Published on June 16th, 2011 | by Derek Strickland, Contributor
Esoterica America Xbox Indie Review
Platform: Xbox LIVE Indie Games
Price: 240 MSP ($3)
Developer: V7 Entertainment
It’s Sam Collins’ 21st birthday and he receives a curious book entitled Esoterica America as a gift from his mother. Sam’s father was a deeply existential man who believed in many spiritual things. Sam’s mother is also deeply spiritual, believing that the stars hold mysterious powers. His father had left behind a strange crystal ball after his disappearance, and it is within it’s glass that Sam sees the watchers and protectors who transport Sam’s consciousness to greater state of awareness.
“Your father is alive in the land of the Gods. The key to his knowledge is your date of birth. Your journey will begin today, young Samuel!” the protectors proclaim to our surprised hero.
In this heightened spiritual state Sam interacts with the protectors, the strange and alien figures seeming to herald his true fate. These beings tell our main character about his destiny to bring the Age of Aquarius to the world. Samuel is descended from no ordinary bloodline–his tribe is that of the celestial and terrestrial, a deeply spiritual ancestry that stretches across eons of time. Sam’s family is from the Astral Plane and are basically star-kin that came to Earth to enlighten the masses with their spiritual knowledge.
It’s up to Sam to explore the metaphysical concepts of religion, spiritualism, and meditation in order to achieve Enlightenment and bring a new age of wisdom to our world.
Transcend worlds and meld with the stars in the ancestral plane, roam the spirit lands and the metaphysical concepts of Enlightenment all with the teachings of one sacred book: Esoterica America. These pages hold the secrets of divination and the keys to knowledge of beyond the rim of the universe, interstellar celestial whispers that harken back to the ageless eons of time’s beginning. Using the teachings of a myriad of schools of spirituality, with Karma and Chakras and ancient rituals players must navigate through a world within reality to find the true meaning of the stars to unlock the main character’s destiny.
This particular Xbox Indie has unique gameplay mechanics that make use of a angled top-down view and an interactive 3-D environment in which players navigate to investigate clues, find items, and interact with NPC’s. Moving throughout the levels isn’t difficult, however sometimes players can get snagged on idle obstructions and certain wall areas.
Overall the game feels like an RPG crossed between a puzzle/mystery game where players must explore the areas around them to progress through the game. Esoterica America also features an interface similar to a journal in RPG’s–here players can learn more about the plot and the many metaphysical concepts and the secrets of the stars themselves. Once a player unlocks a clue, a new page is unlocked in the book to reveal new information.
Checking every area in any given level can be troublesome and tedious, thankfully this game makes use of an overhead icon that flashes when players can interact with a nearby item. Sometimes these items are random and uneventful, sometimes they are key items that unlock information of dire importance and must be collected and investigated to move onward.
The in-game map screen is the primary means of traveling between areas and Lodges, each represented with the appropriate glowing glyphs of their respective houses. There are a few Lodges in the District of Columbia, such as the Illuiminati’s Lodge of Perfection that houses the loud and boisterous Brother Brennan, or the ritualistic magi Librarian at the Hermetic Lodge of the Golden Dawn.
Esoterica America’s use of mini-games and puzzles throughout gameplay make it more like a combination of smaller games wrapped together with a central plot. These games are creative and amusing–take the Meditation mini-game, for example; players must press the correct colored button to ward off “emotions” that flow toward Sam. Timing each button press is critical to success in this mini-game, and throughout the title there are other puzzles and other similar challenges.
There are multiple unique features in Esoterica America that set it apart from other Xbox Indies on the marketplace today including the game’s unique style and design, the celestial ancestral plane that’s achieved through meditation, the fully-voiced dialogue interactions between NPC’s and players, and emphasis on metaphysical and spiritual concepts like Enlightenment and Karma.
This game’s unique style is what first caught my eye, as the beginning of the game is rather drab and monochrome, then shortly after players first encounter the ancestral plane and it’s celestial beauty, the nebulae swirling and drifting endlessly while the star-kin look onward. The characters are also a reflection of this style, and each Lodge has their own signature appearance, each of them quite bizarre and strange.
With a cast of original and sometimes quite bizarre characters, Esoterica America solidifies itself among other titles on the XBLIG marketplace. Main interactions are voiced yet every small dialogue script isn’t voiced, only the more important main discussions between Sam and another NPC who holds a key role.
Emphasis on metaphysical, spiritual concepts like religion–Buddhism and Chakras–and heavy focus on astrology and the stars make this game interesting and quite creative. While the concepts are derived from real-world teachings, there are only select pieces and parts from various ideologies combined together.
The Final Truth:
Esoterica America is a surprising Xbox Indie that makes use of a creative and unique style that kept me visually enraptured throughout gameplay. While the storyline is a bit confusing and there are many bizarre characters and names, I found the game to be enjoyable in many ways. This title is actually the first chapter of a planned series of games, it’s full name being Esoterica America Episode 1: The Entered Apprentice, and it is a pretty mystifying start to a series that will unfold more secrets of the star-kin and our hero, Sam Collins.
For more information on Esoterica America and the independent studio that created it, please visit V7 Entertainment’s official website and the official game website. For social networking, Follow them on Twitter and Like them on Facebook.
+ Original Gameplay Elements
+ An Interesting and Engaging Story Arc
+ Multiple References to Spiritual Beliefs
+ Impressive and Unique Signature Styles & Design
+ Unlike Anything Else on the XBLIG Marketplace
– Confusing at Times
– Tailors to an Acquired Taste of Gaming