STAFF REVIEW of Relicta (Xbox One)


Friday, October 2, 2020.
by Adam Dileva

Relicta Box art Puzzle games are always a conundrum for myself. On one hand I like the break from the typical shooters and racing games I usually play, but on the other, getting stuck in a puzzle game is one of the most frustrating gaming experiences I experience. Some people have great intuition when it comes to puzzle games, being able to find solutions as naturally as breathing, while others are stumped at nearly every turn, almost citing that it’s impossible. I fall somewhere in the middle. I’m usually decent at puzzle games like Relicta, but man, this one was quite challenge at times with its physics and magnetic based puzzles. Relicta is more than a simple puzzle game though, adding a narrative with an interesting backdrop and lore based on the moon. While at its core you’re simple moving boxes to solve puzzles and progress, there’s quite a bit of challenge within that had me look up a walkthrough more than once.

Relicta starts out with you, Doctor Angelica Patel, dealing with a collapsing containment field while your boss Doctor Laia Alami yells at you to not approach the Relicta chamber. Of course you don’t listen and approach, trying to shut everything down with an emergency override. The screen goes dark and you begin your gameplay two years prior when you arrived to the De Gerlache Dome, one of the terraformed areas on the moon that humanity is planning to inhabit. There’s an odd alien artifact, known as the Relicta, which has propelled humankind’s technology massively in a short amount of time. Case in point, Patel is able to use specialized gloves that allow her to manipulate certain objects in the environment, adding positive or negative magnetic charges, or even allow a small gravitational field on an object.

Patel is seemingly left to her own on the base, tasked with investigating the Relicta. The narrative within is actually quite intriguing at times, and while you only get snippets of story here and there between gameplay sections, the backdrop was captivating and as you find out more clues hidden via collectibles and emails, a larger more sinister plot is unveiled. If you’re able to power through the complex and challenging puzzles, the narrative is interesting enough that it made me want to constantly progress to find out what happened next before those opening moments. While not its main focus, at least there’s been some work put into a story other than simple throwing puzzle after puzzle at you for no real reason.


Even though the backdrop is a moon base, it has been terraformed and has created some beautiful environments to explore, though it will take a backseat as you wrack your brain trying to solve each puzzle put before you, as you’ll solely be focusing on that instead. You’re also confined to a very specific and narrow path with invisible walls and barriers, so there’s really no exploration to be had in these beautiful and lush environments.

Between each main section of the areas you’ll be able to explore the lifeless moon base you’re stationed in. These areas have a very futuristic sci-fi feel to it, but are completely devoid of any other life, which makes sense in regards to the story, but also makes for some of the most boring sections of Relicta, though there are some extra collectibles to find for those that want to flesh out the lore further.

The majority of your time in Relicta will be attempting to solve its complex and confusing puzzles by manipulating cubes that can be picked up, polarity changed and even gravitated. These elements add a challenging layer to each puzzle that will no doubt stump you at times. This is done by specialized gloves that you wear, each of which can add a red or blue polarity (positive and negative). Place two boxes beside one another of the same color and they will fling away from one another, and if the colors are opposites, they attract and will stick together, just like magnets.


Puzzles start out simple enough, simply having you place boxes on pressure plates to open and disable specific barrier doors so that you can pass through. There are a number of different barriers though, some of which you can walk through but boxes can’t pass, and others that block you as well until a certain amount of pressure plates have boxes on them simultaneously to trigger it to open. It sounds easy in theory, but in reality it’s anything but.

Eventually you’ll have puzzles where you’ll need to utilize the red or blue polarities to navigate them into specific areas, or even adding a gravity field to the boxes, allowing them to float. Combine with this polarity switching on the fly and precise timing, and you can start to see where puzzles become challenging real quick. While the earlier puzzles have some leeway to how precise you need to be with your aim and timing, the last half of Relicta will require much more perfection. There will also be special plates where you can teleport cubes to other areas as well, so there’s a lot of trial and error (usually more error) before you start to figure out the puzzles.

There are a handful of different terraformed areas you’ll travel to, each of which has its own handful of puzzles before heading back to the main moonbase hub area to find the next level. Every area becomes more challenging, throwing more tricks your way, but the problem is that there’s not really a great tutorial outside of the basics. Sometimes new mechanics are introduced but barely teach you how to utilize those new skills to solve what’s to come ahead. Once you get a few hours in you’ll start to become accustomed to the solutions, but you’ll have to think logically step by step on your plan of attack. The problem with this trial and error is that you can sometimes become completely get stuck, unable to progress. There is a button you can hold to completely reset the area and puzzle, but this sometimes has you backtracking a little bit and having to redo a previous portion of a puzzle which can be frustrating.


Relicta looks gorgeous though. The sci-fi setting of a terraformed moonbase is beautiful, something you’d expect to see on a distant and flourishing planet. Each area is distinct and has its own visual theme and tone, and while pretty to admire, they simply are backdrops, as you’re forced to stay on a linear path and are only given the puzzles in front of you one after another, without any way to explore elsewhere. The audio is adequate as well, with some light ambience in the background, though there’s really not all that much to note aside from the decent voice over work from the actors. There’s only a handful of characters you’ll encounter, decently voiced, though nothing amazing, but that’s most likely due to the script and dialogue.

I’m always down for a good challenging puzzle game, and having a physics based one adds another layer of complexity, but nearly every puzzle felt similar in nature. This became a little tiresome over time and after I finished one level with a handful of puzzles, I honestly wanted to take a break for a while before heading off to the next. While I appreciate the interesting narrative, it made the gameplay felt very stop-and-go, not even factoring when you get stuck on a puzzle for well over a half an hour, unable to figure out how to progress. Those moments when you finally solve a puzzle that you’ve been stumped on for the last thirty minutes and progress is what puzzle games are all about, that "ah-ha" moment, but then you simply get stuck again and become frustrated.

The idea and gameplay behind Relicta is interesting, as is the story, but the puzzles become quite challenging in certain sections, sure to frustrate some. While it’s quite a lengthy game for its genre, it does feel like it wears out its welcome near the end, as I just really wanted to finish it and be done. While there’s no reason to replay once you’ve completed the story aside from any missed collectables, I’m still glad I got to experience Relicta and Doctor Patel’s journey across the moon.




Overall: 7.2 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10

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