When a game is built around a single style of puzzle, it had better be good. It needs to be versatile and modular in a way that allows it to be presented in literally thousands of different ways to a different effect each time. Filament is that kind of game and it handles its puzzle style quite well as you thread lighted cord around nodes to solve puzzle rooms and fix a space station.
A big galactic fixer-upper
Filament’s story is simple. You’re a spaceman of sorts, and you arrive at a derelict space station to start piecing it back together like an interstellar handyman. The place looks lived-in with various breakrooms, offices, home decorations, and such, but the only company you have is a female voice calling herself Juniper that takes notice of you shortly after you gain access to the ship. Dubbing you “Pluto,” Juniper tells you little by little about what happened on the ship and the crewmates that used to reside there with her before your arrival.
It seems the only way you two are going to figure things out is if you can fix the ship up and work your way to the navigation control room where the disembodied voice arrives. That said, the voice is a little bit of solace in an otherwise eerily hollow place. The fixing of various power “anchors” throughout the ship supplies you with a little bit of narrative each time and makes for some appreciated company in the ship’s otherwise cold confines.
Light is right along the correct path
The key component of gameplay in Filament occurs when you interact with any engageable power station or anchor. From there, you take on the role of a little robot with a cord of light (the titular filament) attached to it in a series of rooms. In order to move onto the next room, you must often light up nodes by moving around the room, leaving cord behind you in such a way that it touches each required node to turn it on. Once you’ve turned on all nodes, you must then cross through the exit door unobstructed.
When we say unobstructed, that’s one of the tough parts of Filament. You can’t walk over the cord and if you lay in too thick at various junctures, you could block your own path to successfully lighting nodes or exiting the room. Furthermore, as you work your way up to more complicated puzzles, more obstacles appear. There are black nodes that will cut the power supply to your cord if it touches them. There are also nodes attached to circuits with all sorts of abilities like opening sections of wall in a room or powering an arrow that turns a nearby black node into a regular node to be powered.
In this way, Filament takes its simplistic puzzle design and introduces various knick knacks that make any given room run from simple and easy to utterly brain-twisting in their complexity. You don’t seem to lose anything if you make a mistake. You can easily rewind your robot’s path with the holding of a button which tugs them by the cord back to the start, so you can try and experiment to your heart’s content as well.
Give me some light in the dark here
Filament is impressive in the way it takes its core puzzle and uses various little changes to make vast arrays of different room designs and challenges out of it, but for how tough it gets sometimes, Filament also does very little to hold your hand when you get lost. Solving puzzles can sometimes open up boxes which contain clues to certain puzzles on the ship, but there are no hint systems or skipping when a puzzle gets too tough otherwise. You simply have to figure out the way forward or take a break.
Don’t get us wrong. We love a good challenge, and Filament supplies it. Moreover, if you’re having too much trouble with one type of challenge, you can always abandon that power anchor, try another one located in the ship’s various areas, and come back to where you left off later. There are a lot of different styles of puzzles, and as you complete certain sets, more of the ship opens up, allowing you to explore further, hear more narrative, and check out different kinds of puzzles. In this way, it offers a bit of freedom to take a break from a particularly hard segment and try something different.
No one said space maintenance was easy
Even in just a hands-on preview of the game, Filament definitely offered us a novel experience in puzzle-solving. Even if it can become overly difficult quickly in certain puzzle segments, there’s no denying that the game supplies an interesting variety of challenge for its choice of puzzle style. Moreover, the narrative from Juniper as a bit of reward between stretches of puzzle-solving does well to lighten up the otherwise quiet and cold experience of journeying through the derelict space station. Finding our way through a tough set of challenges to hear that voice and know we were moving forward was delightful. A hint system might be cool for some of the more difficult puzzle rooms, but overall, Filament has good things going on and we can't wait to see more when it launches.
This preview is based on a pre-release Steam copy provided by the publisher. Filament is set to release in the US on Steam in Q1 2020.