Possession 1881 Review

June 11, 2020
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Possession 1881, created by the indie group End of the Line Studios, is a point and click escape room adventure set in the Victorian age. But don’t expect to see lavish parties with women in ornamental gowns and men riding bicycles with one wheel comically larger than the other. Possession 1881 focuses on the occult elements of the era, where science merged with religion and created a bastardised fusion of both. You must make your way through a large manor in the aftermath of an experiment gone wrong. Each room offers the player new puzzles along with a little backstory to explain what happened. The variety of puzzles will keep you interested, but the game mechanics are clunky enough to frustrate players. 

Looks inviting...

The most important element of any point and click adventure is of course the puzzles. The limited amount of gameplay options that come with this genre means that the developers must keep the player engaged. In a world where every year dozens of games come out that allow gamers to fight aliens, become sports stars, and explore vast open worlds, it's hard to keep users' attention. Possession 1881 does a good job of this by exposing the player to a wide range of rooms  —  where no two look the same. The puzzles are also varied enough that they don’t become routine. None of them require you to finish in a set amount of time  —  meaning you are free to go at your own pace. The one issue with some puzzles is they could be considered too easy at times.

For example, there was one puzzle where I needed to combine four ingredients together to make a concoction. I figured out what the four elements needed to be, but I could only find three of them. So I tried adding one of the previous ingredients again and for unknown reasons, it worked. This makes me think I could have just added any four ingredients and the game would let me move on to the next room. Similarly, a few puzzles left the answer on pieces of paper found in the open, making solving them less of a challenge and something you stumble upon by accident. These are the same pieces of paper that would explain the story of Possession 1881.

May the Olmec Gods smile upon you

After puzzles, the second most important aspect of a point and click is an interesting story. Throughout Possession 1881 we learn about the dark forces that a group of scientists were trying to unleash by using a young girl as bait. We discover this through journals, notes, and written last words scattered throughout the rooms. It’s not a story that you will remember long after finishing, but it has enough interesting characteristics that will make you want to see how it ends. 

Possession 1881’s story has spooky elements, but nothing too dark. The same goes for the environment; besides talking dolls and a few corpses there isn’t much to startle players. However, lighting is used to excellent effect to add a sense of unease. Often when first entering a room it is nearly impossible to see. The first task you must do is light your torch then search for candles and lanterns to ignite. The sound effects paired with moments of silence also added to the experience.

Lord Baphomet is in pretty good shape for an ancient goat-human hybrid

By far my least favourite aspect of Possession 1881 was the overall mechanics. Just looking where you want to can be troublesome. Even the slightest jostling of the mouse could lead to your character looking in a completely different direction. Another game mechanic that missed the mark was the use of the inventory, where you could alter items to help you progress. For example, you could select a box and transform it into a key by rotating it. This should have been easy, but the object would often pivot in peculiar directions that weren’t intuitive. It’s fine for a game to have less than stellar graphics but when the entire game is played using only the mouse, the controls need to be better.

Possession 1881 is a game that fans of escape rooms can enjoy. Obviously, if you're not a fan of puzzles, steer clear. But if you are, they are unique enough that they won’t feel monotonous, and if you are experienced at this genre, you should be able to get through them fairly quickly. The story won’t blow anyone away, but it keeps you interested enough to want to progress. However, the clunkiness of the controls and interfaces makes it harder than it should be.

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Fans of point and click adventures may enjoy Possession 1881, but like a talking doll sitting on the floor of an empty room, the average gamer will likely prefer to keep their distance.
Evan Prather

I've had a love of games ever since I was getting my butt kicked on the N64 by my older brothers. My two dreams in life are to make a living in the games industry and to pull off a Kamehameha Wave — I'm not sure which is more likely.