E3 2015 – Gravity is yours to command in Relativity

Relativity is a game you have to play to truly grasp. Just looking at screenshots of its winding, complex levels doesn’t quite communicate how your supposed to interact with the space, let alone navigate it. Every structure you encounter looks more like a work of abstract art to observe and appreciate than a piece of level geometry you’re supposed to scale. Once you understand it, however, it’s definitely something special.

Relativity revolves around gravity. By walking up to a wall and pressing R2, you make that wall into the floor as the world shifts to accommodate the change in gravity. The change is immediate, the world turning smoothly and swiftly. It’s a bit disorienting the first few times you do it, especially when you don’t know what’s coming like I did. It becomes second nature soon enough, though.

The goals for the level were to bring colored blocks to their receptacles to open doors. Their colors signify which gravitational pull they adhere to, meaning you can only move them when you’re on the same gravitational plane. For instance, you can’t pick up a red block if you’re on, say, a blue plane. The puzzles themselves were rudimentary – using blocks or parts of the environment as stepping blocks to move them up being the most complex – but it was also the first level. The developer, Willy Chyr, said puzzles would get more complicated, citing examples like blocks that are affected by multiple gravitational planes.

The real puzzle, however, is the environment itself. While indoors, progression was straightforward. It was just a series of puzzle rooms connected by long corridors. Once I got outside, however, it became a lot more complicated. Relativity’s hook is in its infinitely repeating world. No matter which direction you move, you’ll always end up going in a circle. Fall off the edge of the world and you’ll land right back on top of it. Keep moving toward the horizon, and you’ll keep passing by the same landmarks. Exploration suddenly becomes paramount, as the game discards its previously linear design. No longer was the way forward clear. There were no obvious markers, no more puzzles to solve. It left me on my own to figure things out.

That was by far the most exciting part of the demo. Because at first I only catch glimpses of structures off in the distance. It wasn’t clear whether those were mere set-dressing or something I’d eventually make my way toward. Never occurred to me that it would be a duplicate of the same structure I inside of. That moment when I finally realized the true nature of the world – after taking a leap of faith due to not seeing any other options – was one of those perfect moments of pure wonder and discovery. I never did figure out where to go once I got outside, either.

Chyr finished up by showing off a few work-in-progress areas to further demonstrate the infinite repetition of the environment. One was a series of staircases that stretched as far as the eye can see, both above and below. The other was a densely packed series of beams arranged in cube-like shapes. You could barely move through there without colliding with something. Chyr said the levels would be more fleshed out in the final game. I can’t imagine what sort of puzzles could be built around those spaces, let alone how one would traverse them, but I can’t wait to find out.

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