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Promesa – Review

It isn’t often that an artsy walking simulator tests my patience. Usually I click with esoteric, off the wall, experimental games. Promesa is a game that has received quite a lot of positive praise but it is a game that I simply couldn’t gel with. As with all reviews and games, this is just my own personal taste and I do seem to be in the vast minority with Promesa. So with that caveated, lets break down this unusual experience.

Some screenshots of Promesa look lovely but they lose fidelity in motion.

Promesa is a collection of scenes that you can walk through. Your walk is painfully slow and as its all that you can do, you’ll walk through the scene slowly bringing the background to the fore. These scenes are interlinked via text dump pages that don’t really explain too much of the setting. Instead they offer ideas and thoughts of periods of your Grandpa’s life. Then you slowly walk through the next scene and so on until its conclusion. Interestingly, there are more scenes than you can play in a single game – there is some randomisation here. Revisiting Promesa will change the flow a little but not by much.

The scenes themselves are evoking dreams. They mix some realistic world building with high concept art and lo-poly PS1 style renders. It is a bit like the world is glitching and blocky but also switching from a toy world to a real one. Promesa does make some lovely screenshot moments but when you have to walk through them so slowly, I had lost some of my appreciation for them. The soundtrack helps though as its a lush mix of acoustic baroque chamber instruments. It’s just a shame that the soundtrack is so short and used so sparingly.

The mix of high and low poly designs was jarring at first but I came to like it by the end.

My problem with Promesa is that offers out the outline of ideas but never fills them in. You can walk around scenes but interact with nothing. You can see where scenes mirror each other but it offers little explanation. Indeed, the whole concept feels quite light. If you are going to leave the gamer to interpret your art, it often needs some contextualisation and Promesa does little of that. What is worse is that the PR blurb that comes with the game gives more grounding of the story than the game does itself and that feels awkward and wrong. Add to that some weird slowdown and texture issues I had when using the run function (which brings you up to a normal walk speed in every other game) and I was simply not enjoying and engaging with Promesa at all.

Others have spoke of its calm dreamlike state but for me Promesa became a chore. You can’t save during your playthrough and unless you run through it all, it’ll be about 45 minutes to an hour of just walking forward slowly. If that sounds appealing to you, jump right in. For me, I was tearing my hair out.

Review copy provided by the developer.

Final Thoughts
Slow, unwieldy and unengaging - I struggled to stay awake during its short and odd stay.
Some nice merging of artistic lo-poly environments and weird retro graphics.
Sparse but good sound design.
Walking. At. A. Snails. Pace.
Story is crammed into the PR blurb and texts between empty levels.
Dreamlike quality is not nearly pretentiously weird enough to be engaging.
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