Afalstein Reviews: Proteus

Translation Note: The Anglais version of this content is being displayed because the Français translation is unavailable.

Proteus is a very strange game.  In fact, in some ways, it’s not a game so much as a virtual atmosphere.  There is no story, no conflict, and no obstacles.  What there is, however, is a beautiful, colorful world with charming music and immersive sounds.

The game places you on a gorgeous island, full of trees, mountains, a cabin, and even some ruins on the hills.  Birds fly in the trees, chickens and small woodland creatures scurry across the ground, and even flies can occasionally be seen.  Clouds flit across the horizon, rain falls, wind blows, day turns into night and back again.  It is a thoroughly realized, self-sustaining world.  

All this is rendered in the game’s deceptively simple pixelated style.  I say ‘deceptively’ because Proteus, despite its appearance, is actually a fairly graphics-intensive game.  When I first purchased it, I found it wouldn’t run on my laptop, and had to re-install on my more robust desktop.  Proteus may not have the details and textures of more popular games, but it works hard on bringing the essentials to life.  When the wind blows, the trees rustle and billow in the wind.  When the rain falls, little ripples can be seen on the surrounding ocean.  Proteus’ graphics teach the player to appreciate the world, the overall impression formed from a sunset over the ocean, rather than the thousands of individual grass stems that often make the graphics of higher-end games seem noisy.

Sound is where Proteus really shines, though.  Rather than a set musical score that plays in the background, Proteus’ music is made of the thousand elements that compose the island itself.  The animals, the plants, the weather, even the sky itself each have their own particular musical tones that change.  When the wind stirs the island, and the trees rustle, they do so with a musical twinkle all their own. Approaching chickens makes them run away with a series of high-pitched tones.  Rain adds a melodic series of rhythmic low notes.  Even the sky fading from blue to carries its own particular tune.  Again, the importance lies in the overall impression—the symphony created by the interaction of all the parts of the island.

Really, the player is largely superfluous to this world.  All he can do is explore and appreciate the island, there is no reason, no goal for him to follow.  Honestly, as much as I enjoyed the world of Proteus, there is not a great deal of replay value, because there is not a lot to do, aside from walking around the island and appreciating the beauty.  The only way to progress in the game is find various spots on the island where tiny white dots swirl around, making time move faster as you approach them.  Entering these areas will change the season of the island, from spring to summer to fall to winter.  But that is all.  The player can chase after rabbits, listen to the rainfall, climb mountains, or listen to the rainfall, but nothing really changes.  Because of this, while Proteus is a fascinating technical achievement, it is not a game most will enjoy.

In many ways, Proteus is the sort of game Myst was intended to be.  Rand Miller has said that the puzzles were never the point of Myst—that he and his brother werent even fans of puzzles.  They were included to break up the pace and force the player to spend time appreciating the virtual world.  And that is what Proteus is all about.  Appreciating the world.  It is less fantastic, certainly—there are no exotic cultures or underground generators, and certainly no teleporting books.  Nor does it have Myst’s fascinating manner of telling story through environment.  In Proteus, the story IS the environment.  It is a game centered around the way all the different parts of a world fit together to create a beautiful, harmonious symphony.