Vigil: Blood Bitterness review

  • Haunting atmosphere
  • Gorgeous visuals and backgrounds
  • Interesting and avoids cliché
  • Incredibly frustrating
  • Stutters high-end PCs
  • Won't give you any answers

Sept 17, 2007

What a fascinating game. And what a mess. It’s such a shame, as Vigil’s unique black and white appearance and twisted design could have created something splendid. As it is, it’s a greater test of patience than skill.

Little is explained as you start, letting you try to fathom the meaning of the game for yourself. You play one of four ancient creatures, the other three being dead. Exploring, you learn how they died as you pursue your sworn enemy, Evil. Each of the four is represented by an emblem, and such emblems, when on the floor, can be prayed upon, triggering responses. The entire thing is presented in barren, haunting black and white silhouette, viewed from obscure, high-angled perspectives.

Rather than a series of puzzles, the game claims to be one meta-puzzle, with clues discovered throughout. On a more mundane level, this boils down to finding pieces of paper with obfuscated hints for how to open the next door. But it’s all so pleasingly esoteric, there’s no way to get into the depths of such trite clichés. With the help of the dark ambient background chimes and a ferociously whispered unknown language, Vigil is a study in atmospheric angst.

The biggest mystery of the game is how this simple and stark design manages to grind our behemoth PC to a near halt. Running down barely detailed corridors makes the entire thing stagger and churn. Which would be tolerable were it not for your character’s accompanying habit of either refusing to move or charging off in the wrong direction, often to his death.

Dying is what kills Vigil, ultimately. The pace of the game is sedate the first time through, creating a calm tone. But having to repeat a section for a second, third, and certainly fourth time at that same pace creates impotent fury. And knowing the solution is no help - you have to go through each room and find each clue all over again, before you’re allowed to solve a puzzle. So after the game’s pushed you off a narrow bridge despite your clicking in a completely different direction, finding the patience to repeat the last 20 minutes of a section is a tall order.

Oh, for a quicksave. The random deaths aren’t just technical glitches (by the way, Vigil won’t run on Vista). A wrong step can impale you on spikes. In hindsight you realize the clue associated with that death, but hindsight doesn’t do jack for you until after the fact.

The ending, reached after what would be a splendid timed puzzle if only the game worked properly, is a deliberate (self-acknowledged) anticlimax. A strange choice, but forgivable given that Vigil is episodic; part two is already in development. Just don’t expect your questions to be answered.

There’s about two hours of game here, spread out over a day’s increasingly violent frustration. It’s nigh impossible without a walkthrough (found on the game’s website), and while both visually and emotionally striking, it simply doesn’t work.

More Info

Release date: Jun 29 2007 - PC (US)
Available Platforms: PC
Genre: Puzzle
Developed by: Freegamer
ESRB Rating:

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