We Were Here Forever is the fourth game in the We Were Here series. The games are produced by the Dutch studio Total Mayhem Games and all utilise similar systems and mechanics. As a result, anyone familiar with the previous games will know something of what to expect: a highly-focused co-op system that tasks two players with working together to solve a series of puzzles.
In this regard, the newest entry into the series is nothing new; it follows the same premise and general mechanics as its predecessors. That said, however, that in no way means that it isn’t a thrilling instalment to this unique series. Not only does it keep the charming features of previous titles, it improves on them in every way. If you’re a fan of puzzle games, then this standout title is well worth your time.
We Were Here Forever is available now on Steam, Playstation 5, and Xbox Series X and S.
Story – A Framing Not A Focus
The We Were Here series has always followed something of a storyline. However, while there have always been hints about the games’ story, the narrative has never taken centre stage. That remains true in the latest title, but to a far lesser extent.
The game starts off with both players waking up alone in a cell. The only thing they have with them is a radio to communicate with one another. Something or someone unseen unlocks the cell door and players are immediately faced with their first series of puzzles. Players familiar with the series will recognise the follow-on from the previous games, which saw the protagonists trapped in a snowy castle at the whims of some sort of supernatural entity.
It quickly becomes apparent that someone is watching you. It isn’t until the end of the first chapter that you’ll get to meet the villain of the piece, however. From there, players will need to work together to escape the castle, overcoming challenges at every stage. Along the way, they’ll have the opportunity to uncover the doomed history of the kingdom in which they’ve found themselves.
As a puzzle-focused title, the narrative doesn’t play a huge role in gameplay. It’s a framing device for why you’re completing the puzzles, but you can ignore it entirely if you wish. However, if you choose to pay attention, then there’s a lot of intrigue and mystery to explore. In particular, this game will do a lot to answer many of the questions raised in previous titles.
Gameplay – A Unique Co-Op Experience
As with the rest of the series, the core mechanics of this title are simple: two separated players are given push-to-talk radios to communicate and faced with challenges that require cooperation to solve. Input is almost exclusively limited to activating the radio and interacting with select objects to solve puzzles. Movement has been slightly upgraded for this title, particularly the incorporation of jumping, but this is far from the focus.
Instead, it is the puzzles that take centre stage and they do a masterful job of it.
While previous games in the series have been reasonably short, We Were Here Forever features much more content. This extended runtime has given the developers the opportunity to develop far more complex challenges than anything we’ve faced before. The sharp focus on duality and cooperation is tremendously well-served here; clearly communicating with your partner is a vital skill to learn early in the game. Nothing can be achieved by working alone.
Further, the developers have also had the space they need to iterate on simple puzzle ideas. This means that instead of visiting each concept once, players can take the time to truly master the different challenges. For example, instead of navigating a single maze and moving on, players will be shown one maze to establish the puzzle’s mechanics, and then introduced to a series of increasingly difficult variants. Not only does this allow for more content to be included, it grants the players a sense of satisfaction when they build up their skills enough to overcome even the toughest challenges.
The countering downside to this is that there are a few puzzles that start to feel like they’re dragging. This is particularly true of any challenges that require the player to wait out a timer to progress. For example, one early room has a player navigating a maze that requires them to get to a safe space within a time limit. When the time is up, the rest of the floor collapses and if the player is not within the safe space, they will have to restart. The timer does add a level of stress to the process, but by the time you’re on the third maze, you’ve already fully grasped the mechanics and are simply waiting for the game to catch up with you. As a result, it feels a lot more like jumping through hoops than actively achieving anything.
Fortunately, this is a rare occurrence and players are free to complete most puzzles at their leisure.
Communication is Key
The radios are perfectly complementary to the game’s puzzles. They work via push-to-talk and don’t allow simultaneous transmission, which is a genius solution to ensuring communication. Not only is it true to real-life walkie-talkies, it very neatly eliminates players’ ability to speak over one another. It forces partners to listen to each other and given that clear communication is needed to progress, this is essential.
I did find it a little disappointing that proximity chat doesn’t replace the radios when you and your partner are together. Throughout the game, the two players spend most of their time apart. However, in rare instances, they can find themselves to be right beside each other in the same room. When this happens, it feels far more intuitive to rely on open proximity voice chat, rather than the radios. It’s certainly not a game-breaking issue, but it did seem out of place.
Regardless, the success of this game hinges on how it handles player communication and, as with previous titles, the developers have nailed it. The system’s clear limitations make it very intuitive, even if you’re teaming up with a stranger through the in-game matchmaking system. It is your interactions that will make the story of We Were Here Forever, far more than the tale the game itself tries to tell.
Audio and Graphics – Setting the Scene
Along with the greater investment in story seen in We Were Here Forever, the developers have also doubled down on the series’ creepy, oppressive atmosphere.
On the visual side of things, this has meant implementing a highly effective lighting system. In the dark shadowy castle, the muted, inconsistent lighting of braziers and bulbs really helps to make you feel like you’re out of place. Correspondingly, completing a puzzle that turns on the electricity and lights up the room feels tremendously rewarding. Players also find a torch early on to use as they desire. The torch only provides a small amount of light, meaning that it doesn’t disrupt the gloomy atmosphere. At the same time, the light it does provide enables players to clearly see the details of the puzzle in front of them for maximum ease of play.
Getting Sound Right
The developers, similarly, have highly refined the audio. Alongside wonderfully sombre home screen music that really sets the scene, the sound design of the game world has clearly seen a lot of work. Mechanisms clunk heavily together, while electrical systems buzz and splutter. In an early set piece mimicking a toy box, the walls and floors move and snap into place with ominous grinding and thuds. The radios by necessity have to allow clear audio for voice chat, but accompany it with the tell-tale crackling of older technology.
All together, the sound design does a huge amount of work to make the gameworld feel real and, as a result, more threatening. There is a musical soundtrack throughout, but it is heavily muted to enable voice chat. As such, whenever sound effects or voice acting do kick in, they can be tremendously startling in the quiet.
Atmosphere is something that these games have always mastered, but We Were Here Forever builds extensively on what came before and, in this regard at least, is easily the best in the series.
We Were Here Forever was played on Steam with a key provided by Total Mayhem Games.