Firmament is a first-person steampunk puzzle game from Myst/Riven creators, Cyan Worlds, and released on May 19, 2023, on Steam and GOG in standard and VR modes. The game will also launch on PlayStation 4/5 and PlayStation VR 2 at a later date, and I played on the Steam standard version, so I can’t comment on the VR experience. This is yet another mind-bending game that will test your puzzle-solving skills and patience as you explore the three realms of Firmament. More than just a simple walking simulator, this was an easy game to navigate but gameplay consisted of difficult puzzles to solve that had me scratching my head, a lot.
When we first load into the game we are greeted by a ghostly figure who briefly explains that she was there before us and directs us to use a device called an ‘adjunct’. This is a unit that we can slot onto our wrist to activate and link up to socket devices spread through the world. Exploring further out of the starting bunker and after learning to use the adjunct, we step into a snow-covered mountainous path that leads us to overlook some stunning landscapes. The world design is visually outstanding but as I quickly learned, our explorable path is quite limited in comparison to the beauty we can look out to.
Majority of the time we are playing in just a small section of the overall landscape in each of the three realms, but when I got stuck on a puzzle, I was thankful to stare out into the distance while I wracked my brain for a solution. The explorable paths in each realm are quite linear, with the first snowy path taking us to a bridge that is currently lowered. Above us is a metallic rail and by using the adjunct, we can raise or lower things or to move them forward or reverse. In this instance, the lower scoket allows us to raise or lower half of a bridge, while climbing a ladder takes us to a socket that moves a crane along the rail.
To my left I saw a close gap between the cliffs that looks like you could jump across, but alas our character cannot jump at all. A rail passes directly above the gap, and far below are snowy/icy blocks, so I moved the crane as far left as a I could, dropped the crane to grab a block and raised it to be in level with the cliffs. This allowed me to simply walk over to the other side, and so far, so good in terms of puzzle difficulty.
The next area is a central location called ‘The Swan’ that acts as a central hub where we can then travel between the three realms. I ran around into various rooms and the narrator gave me some back story to what has happened in the past. Clipboards and books are spread around the place give me a guide to using the adjunct, as well as more backstory from the ghostly figure/narrator. One thing to note is that there is generally an extremely helpful clipboard near the start of each new realm that will have a diagram or something to reference the puzzle ahead – so keep an eye out!
The first realm I chose to explore was called ‘St. Andrew’ and I missed seeing the instructional clipboard at first. For the next 30 minutes or so, I was moving and shifting rail carts, connecting them together and then opening drawbridges with the adjunct, without any real reason why I was doing these things. To my own credit I was very close to the top but just got absolutely stumped for what to do next. I ran back down to move to a different realm but then spotted a clipboard I had missed, and it gave me the vital piece of insight into the puzzle I was missing.
Given I have been playing in the review period, there was no YouTube or web article walkthrough that I could refer to for a hint. Thankfully as a reviewer, I was sent a walkthrough from the developers, and I am not ashamed to admit that I had to reach for this a number of times. I had moved a few things that obstructed my path to the solution and thankfully was able to undo my mistakes and correct them, but it was a lot of running back and forth. This isn’t a complaint; it was just a puzzle that was nearing the limits of my ageing comprehension. I am constantly amazed at how clever the game designers are in this respect.
There was more to explore back at the starting realm that was called Curievale Bluff, and the third realm we can explore is called Juleston Reservoir which has lush forests at the foot of a hulking reservoir. I was excited to see what environments each new realm presented as I discovered them for the first time, and the story slowly unravelled as I progressed. You can do the realms in any order, and I won’t say more about the story as the intrigue and mystery is worth connecting yourself. All the while the exploration is backed up by an excellent choice of music tracks from composer, Maclaine Diemer. While I enjoyed each realm, it felt a lot less open and free compared to Cyan’s last game, Obduction.
Overall, despite the head scratching and sometimes frustrating efforts at solving the puzzles, Firmament is yet another visual feast from Cyan Worlds. Some of the vistas and landscapes were amazing to look at, but the actual puzzle playing area was fairly linear compared to previous Cyan games. If you are a fan of puzzle games that make you think while pondering the greater mystery of the story being told, Firmament is definitely one to check out.
This review utilised a Steam key provided by Future Friends Games and Firmament is out now on Steam and GOG in both standard and VR versions and is coming soon to PlayStation 4/5 and PlayStation VR 2 at a later date.