The last entry of the Penumbra trilogy, as well as the worst rated. How did this happen though? It was going so well.
|Genre||Horror survival, puzzle, indie|
|Purchase Penumbra trilogy (PC)||Purchase from Amazon.|
|Purchase (PC/Mac/Linux)||Purchase from Steam.|
And next, we look at the last entry of the original Penumbra trilogy—emphasis on original, since there is more to talk about later.
While marketed as an “expansion” of Black Plague, Penumbra: Requiem can be considered to be a third episode of the series.
…But just what kind of continuation is it?
Penumbra: Requiem is considered to be the worst of the trilogy, though it’s not necessarily bad if that makes sense. For a series that seems to be building up to something big, this particular entry makes a sudden left turn into bizarre territory. No one really knows what to make of it and can only come up with theories on what the hell just happened.
And for the Penumbra series, this is saying a lot. There is some fucked up shit in these games. But what makes Requiem stand out is that it is easily the weirdest entry. The whole premise of the game is that you experience one big mindfuck and you traverse through a world that defies logic, without a meaningful conclusion. At least, in the context of the story itself.
Giant factories, mechanical complexes that seem to exist in a realm of nothingness, exploding ketchup bottles.
No really. Look.
Remember, folks. In your dreams, ketchup bottles are actually molotov cocktails that don’t need to be lit. You have been warned.
Coming back to gameplay mechanics, it is basically the same as the previous games. However, there are quite a few changes.
- The flashlight now has an infinite energy meter.
- There are no monsters to hunt you down, so only the environmental obstacles can kill you.
- The main objective of the game is to get to the next “level.” To do this, you need to solve a series of puzzles and collect these spherical artifacts that function as “keys” to the exit portal.
You also need to locate the portals themselves, some of which are blocked off by different obstacles.
Like in the previous game, you may collect hidden Strange Artefacts to unlock a special password to view the development team’s content. There is one in each level and there are a total of nine in the game.
Collecting all artefacts will also unlock a short epilogue, that in a way does help conclude the game a little better.
And because of the lack of monsters in Requiem, there is never really a point where you get scared of something. In a way, this makes Penumbra: Requiem more of a first-person puzzle game than a survival horror game. Sort of like Portal, minus the Portal guns.
The story? Uhhh… isn’t that the question…
Basically, the story takes place directly after the events of Black Plague. While typing out his message, something—or possibly one of the Infected—knocks him out and Philip enters into what appears to be a lucid dream or some type of limbo.
And where do we start at? An ancient temple.
The places he goes to seem to be based on real-world environments—or at least, loosely. At the same time, the environments themselves feel all too surreal.
Along the way, he makes mysterious encounters with the disembodied voices of Tom “Red” Redwood, Dr. Richard Eminess from the previous game, Eloff Carpenter from the previous game, and even an announcer box with a woman’s voice. All of them seem to be trapped in this surreal world too.
Dr. Richard Eminess was a minor antagonist of the previous game, a former Shelter scientist infected by the Tuurngait virus. Though Philip enlisted his help to get past a certain door by having the doctor saw off his own hand, Dr. Eminess instead tried to kill Philip. It is unknown whether Dr. Eminess was genuinely trying to help or had been waiting to kill Philip the whole time.
In this game. Dr. Eminess seemed to have merged with the Tuurngait and claimed he had access to knowledge of the entire universe. However, in doing so, he loses his individuality and his humanity. It is unknown if this seemingly catastrophic event is meant to have any impact on the story.
Eloff Carpenter was a minor character whose voice recording was found at the beginning of Black Plague. He was a member of the briefly mentioned Archaic Elevated Caste, a secret organization dedicated to uncover ancient knowledge. It was implied he was killed during the events of Black Plague.
Occasionally, in Requiem, you will find a glowing book that summons his thoughts. He seems just as confused as Philip throughout the game, even frightened about the world he is stuck in.
And of course, we have good ol’ Red from Overture.
Again, the environments are pretty spot on. They give off a dream-like feel and it does seem like you’re stuck in some sort of purgatory.
The biggest problem with Penumbra: Requiem is that no one really knows what to make of its story. Are the events of Requiem a near-death experience for Philip? Are they simply an illusion generated by the Tuurngait from the previous game? What are these weird places that Philip visits and what do they mean? Why are these people around him, but somehow not around him? What do either one of the endings mean?
Needless to say, this game raises more questions than answers. And because Frictional Games hasn’t published more entries into the series, the conclusion of the events is left ambiguous.
- Did Philip die?
- Who was the person that Philip sent his message to during the ending of Black Plague?
- Will the Tuurngait be left alone or disturbed once more?
But if there is ANYTHING I can compliment about this game, it is perhaps the most eerie of the trilogy. I don’t think the other games can compare when it comes to capturing that feeling of isolation that the series is known for.
In Penumbra: Overture, you have Red’s company. While he is not really with you, you still communicate with him on a walkie talkie.
In Penumbra: Black Plague, you have Clarence, Dr. Amabel Swanson, Dr. Richard Eminess, and even the Tuurngait as company.
However, in Penumbra: Requiem, there seems to be a permanent sense of imprisonment and helplessness. While you can hear the voices of Red, Dr. Eminess, Eloff Carpenter and even the female announcer keeping track of the number of keys in an area, it feels like you still can’t reach them no matter what. They all seemed frightened by the loneliness, even Dr. Eminess to an extent when he realizes there are strange gaps in his past memories.
In a way, I felt that the developers may have found themselves in a writing corner towards the end of Black Plague. Or it can even be intentionally ambiguous.
No matter what you may think, it is always better to think.
But despite that, I can’t say I’m too terribly disappointed about the ambiguity of this game. Somehow, it still fits and it was all a fun journey just the same.
Requiem may not have topped either Overture or Black Plague, but I can still at least say I enjoyed it for what it is. In the words of Red…
But luckily, there IS another entry in the Penumbra series. Unofficial, but still there all the same. But in the meantime, I think Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs is next up on my list.
Penumbra: RequiemPrice Varies
- The puzzles are quite unique and leave a neat little impression.
- This is the eeriest entry of the series, due to its dreamlike and lonely atmosphere.
- The story’s ambiguity may annoy some fans of the series.
- The lack of monsters brings about a lack of anticipation and suspense that were present in the previous games.