There have been a lot of puzzle titles hitting virtual reality (VR) headsets of late, from the beautiful Mare to the emotional Vanishing Grace, and let’s not forget classic Myst. While they’ve all had their own unique properties and are enjoyable they’ve not quite managed to achieve that wow ‘must buy’ factor. So even in this packed genre, there’s still room to manoeuvre. The latest to try is Stitch Media with its escape room-style experience Flow Weaver, offering a magical, dimension-jumping tale of interconnected worlds.
You play a Flow Weaver, someone who can travel anywhere because of magical ‘flows’. However, due to another sorcerer who wants to learn about these conduits you become stuck in one dimension with five worlds to explore. You then have to solve the various puzzles within each realm to attain five special runes which can help break the spell that keeps you captive.
An entirely seated experience that should be comfortable for most players as there’s no locomotion whatsoever, Flow Weaver challenges you to solve interconnected puzzles, so if you’re stuck on one then its entirely likely that you might be in the wrong place. Because you can’t move, it’s all about carefully remembering what’s in front of you as Flow Weaver keeps everything within a 180-degree field-of-view. This makes the gameplay fairly easy to pick up, with new elements introduced at a steady rate – depending on how quickly you solve the puzzles.
The entire videogame revolves around the Material World, this is where you talk to the sorcerer and find a couple of easy puzzles to get you warmed up. As you unlock each new world you’ll be able to access a new power, the Shadow Realm offering the first and most useful ability, Shadow Hand – basically remote grab. Early on each puzzle nicely rolls into the next yet they never become too taxing that you’ll become baffled. Should that occur then Flow Weaver provides a ‘Meditate’ function that highlights areas of interest, even bringing up ghostly images of items from other realms to nudge you in the right direction. Your character also has audio snippets which can hide extra snippets of info.
So to begin with Flow Weaver comes across as a fairly pleasant puzzle title, with some mildly intricate puzzles, detailed levels and a fairly interesting narrative. Yet it soon becomes clear that the gameplay is stymied on several levels and quickly loses its flow thanks to some clunky design elements.
For instance, as mentioned a lot of the puzzles overlap across the levels in some fashion yet you have to continually head back to the Material World before choosing the one you actually want. This becomes more laborious if you do become stuck and wish to quickly hop between them for clues. The same can be said for the spell selection. They’re linked to the world you found them in, requiring you to go back to the level select area to grab and bring the spell towards your body to activate it. It’s easy to understand that the developer wanted to create a physical process for these functions yet they become really repetitive over time.
On the subject of repetition, you may actually want to turn the sound off. Again, to start with the audio is well presented and acted, with the Flow Weaver character providing most of it. But as you do in most puzzles you generally repeat certain processes until you solve them. In Flow Weaver, she’ll keep going, drop an item, try and place it somewhere or whatever, and she’ll happily keep reminding you. There’s a certain section that involves an acorn that proved to be immensely patience-testing. This is made worse by little bugs which make items hover, unable to grab, or just inconsistent physics.
Perhaps most annoying is the awfully erratic save system. Flow Weaver runs for around 3-4 hours approximately and on an Oculus Quest that generally means a recharge at some point. Yet there’s no way to manually save and no indication of checkpoints. Having collected the fourth rune a break was needed, only to come back and find the last save point was at rune two. It’s not difficult to quickly solve those puzzles again yet each rune collected means more dialogue, all of which is unskippable and soon becomes waffle that you lose interest in.
Flow Weaver starts out as a promising puzzle adventure ideal for all players. Unfortunately, it doesn’t hold that candle high throughout, as inconsistencies creep in. Videogames like this should offer a sense of satisfaction upon completion, that no puzzle was too great. Instead, there’s more relief that it’s finally over with no reason to return. If there was more lore to uncover, better saving and a satisfying spell system then Flow Weaver could’ve had potential. A difficult one to recommend considering others in this genre.