Video Game Review: Pattern

First posted in April 11, 2020

This (non-spoilery) review of Pattern, the latest release from Ice Water Games, is based on the initial release. Because the game has only been out... four days now? Yes. Since April 7th. I would have played the game and posted this review sooner, as I've been salavating for this to be released, but I somehow missed the fact that it had been let loose into the wild.

Why the salivating? Why the intense anticipation?

Because I am a Very Big Fan of Ice Water Games, and Pattern appeared to be a lot like another favorite game of mine by them, Eidolon. And it is similar, in some ways, but differently so. Like two siblings, I love one of them slightly more than the other—but only slightly—and I will never tell you which one.

Hm. I should probably not write an entire review of Pattern that revolves around comparing it to Eidolon, particularly if you're reading this and have never played Eidolon. That would not be useful to you, would it? So let's do this:
  • If you've played Eidolon, keep on reading.

  • If you have not played Eidolon, click here to skip this next bit!
Still here, huh? Okay, then.

If you did not like Eidolon then you will probably also not like this. There's no accounting for taste, but whatever.

If you adored Eidolon, as I did, you may or may not also love Pattern. I say this because it is the same but very different. If you loved Eidolon's exploration, the strolling through nature, the games's slow reveal of a landcape, changing colors with the passing of time, fluctuations of weather... you will get more of that in Pattern. If you loved stumbling upon not-so-ancient ruins and wondering what they were about, you'll get more of that, too. If you loved wandering around to find bits of things to read, you'll get more of that in Pattern, but with a very different approach. You will get more excellent music, by the same composer, but it will be a different sort of music.

In short, this is still a walking simulator on a slow burn, but the narrative is more personal, way less fictional, and much shorter.

Pattern is less a game, and more a work of art.

Let us be civilized, and not descend into a discussion of whether or not games can be art, or whether a piece of art can be a game. Let us simply continue reading what I have to say:

It is a game, yes.

There are game mechanics, yes.

There is narrative, yes.

But when you are done, you will have read a game developer's diary about the creative process.

You will have read this in small snippets of text gathered by traversing a finite number of themed landscapes, each vast and procedurally generated, while chillaxin' to some procgen music*.

It's meditative. It's soothing.

It is not a game with a deep and unfolding plot of mystery. You will not be transported to the future or the past. It is a lovely blend of art and visual fiction coupled with non-fictitious thoughts on the creative process. If you are an artist of any sort, you will likely relate to some of the content, even if you are in a different place with respect to your journey and relationship with art.

Some will find the price point high at $15, given that it is a one hour(ish) experience with little replay potential. I was happy to pay that amount, and I plan to buy some copies for friends as gifts, because I felt it was a worthwhile experience and because I want to support more art like this. I think of it as just that: an experience. It had an impact on me, and it will not be forgotten.


* I recommend the soundtrack, a series of tracks by Michael Bell, particularly if you enjoy (mostly) instrumental music that (mostly) lets you focus (some of the music includes spooky whispering, and I like spooky whispering but I have trouble focusing while there is spooky whispering happening). I wrote this review while listening to the soundtrack! It's not quite the same as what you hear in the game (it can't be... the game's music is generated by the movement of the player through the landscape, though a few of the tracks are taken from live recordings of the game). Nevertheless, it is similar and it is lovely. Thank you, Michael Bell.