4cr Plays: Proteus
I’ve spent some serious time with Proteus and it is hands down one of the most chilled out games I’ve ever played. Despite the relatively small size of the world, there are a myriad of things to discover as you traverse your island surroundings. Though the game has no stated goals, I found myself setting small challenges for myself. The fact that these challenges offered up tangible rewards in line with my expectations are what ultimately made Proteus a game for me rather than simply a digital art installation.
You awake on a beach, the sun shines down and a Seussian landscape stretches out before you painted in a palette of bright colors. As you walk through the environment, sounds change and alter depending on where you are and what makes up your surroundings.
This wholly ambient approach to design is unlike anything I’ve ever played before. My first inclination was to establish goals against which to measure my progress but I soon realized the fault in that approach. Proteus is designed to be an experience, the world reacts to your presence, but then again, maybe it doesn’t.
There are other beings on the island, but their nature is unclear. That seem to simply serve to add color, movement, and sound to the world, but you’re never able to get close enough to one to make direct contact. In fact, tangible contact is the one thing this place seems to lack. You try to jump and realize that you are already floating inches above the surface of the world. If you want to climb a steep hill you simply float up it to the summit. You traverse the world, unable to interact with things in any way other than moving around them in the space.
Proteus strips almost all control from the player. There is no shooting, jumping, crouching, or running. As you pass through the world, you are a silent witness to events as they unfold around you. Self imposed goals are mostly limited to investigating what is over the next hill or trekking to a strange formation on the horizon.
You follow the perimeter of the island to get an idea of its size, but off to the right you notice something interesting. You strike off toward a hill in the desert to investigate some interesting statues. You float up the hill with the bright sun beating down and discover a ring of statues. Fetishist animals carved from some dark stone.
Despite its obvious lack of definite objective, Proteus kept me engaged and investigating. after about 15 minutes it occurred to me that Proteus would be a great candidate for the Oculus Rift hardware.
You sit down at the center of the circle and watch the sun set across the sea. Maybe tomorrow you’ll see how far out you can swim. As the first stars come out you turn to watch the moon trace its arc across the sky. But then the stars begin to blur and pulse. The moon is a beacon in the sky. Are you dead? Is this world the space between death and respawn in every other first person shooter? Is Proteus the Valhalla of Master Chief and Soap MacTavish?
Perhaps, but Proteus never asks anything more of you than what you bring to it. It is as unique an experience as you make it. Proteus is available DRM-free on Mac and PC.