At first glance, Degrees of Separation is appealing on a narrative level. It’s a fantasy adventure involving two protagonists, both from different sides of the elemental scale. They can never truly be together, but they must work together to explore a strange world. It includes nice animation, puzzles, and a fantastic narrator. But after several hours, the entire experience loses steam. Instead of focusing on the narrative, you become focused on collectible hunting.
The story begins with Ember and Rime. Ember’s abilities are in line with heat and Rime has cold based powers. These powers keep our protagonists from truly being together, like a supernatural Romeo and Juliet. Despite the barrier between heat and cold, you must work together to collect scarves and unlock new and mysterious parts of the world.
The main gameplay aspect involves using your innate abilities to collect scarves. Ember is able to use heated vents to get to hard to reach areas. Rime freezes water and can roll objects into snowballs that help with platforming. As you navigate the world, you will need to use these powers to find the best way to reach scarves. Some are fairly easy to reach. Others can be very frustrating and take time, especially if you don’t have a co-op partner.
Scarves are found all throughout the world, and you may not be able to collect them in a linear fashion. Luckily, there are save points that allow you to quickly navigate from one point to another. This is very helpful as you unlock new abilities and figure out how to reach scarves that were not previously accessible. It would have been really frustrating trying to navigate on foot.
Speaking of frustrations, there are many to be had in Degrees of Separation. It suffers from some technical weaknesses that take out the enjoyment of solving puzzles. For one, the platforming itself can be overly difficult when there are ledges that you simply can’t grasp. The character movement is slow, which might be due to a slow framerate. And the single player mode is not the best way to go if you want to play Degrees of Separation. The AI is just not up to par. Another troublesome aspect for me was the white divide between characters. There were moments when the line would switch spots in a weird fashion, as in the laws of the dividing line wasn’t consistent. It took some time getting used to it.
But despite the technical hiccups, the game looks really nice. The animations are well done and the distinction between heat and cold is very cool to see. The environments seamlessly change from hot to cold, depending on where Ember and Rime are standing. As you switch spots, the environments change instantly. The narrator and music are very nice, although I wish I could get rid of Rime’s grunts when he jumped.
In a way, game mechanics of Degrees of Separation keep you from having a fun, immersive experience. The collecting of scarves takes you out of the story, which is unfortunate. The narrator continually gives you clues and story exposition, but it’s easy to ignore as you get knee deep in finding the scarves. It’s a shame, really. The narrator’s voice acting is lovely and the story is very sweet and endearing. It’s a fantasy story with star crossed lovers that can’t be together. The focus should be on the story and not finding scarves. Degrees of Separation can be enjoyed in small bursts, but overall it’s hard to recommend.
Note: GameOctane editor Ryan Welch received a digital code from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing this game. Any code or product intended for reviews is distributed to the team to review and stream for our audience.
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Lovely fantasy story