When I saw that Voyage had a two-player mode, I jumped at the chance to review it as I’ve been wanting to play a good co-op game for ages. Unfortunately, I’m still waiting. Let me preface my Voyage review for Xbox Series X by reminding you that this is 100% my own opinion. You may well feel differently (it’s very high rated by users), but that’s why I’ll talk in detail about the reasons behind my issues, and you can decide whether they’d be a problem for you or not.
It’s not so much that this game is bad, it’s just that it really doesn’t appeal to me. And honestly, I’m struggling to figure out exactly who it would appeal to. Because if I had to sum it up in one word, it would be boring. It’s not that I don’t like slow-paced games, because I do. I had a blast with PowerWash Simulator and I’ve really been enjoying Coffee Talk on Xbox Game Pass. It’s just that this game in particular does nothing to capture my attention. Let’s investigate why…
This game features no dialogue, narration, or indeed written words of any kind, so the story is dependent on you making assumptions. I know that some people really enjoy open-ended stories like this, but I find it frustrating. I’m autistic and struggle to visualise things, and I like having words as a way of processing information. It’s probably why I went into a career as a writer! As such, I didn’t really gain much about the story, which was a shame. Not least because the story is pretty much all that this game has to offer.
Like I said, the story is very subjective, so you might glean a totally different meaning if you played it. So take everything I’m about to say with a pinch of salt. From what I could tell, we were explorers on a strange planet, surrounded by lost souls. These spirits wandered the land lost, and it was our job to assist them in their departure to peace. Either that, or we were merely observers of their struggles, but I prefer my first interpretation.
As the chapters go on, you traverse a range of sceneries. Some resemble ancient tombs, others are based in a desert, or even on a spaceship. Some of the levels feel almost like we’re witnessing events that have already happened, perhaps even ones that led us to the current journey we were on. I definitely understand why they marketed this game as exploration, and I think more reflective people than me might enjoy pondering on the meanings behind things.
Honestly, it’s a stretch to refer to anything in Voyage as ‘gameplay’ because it really didn’t feel like I was doing anything. It’s just so incredibly slow. You walk at a pace that even a tortoise would roll its eyes at. The maps are long and sprawling, and so despite the levels being so empty in terms of interactivity requirements, it takes a good half hour or so to complete each chapter just because of the time it takes to walk from one side to the other. And there’s no skill involved, because absolutely everything is interacted with using the A button. This game isn’t a walking simulator, it’s (as my player two very aptly put it), an A simulator. All you do is press A on everything and hope for the best.
The UI is entirely unhelpful as well, continuing on the theme of having no words whatsoever. It took me over an hour to realise that the Y button wasn’t just for creating pretty sparkles, but was actually for hinting which item I needed to interact with. Because the thing is, I’d never actually needed any button other than A, so I assumed all the others were just basic actions that were for visual purposes only and had no relevance to the gameplay.
I did consider having a subheading for puzzles, but honestly, there’s no need. The puzzles consist of, you guessed it, pressing A on a couple of things until a door opens, and then we can press A on that too. If you’re bored of me saying the words ‘pressed A’, then imagine how bored I got actually playing through that. I recognise I’m probably being overly critical, but I’m really not a patient person.
As there’s not really much else to say about the gameplay, I can’t do the usual types of subheadings I would pick. There’s no combat, the puzzles don’t pose enough of a challenge to be worth mentioning, the movement controls are just ‘walk left, walk right’, and essentially there’s nothing else worth mentioning. So instead, I’m going to talk accessibility, as it’s something that the game mentions on its Steam page.
The game mentions having customisable input methods, but I think that’s specific to PC. It says how you can choose whether to use mouse, keypad, controller, or even touch. I admit I’m not a PC gamer, but I just assumed most games could do that. Either way, it doesn’t apply to Xbox. What does apply, though, is that it’s accessible to most gamers. There’s no skill requirement, and so people with slow reaction times could enjoy this game the same way as anyone else. However, it’s not self-explanatory, and there’s no tutorial.
However, I think it fails when it comes to neurodivergence. People with disorders which inhibit the ability to process context clues are going to seriously miss out. The lack of any words on screen means it’s hard to get any clarity on what’s happening, which could be distressing for autistic gamers. Similarly, the slow pace would preclude some people with ADHD from enjoying it. I don’t understand why there was no option to run, or at least walk a bit faster. Also, there was a section where you had to hold A for over a minute whilst pulling a boat in a straight line. People with arthritis would probably struggle with having to hold a button for that long.
Audio and Visuals
I know the review so far has been mainly negative, but this is where Voyage really comes into its own. As much as I didn’t enjoy the experience of playing it, I can’t fault the graphics or music. There’s peaceful ambient music which plays throughout, right from the menu screen. It changes with the levels to match the vibe, and it’s incredibly well-composed. It does help to provide an immersive environment, it’s just a shame it’s one I have no interest in being in.
Similarly, the sound effects really add to the experience. There are atmospheric noises such as birds tweeting or water babbling. It’s pleasant to listen to, and they’ve done a great job. You could really believe that those sounds are real, and I’m sure that was no easy feat.
The art, too, is delightful. In fact, it’s the main reason I chose to request this game for review. I’d watched the trailer, and even though I hadn’t understood the point of the game, I’d decided the art was gorgeous enough for me to figure out the gameplay on my own. Oh, how naïve I was. The graphics are minimalist with a subtle colour palette that conveys beauty and mystery. However, as lovely as they are, they don’t make up for how boring Voyage is to play. It probably doesn’t help that I came to this game hot off the tails of playing The Artful Escape. That’s another game which is light on the gameplay, but it has stunning visuals which are a true experience in their own right. And with Voyage, the visuals are still only part of a whole, even though they’re well-presented.
What I Didn’t Like
I’ve touched upon a fair few issues in the review so far, but I wanted to sum everything up in one nice, easy section, as well as bring up points I haven’t mentioned yet. So, in short, this is why I wasn’t keen on Voyage:
- Way too slow paced. I might have even enjoyed it had I been able to move 3 or 4 times faster. As it was, I just couldn’t get behind it.
- No complexity in the puzzles. I like there to be somewhat of a challenge. Finally in level 4 there was a puzzle that required me to at least use my brain a bit, but even then it was pretty easy.
- There’s no reason for this to be two-player. It’s too easy and so there’s nothing to really communicate with your partner about as you’re both just walking and pressing A. Instead, we ended up just chatting to fill the boredom, which didn’t help with the immersion. You can technically play this without a player two, but honestly, it should have just been single-player in the first place. With the exception of a couple of convoluted and monotonous tasks, nothing even necessarily requires a second person.
- It allows you to go the wrong way when you start a new level. There’s no indication where it wants you to go, so the other path shouldn’t even exist. It’s not like there’s even anything to do outside of the main linear story. And so, because of how slow you walk, you waste minutes walking in the wrong direction until you hit a wall and have to begin the arduous journey of doubling back on yourself.
- There’s no writing or prompts. You have to figure everything out for yourself, including the controls and the story. Some dialogue or even just a helpful UI would have gone a really long way. I know some people enjoy wordless games, but personally it seems I hate them. I don’t mind limited words (I adored Omno), but when even the instructions are non-existent, that’s when it becomes a problem.
If you’re into artsy, mellow games, then you’ll love this one. But if you prefer titles that have some action or pose an intellectual challenge, you may want to give it a miss. Either way, hopefully my Voyage review for Xbox Series X helped you make up your own mind about whether this is right for you. As I said at the start, I don’t think this game is ‘bad’ in the sense that it’s poorly made. I just think it missed the mark when it comes to fun, and I honestly can’t understand why so many people have given it high ratings.
I’m clearly in the minority here, but for me, this game was too slow and boring for me to rate it any higher. I had to stop playing after a couple of hours because my player two was even more bored than I was, and I felt embarrassed to ask them to continue. And honestly, I was in no rush to jump back into it by myself. I felt that I’d understood the essence of the game based on those first two or three hours, and it wasn’t going to grow on me.
- Beautiful artwork
- Well-composed and immersive music
- Easy achievements, you can get 1000 GamerScore in just a few hours
- Slow and boring
- No writing whatsoever, including with the AI
- No need for it to be co-op, doesn't utilise it well
- The puzzles don't require any real thinking