. It was released for Windows PC on the 11th of August 2021. On June 16th 2020 there was a demo made available, and it can still be played. For this review I played the full release on normal difficulty. I have not played the demo at all.
This review will sometimes focus on the narrative, meaning that some story spoilers are unavoidable.
The game begins with a short narrated introduction, where the main character Cora explains the bleak situation. Apparently the sun of her world, Lumia, is dying and the world needs a Lumium source to survive. On top of that, the alien species, Namurians, are raiding for Lumium and causing all sorts of trouble. Everyone is just sitting around waiting for the end (we are not sure if anyone else is still alive), but in Cora’s heart burns a fire and a will to never give up. She decides to set out and find The Seed of Life, which needs to be rekindled, in order to save the world. I want to mention here that the name Cora is probably a nod to Avatar Korra, something I recognised without watching Avatar.
The game doesn’t have much of a tutorial, and could actually use a bit. It does have quite a few interaction points explaining bits and pieces about the surrounding world, and there is also a glossary that is populated as you proceed. However, there are no explanations about controls (the mapping can be found in the menu though), and in the beginning, very little in terms of game mechanics, except loading screen tips. For example, I found out by chance that I am able to heal at the pedestal, after going for a minor swim in the toxic corrupted water. Oh, I can climb vines? You never told me that, game! For the above reasons, the beginning of the game can feel a bit sluggish and slow. It does pick up the pace once you start collecting abilities though. An ability is also explained each time it’s acquired.
I will take the chance here to explain some things about the game mechanics. The goal is of course to reach the Seed of Life. To do this you must utilise abilities found throughout the world. These abilities are collected in the Talisman, which you will find a small bit into the game, and this is where the game will start explaining things properly. The Talisman will show you to your next objective, and is also a carrier for Lumium, to fuel abilities found throughout the world. Lumium is regenerated by pedestals and Lumium plants, and the latter can also increase the maximum pool carried, which is a prerequisite to get past certain obstacles. You can also refill both health and Lumium, and save your game by visiting pedestals. Some pedestals provide abilities, but these require you to first solve a small puzzle, and then insert a certain amount of petals into it. Petals are acquired by solving another minor puzzle, namely deactivating shield generators found throughout the world. Shields are impassable until deactivated.
The pedestals double down as checkpoints, and will return you to life if you die. Soon you will also encounter enemies, and find out that the only way to deal with them is to avoid them entirely. That is until you acquire the Talisman which will give you the ability, not to kill them, but to repel them. Once you get enough Lumium you can activate life stones, or “landmarks” as the game refers to them. Watch out! This consumes maximum Lumium! (Something the game fails to tell you beforehand.) Basically you trade 100 for 10 hp, and I ask myself if it’s worth it? Once you have the restoration ability (which you get pretty early) 100 Lumium seems to equate way more than 10 life and increased hp does not seem to serve a huge purpose at all. I wish these stones were a teleportation feature instead. A map feature along with it would also be nice, together with some kind of tracker of what you have collected and/or if you missed any secret areas. Instead the teleportation is only interareal, and not within the current level. I understand this choice, as once you get the running ability, travel is much swifter, and everything is more accessible. When it comes to tracking, there is an ability to “sense”, which will reveal beams above certain objects. Blue for pedestals containing abilities, red for landmarks, yellow for Lumium, and active shield projectors (petals) are purple.
Some areas of the world are darker than others, and will constantly damage you, effectively putting a timer on the exploration, puzzles and mazes to solve there. The restoration ability is important due to this. Some areas are more damaging than others, and will require more restoration. The game utilises this to effectively make areas and “map edges” inaccessible. The problem is that these “map edges” are sometimes not very clear, and you may find yourself dead before you realise what happened.
The controls are a bit clunky, especially the camera movement. Thankfully increasing the sensitivity helps a bit. Overall the game seems more suitable for a controller than a keyboard and mouse. The run+jump control does not work very well from a small platform. Cora is very unresponsive on the jump key when starting a run simultaneously. This can be frustrating. Also, when releasing the forward key mid-air, she does not follow a trajectory, and instead falls straight down. This is not as frustrating but can take some time to get used to.
Environments and clipping are buggy and unrefined. You can easily get stuck, and also use the sprint ability to squeeze past shields - you normally would need another route to pass. Sometimes you find an object and you are unable to interact with it due to “invisible walls”. The game needs a “skip to the next dialogue piece” option. Right now all you can do is to skip the entire cutscene. The game could also use a save slot feature. Currently you are erasing all progress to restart the game.
The gameplay, while fun, also feels a bit shallow and leaves something to be desired. I already mentioned the lack of a map and stats tracking, etc. The puzzles are way too easy. Sometimes there’s a shield projector and shield there, just for the purpose of providing you with petals. There’s not even a puzzle to it. You find an ability, and use it twice throughout the entire game. The design falls a bit short, because the game in itself, is a bit short.
The main qualities of the game are the graphics and music. The world of Lumia is absolutely stunning, even in the darker places. The graphics are not entirely realistic, but on-purpose cartoony and it is really pleasant to look at. The user interface looks neat and it utilises the “on character stats” approach that I think was first invented by Dead Space. Zooming around with sprint, jumping pillars and over canyons is great fun, and the game is way better (and more challenging) action-wise than puzzle-wise.
The story narrative is alright, but feels a bit confused, as the dialogue feels aimed towards younger audiences, while the setting is quite dark. The ending leaves many questions unanswered, recognised by the game itself in the narrative. What caused Nar to switch sides? Why are we ok with letting the Namurian ships suck the newly activated seeds dry? What does lighting the lamps do? Except to provide achievements. What’s behind the locked door in your house? You are encouraged to explore the stunningly beautiful world again under the new light, but even meeting grandpa won’t give you any more answers. Perhaps they hide somewhere already, or additional content is in development, but I was unable to find them.
All in all, Seed of Life is a stunningly beautiful and charming game that I want to give the highest ratings, but find myself unable to. It’s too bad that it’s not a painting, because a game needs other qualities too. While the gameplay is fun, it falls short due to being too shallow, and the game is way too short with too many loose threads in the otherwise alright narrative. It does have potential, and with some work could very well become a warm recommendation from my side.
Victor’s Rating: 3 Lumium plants out of 5.
For more information on Seed of Life use the following links...
Madlight Studio - Developer