Once again, you play as Phillip. Requiem starts immediately after the haunting ending of Black Plague. You’re knocked out by an unknown assailant, only to wake up in some sort of dig site. It starts off traditionally enough, but as the game progresses, Requiem gets extremely surreal. Phillip’s comments on the current situation range from normal to wacky, and one instance involves the voice from the intercoms speaking directly at you. The effect of all this, like Black Plague, has you questioning what is reality and what is a mind game. The only difference this time around is that these moments of psychosis don’t evoke fear but instead emphasize that the world is out of joint, or that maybe you’re the one who’s delusional. It sets up the atmosphere of Requiem very well.
The gameplay is largely what you would expect from a Penumbra game – lots of physics interaction and puzzles – but with a few key differences. Opening doors and drawers requires more than a simple click of the mouse; you must pull back with the mouse, simulating the motion of actually opening a door, lever, or what have you. Puzzles too are what you would expect. A lot of it only requires common sense and some forethought. Since the puzzles are based around physics, solutions come naturally and once again they’re very satisfying.
It’s hard to tell if this was intentional or not, but the puzzles in Requiem feel extremely open-ended in design. That’s good. You don’t have to adhere to the one solution. Instead, you can carve your own answer by being smart with stacking crates and jumping on the right platforms. This design choice, intentional or not, makes the Requiem’s world feel extremely natural, even though it’s very, very rigid in structure.
That’s because Requiem’s strictly level-based, and the only way to progress to the next area is to find a certain number of orbs to access the portal, which leads you to the next head-scratcher. It’s disappointing because of the lack of coherency that connects the world, but it gives Frictional the flexibility to send you to totally different environments without much reason. So, at the very least, you don’t know what to expect.
Graphically, nothing’s been done to improve the look of the series. Requiem still has a very drab, uninspired look to it. Now, this by itself wouldn’t be so bad if the game were technically sound, but blurry textures and low-poly levels really hurt the game’s look. Lighting and shadows still look great, but it’s clear that this engine has far outstayed its welcome.
Requiem’s sound, on the other hand, is impressive, just like the in Penumbra games before it. The solid voice-acting and tons of heavy, industrial sounds set up the mood quite well. Music is minimalist only coming in when appropriate or unexpected. It’s not an exceptional audio effort, and the game does tend to recycle certain bits of music over and over again, but it’s great overall.
Requiem’s very short, shorter than the episodic release before it. At around 4-5 hours, the $10 price tag is fair. There’s not a lot to talk about as to Frictional’s expansion, other than that it focuses on the puzzle aspect of the series and largely ignores its other major component, namely the tense atmosphere. It doesn’t mean that Requiem is a mediocre game – it’s not that, at all – but it does prove that the series is greater than the sum of its parts. So, consider Requiem as not a full-fledged Penumbra game but rather a small add-on that should keep you busy and humbled for a weekend.
+ Open-ended puzzles.
+ Surreal atmosphere.
- Loses scary atmosphere.
- Structured level-based design leaves exploration at the wayside.