Game: “We were here forever”
While it feels like a lifetime ago already, the W.A.S.D. event was an excellent opportunity for us to try out some upcoming titles and stoke some excitement at some of the stellar games just on the horizon. One that seriously caught our eye was We Were Here Forever, the fourth and newest entry to the We Were Here franchise from Total Mayhem Games that asks two players to escape from a fantastical castle designed to imprison them forever.
At A Glance
|Positives||+ Fantastic co-op puzzle design|
+ Well balanced difficulty level
+ Phenomenal atmospheric sound & voice-acting
|Negatives||– Difficulties aligning player audio|
– Some puzzles can be broken, requiring a restart
– Animation is odd in places
|Price (When Reviewed)||£14.99|
|Our Playtime||18 hours|
|Available On||PC (Soon: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S & Xbox One)|
Check out a few minutes of Gaz and Drew finding their feet early in the game. Warning – mild spoilers ahead
We Were Here Forever is an atmospheric co-operative puzzle game that requires two players to play – you take control of a pair of explorers who have to outwit the powerful king of the castle and his conniving court jester in order to escape. Unlike most co-op games the key feature here is that players are almost always split up from one another, and can only interact with each other using old-school walkie-talkies. Solving each puzzle requires elements from both players, and being unable to see what your partner is doing therefore requires each player clearly communicate what they can see and interact with so that you can understand the full picture.
Things did not start off smoothly.
Gaz and I struggled with the voice chat when we logged in for the first time, which is absolutely pivotal to being able to play the game. We were able to join one another in the lobby but neither of us could hear the other talk and the game wasn’t showing any icons indicating that the other was chatting. The problem persisted through numerous restarts of the game and headset tests in multiple other programs (which were working fine), until eventually the game just decided to work. There was no rhyme or reason to what made things suddenly work, but we didn’t spend too long pondering it – we were simply happy that we could finally play!
These audio issues continued in each play session, and we eventually realised having one player restart the game and continually join and leave the party would eventually resolve the problem. While this made the issue a little easier to manage, it didn’t change the fact that a fundamental part of the game seemingly needed the stars to align in order for you to even get started, which is very disappointing. Thankfully though, the experience itself more than made up for the technical issues once you were in and playing the game.
Visually speaking, We Were Here Forever has a pretty playful art direction – there’s a certain chunky-charm to the characters and assets that somehow reminds me of Warcraft, only scaled-up and presented in first person perspective. The environments you explore are fantastical and diverse, and players who enjoy free-form fantasy are in for a treat as they muddle their way through enormous toy box-prisons filled with portals, sinister villages and their surroundings, and an underwater biosphere to name but a few.
This isn’t a game that’s going to blow you away with high-definition textures and interactive scenery, but the visuals are attractive enough to sell the style and atmosphere of the levels without being especially demanding on your hardware. There are a few animations that have been questionably omitted considering the general level of polish, leading to a few occasions where your character is seemingly interacting with an item just by walking into it like a mid-90s NPC, but these stand out because they’re the exception rather than the rule. Gaz and I did run into some lag for short periods when exploring the larger open areas, but it’s worth noting that neither of our machines is especially meaty – We Were Here Forever is a title you can still enjoy to the fullest even on the lowest settings.
And speaking of enjoyment, puzzle fans will get a hefty helping of it from the designs in We Were Here Forever, which balance simple premises with tricky executions throughout the game. There’s an old-school tabletop role-playing feel to some of the solutions, where you have to find keys, rearrange items and mix potions in order to overcome your environment and continue on your escape. There are a lot of two-part ciphers in the game, where one player will have a code and the other the means to crack it, along with a tonne of puzzles requiring you pass resources back and forth at the right times to allow you to progress.
I have to applaud Total Mayhem Games for the job they’ve done in introducing visual clues about the puzzles without being too overt – there’s some clever stylisation that ties things together that an astute player can spot without having the answers screamed out at them. The keys to solving the puzzles are often there for you immediately – it’s all about whether you have a keen enough eye to see them and the skill to communicate them effectively with your partner so that you can get a full understanding of what’s being asked of you. We Were Here Forever might have you stumped for short periods throughout the game, but the puzzles aren’t so mind-achingly difficult that you’ll give up out of annoyance, and that’s testament to well balanced design and a pleasant, but nonlinear, difficulty curve.
While there are a number of excellent individual puzzles in the game, the one that stands out as being the most enjoyable for us centred around “verbally”communicating with a rather spectacular NPC. Without wanting to give away too many spoilers, you’re required to listen to this character speak in an other-worldly language, translate it and accurately reply using a series of machines and doodads. It’s an absolutely fantastic series of interactions that caused us some confusion, a little stress and lots of laughs as we tried to describe the noises to one-another. It was so well implemented that we almost couldn’t believe what we were being asked to do, such was the uniqueness of the task!
It’s not all smooth sailing though, as Gaz and I did manage to break a couple of the puzzles; once requiring us to reset the game and battle with the audio connection again before re-completing the entire puzzle from the beginning. Each occasion where we broke a puzzle and got stuck was quite avoidable and seemed to be issues that just hadn’t been found during play-testing, which I can understand but doesn’t do much to mitigate the frustration in the moment! (For full disclosure, our playthrough was completed prior to the games latest patch on 10th June 2022, so these issues may already have been patched out.)
While the puzzles are nicely designed and the visual style is attractive, the real plaudits have to go to the sound design, which is where We Were Here Forever really shines. The atmospheric soundtrack and thoughtful ambient sounds do the heavy lifting in connecting the players to the surroundings in each area, and there’s great continuity with the visual themes too. Most impressive though is the voice acting, which is absolutely top-notch from start to finish. While the cast is pretty much limited to the deranged jester and the booming voice of the furious king, the script is well written and delivery is exceptional, leaving our mouths agape after almost every single cutscene. While We Were Here Forever could simply have been delivered as a series of standalone escape room-type puzzles, the impressive performances of the two major characters adds depth to the experience and drives you to appreciate the world and storyline that Total Mayhem Games have built.
Upon completion, Gaz and I agreed that We Were Here Forever’s run-time probably fell right in the sweet spot; with a play time averaging around 11 hours, you and your partner have plenty to get your teeth into without feeling like the themes and puzzle styles got repetitive or stale. If anything, we would have liked just a few more hours of gameplay, but that’s simply us enjoying the experience so much that we’re maybe being greedy!
Gaz and I have known each other for decades and have played a lot of puzzlers together over the years, but we both agreed that We Were Here Forever stood out as one of our most enjoyable experiences. The creepy fantasy theme is delivered in a great visual style and hammered home by some phenomenal voice acting, and each cut-scene dragged us deeper into the lore and kept us invested in what we were doing. The puzzles are well designed (for the most part) and require enough thought to be challenging without causing frustration that disconnects you from the game. Yes, some voice chat problems and a couple of broken puzzles did cause annoyance, but that wasn’t enough to turn us off from a fantastic experience – We Were Here Forever is an absolute must for puzzle and escape room fans alike.
In the interest of full disclosure, VGamingNews was provided with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.