I’ve talked before about how I’m of the feeling that many games should be spoken of like pieces of art in a gallery. You see, there are certain games which provide an experience that isn’t necessarily about the gameplay mechanics, shooting enemies in the face or jumping across endless platforms and opening chests to gather gear. In fact, over the course of the last decade or so us gamers have been subjected to games that make us think, ask the big questions and push us through the journey of a developer’s mind. Promesa is one of those experiences; one that will maybe divide the gaming community. But I see this game as just as important as the triple-A hitters.
We live in a world of sequels and the next instalment of already established franchises. Yet there is also another world sitting underneath the big triple-A games that happily moves along by experimenting with what games media can bring to an audience. It’s a world where Inside flourished; a world in which games like Stela and The Stanley Parable have been given a home, achieving awards aplenty. I love that gamers can play these artistic projects and, in this time of delays, the spotlight is able to shine on these experiences over the bigger ones.
Anyways, Promesa has been created by a Milan-based artist and video game maker, Julián Palacios Gechtman. This individuality has allowed the game to be created from a very personal point of view, all born from the conversations between a grandparent and grandchild. It’s a game where the listener wanders through fragments of memories and recollected thoughts from childhood and events in their shared history. It’s a very contemplative experience that touches you deep inside and makes you think about your own journey through time and the memories that shape the person you are today.
The narrative is everything, but it isn’t what you would expect from a normal story where the tale moves from A to B to C. It is told in a non-linear way, at times like a collection of abstract fragments of thoughts, memories, and feelings. Before each chapter, we are shown some text taken from a conversation, but it doesn’t necessarily relate to what you might see in the section upcoming. This is a brilliant way of covering the tale and how you, as the audience, are seen as a voyeur on someone’s very personal memories. But it will also allow you the chance to feel nostalgic about your own life and your journey through it. It’s like wandering through an art installation as your senses are attacked, leaving you feeling emotional.
The gameplay is utterly simple, working as a walking sim or narrative adventure-type as its mode of operation. There is no jump button, platforming needs or even the opening of doors – that is all done for you. There isn’t any combat to be had or objects to collect or use either – it is just about you moving through an environment or a memory, exploring the world around you like a spirit floating into memories. Obviously that means that those who dislike this style of experience, with very little gameplay, will probably shun Promesa for the lack of things to do; something which isn’t helped by the displaced narrative which unfolds. You can probably throw in the slow pace of the action too, which has been deliberately done. Thankfully you can quicken things up through the settings if required.
However, Promesa is a very short-lived experience. In fact, at the start of the game, you are requested to put headphones on, and that the run-through will last about 45 minutes. Once completed though it’s well worth taking in another trip, mostly as the journey will be different, allowing you to view different chapters and a variety of memories.
Visually and Promesa takes you through different buildings set across Argentina and Italy. You find yourself walking through rooms, courtyards or alleyways, sometimes taking you to places in the past and darker memories. It is also happy to become highly abstract, as you float above the world or take in darkened rooms with furniture shown in ghostly outlines. It’s a style that uses pixel art mixed with some brilliant lighting effects fantastically, and there’s a chance you will love the world that Promesa creates.
As you would expect from a game that asks you to use headphones when playing, the audio is truly sublime. In fact, it’s some of the best audio I’ve heard in a game for ages; brilliantly composed unique pieces of sound that are mixed with great effects and superb audio landscapes.
Promesa is a game that many may not ‘get’ or be interested in, mostly due to the lack of gameplay and action. For others though it’s a brilliant way of being able to take in something unique. For the entry price of an art gallery, Promesa allows you the chance to take in an exhibition from the luxury of your own home; a beautiful, thoughtful experience that takes you through the memories of someone’s past and present.
Above all else though, Promesa answers that age-old question of whether or not games are art. Of course they are.
Promesa opens its doors to gamers on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One – check out the Xbox Store