Memory’s Reach is what happens when you take the mysterious alien architecture from No Man’s Sky and turn that into a proper puzzle game. As a solo project by developer Ben Droste, who a few may recognize as the creator behind The Eyes of Ara from 2016, Memory’s Reach has you play a nameless explorer attempting to reboot a strange superstructure on an alien planet. Droste showed us an early thirty-minute build of Memory’s Reach at GDC 2023 that provided a sneak peek into the types of environmental puzzles and secrets that the game has in store.
An alien mass extinction
Playing similar to The Witness, the game’s demo started off with a light exploration area where I needed to scan various objects to glean information on what happened to the alien civilization to cause its collapse. Moving around the map in first-person, I was able to analyze a rock formation to receive a message that the world was contaminated by something unusual called quantamite radiation. While this mystery of the civilization’s disappearance is mainly a side story, Droste mentioned that there could be puzzles added later in the game that will incorporate the lore, so it’s worth paying attention to any clues and secrets you find.
Droste also commented that he wanted the user interface to look more like Metroid Prime’s, as if you were looking through a helmet that displays information about the surrounding area. To that end, he’s hoping to add a UI expert to this project in the near future, along with a composer to better capture a sense of wonder when surveying the game’s cosmic, labyrinthine world.
The puzzle among the puzzles
The general outline of the critical path involves exploring the various areas of the environment, solving enough puzzles to obtain a lost relic or key, and then gaining access to previously locked sections of the world. Each area will have its own particular theme; for instance, the area I went through focused on puzzles based on hexagonal tiles. Several podiums had broken connections that I needed to repair by rotating these tiles individually and as a group in a ring. It took quite a bit of thought to figure out how to slot in the tiles correctly, but with some trial and error, I was eventually able to unlock access to a few elevators and activate several beams of light that hit the center column.
After finishing the last hexagonal puzzle, I thought I was in the clear until I realized that something was off with the light beams. A column I had moved earlier was blocking the third beam, requiring me to figure out the right path through the environment to untangle the platforms. It’s these kinds of overarching meta-puzzles that Droste wants players to think about, beyond just the more obvious problems like the hexagon tiles.
Piecing together the roadmap
Droste plans the full game to be about four to six hours long, enough to last about a weekend. He also wants the game to be approachable, so he will be including an accessibility option for players to solve a puzzle if they can’t figure it out. On that front, he may decide to include a hint system post-launch. In the post-game, players can optionally solve higher difficulty puzzles that look like they will unlock more pieces of the story.
It will be about a year before Memory’s Reach is completely finished, with the game scheduled for a late 2023 release that could be pushed to 2024. It is slated to launch for PC and Mac first before it is ported over to consoles. A demo for the game is planned for one of the Steam Next Festival events, though Droste is unsure which one it will be a part of yet.
This preview is based on a hands-on demo of the game on PC with a gamepad.