Quick Game Review | Areia: Pathway to Dawn - Extraordinary The Journey-style Adventure Game
Engulfed by the sound of the blowing wind and the sand in the air we find ourselves in a world of orange. Kneeling in the sand the avatar seems to slowly come to, staring at his arms and hands – is this our body? Behind us we notice a glittering mountain with a bright beam of unknown origin and substance shooting up high into the sky, ripping a giant hole into the orange-covered firmament.
What next? Unlike many other games this one does not offer any initial help, there are no tips and hints on what to do next and how, and no obvious points of interest anywhere in sight - except for the mountain behind us, of course, so let’s see what it is all about. Or so we think, because as soon as we start moving towards it a gust of sand blows us back and forces us to turn around. Maybe we should start walking the other way then.
Controls and actions are very limited at this point. Besides walking, jumping, and sitting down in a meditative position there is nothing else we can do. Thus, we venture into the unknown, following our gut.
Getting anywhere is increasingly cumbersome. The wind is getting stronger and stronger to the point where it slows us down, and the crystal chips surrounding us cause the controller to vibrate upon contact.
However, a few minutes into the game the similarities with The Journey become less glaringly obvious. Overall, Areia is much more linear, and it becomes quite clear after a while that the player is not left all to themselves in this game. The main task is to find the right way in order to advance, and this way is always predetermined. We have no idea where it is going to lead us, though. Maybe in this game the journey is quite literally the reward.
Genre and Style
Areia is a meditative game supposed to support self-reflection and cause positive thoughts of relaxation and balance in players. Accordingly, you never get punished for doing the “wrong” thing. For example, should you fall into the water you are automatically resurrected on the next platform. There is no health indicator.
Areia is clearly an adventure game. You jump from one platform to the next and use your magic cape in order to get transported high up into the air by fast-growing pillars so you can overcome various hurdles.
But Areia is much more than that. You enter other dimensions and worlds with completely different views and laws of nature through meditation. The goal is to walk the predetermined path and use the two elements available to you, sand and water, symbolizing the physical and the spiritual. At the core of the game is the contradictory yet also reconcilable juxtaposition of these two elements, these two worlds if you will.
The game is brightened up by regular riddles consisting mostly of attempts to connect pairs of magic platforms with each other without criss-crossing the various connections between the pairs. Only if you solve these will you be allowed to proceed.
All things considered, the game manages to combine adventure with riddles in a fresh and outlandish ambience under the umbrella of spirituality and the search for oneself. The Buddhist-style soundtrack fits that purpose perfectly. While you learn more about the avatar throughout the game a lot is left to your imagination and interpretation.
Areia is best played with a controller. Jumping, summoning pillars, meditating, and floating is simply much easier with a controller. Those actions are so central to the game that they basically define it by combining them in a varying medley and making your skills and possibilities environment-sensitive.
For example, the magic cape that summons a pillar will only activate upon the avatar’s contact with water. It causes the avatar to turn blue and the cape to glow. Its use is limited, though, which has a direct impact on the height of the pillar. Once used, the cape has to be recharged through contact with water once again.
The path gets increasingly challenging with improved skills but the title remains an adventure-style game through and through. It cuts to in-game cut scenes during meditation and other events.
The developer behind the game is the Brazilian game studio Gilp. It was founded six years ago and has so far only been active in the mobile game universe (Mini Ini Mo). Areia is Gilp’s first entry into the world of PC gaming.
Given its size, Gilp only had a limited budget available for developing this game. Accordingly, we noticed a lack of details and blurry textures when viewed from up close almost immediately. However, they blurred into the overall harmonious and rich world after a short while. The combination of artsy visual game design on the one hand and quaint sound and music on the other is a great indemnity for the lack of details and AAA graphics, and it sucks you into this magical world almost instantaneously.
The settings are fairly minimal. The resolution is limited to 1920x1080, and neither 4K nor ultra-wide 21:9 or even wider displays are supported. Accordingly, the latter will run the game in a distorted and widened manner. Details can be set to three different levels, from low to high.
Supported languages include English and Portuguese. That being said, this only affects written text due to the fact that the game does not include any voice over or conversations at all. The game can be saved at any point in time; however, it only supports a single save game.
Areia: Pathway to Dawn is no ordinary adventure game. It combines a familiar 3D adventure-style atmosphere with riddles, a mystical world and harmonious ambience, and a spiritual undertone. These most definitely help the game to stand out from its competitors.
A huge part of the fascination is thanks to frequent and sudden changes of visual appearance, laws of nature, skills, and last but not least the soundscape, ensuring constant suspense and disport. Nevertheless, there is a chance that the game could get boring and repetitive over time as distances increase and the path gets get increasingly confusing. Jumping over more and more platforms each time can get old very fast.
Areia offers a harmonious and rich world in a fresh scenario, which is certainly a unique feature of the game. By running, jumping, floating, meditating, and adjusting to the ever-changing laws of nature and visual appearance when passing over from one dimension to another it makes sure to keep you occupied and interested.
Whether or not it is going to live up to its promise of uniqueness, emotionality, and spirituality can only be answered after completing the game. This short test is not even going to attempt to give a definitive answer to this question.
Areia is supposed to launch on January 5, 2020. At the time of writing, the game is in the beta phase but seemed to be mostly bug-free and smooth. Details on pricing are not yet available.