We Were Here Forever PC Review

The We Were Here series is fresh in my mind, as I actually only discovered the first title earlier this year when I played it with a friend on stream. We Were Here is a free game, so there was no cost for giving it a test, so I recommend grabbing a friend and giving it a shot. It was a concept I enjoyed, but you could see it was a teaser, a demonstration of what could be possible. We Were Here was developed as part of a student project. Its reception was met with praise, so much so that since then there have been three follow-ups, We Were Here Too, We Were Here Together and this latest entry. All three sequels are commercial titles and having recently played them all quite close together, it has been an eye-opener to see how each sequel improved. Every sequel was more extensive in scope, more adventurous with its puzzle design and kept adding more lore to build toward an interesting story within its setting of Castle Rock and its mysterious residents, which comes to a conclusion in this game. I can comfortably say We Were Here Forever is the best title so far, accumulating everything that has been learned from developing the previous titles and combining it all into this swansong for the series.

It should be noted that We Were Here Forever, and the series in general, are cooperative experiences only. There is no option for single-player or split-screen, this is all online-based. There is also no friend’s pass to have a friend join in for free, so both players need to have the game. In fairness, the game is not expensive, coming in at £14.99, and my playthrough was around 8+ hours, so it is not too short. In fact, this is the longest entry in the series. If you cannot find a friend, there is a lobby system to create or join other lobbies, so you can find random players.

We Were Here Forever is heavy on communication, using a walkie-talkie in the game as voice communication. This does not have to be this way if you and a friend use something like Discord, but for playing with random online players, the walkie-talkie is the only way to communicate with each other. The device lights up when your teammate is using it to simulate real-life behaviour in which a button has to be pressed to communicate, but if you both are pressing it then the voice is interrupted. It works to communicate in a calm matter so that the messages between each other are clear. It is a cool feature that helps it set the atmosphere and concept of the game.

This sequel continues the story of two explorers, who wake up separated in their own jail cells inside Castle Rock. Mysterious energy opens the doors and off the explorers go trying to get through the castle and find a way to escape. It is not long until the Jester returns, doing the King’s bidding by causing frustration for our explorers, who end up captured and stuck within the puzzles of the Jester. The story grows larger than the King, Jester and Castle Rock, because soon it is learned that the townsfolk were fed-up with the King’s poor agreement with the evil power, and so came up with a plan to overthrow the King, but sadly did not happen. It is down to the two explorers to try to accomplish this or be forever trapped within the King’s magical grasp of Castle Rock. It was a nice surprise to see how much story is in this game compared to the last three. These include small cutscenes, but also incorporate the plot into some of the puzzles, telling a story as the players solve the puzzles. A clever way to keep the gameplay going, but also keep the narrative moving.

The main concept of We Were Here Forever is pushing for communication between the players while they solve escape room puzzles. There are occasions where the puzzles are done together as a team, but most of the time the two players are split and must relay to each other through the walkie-talkies what they are seeing. This is because the puzzles often require both parties to work together to solve them. In the early part of the game where the explorers are escaping the dungeons, these puzzles are simple, sharing symbols and combinations between each other to open doors and progress further into the dungeon. A lot of the puzzles are around this idea of sharing information, but they are done in a smart way to make them feel refreshing. Puzzles are not always simply sharing symbols and combinations, but so much more, and towards the end of the game the two explorers are sending items to each other to help progress.

I do not want to spoil much about the puzzles, but I will highlight my favourite one, even though they are plenty of good puzzles in the game that I could talk about. The first wow moment that signalled that the puzzle designers were taking it to a whole new level is when the Jester captures the players and locks them within a magical box. The first part of the puzzle is using coloured switches and numbered portals on the sides of the walls to help each player get through a maze, nothing all that amazing, but it was the second part that really hit home with the designs. This part of the puzzle is set within a space where rooms are placed on the inside walls of a sphere, giving a 360 view of all the rooms on the walls, with the other explorer in another one of these rooms. The idea is that both players need to tell each other what symbols are above the doors, so they can rotate the rooms and join the doorways together, which then opens the doorway into the room with the symbol above it. This starts with only a couple of rooms, but as the players solve the puzzles, more rooms, and even alternative dimensions with more rooms, are constantly added, making it more complex to get to the end gate that both players need to get to. A fantastic escape room that promotes the bests features of the game, the cooperative communication and the fun, engrossing, asymmetrical puzzles.

To get the smoothest experience it helps to have a person playing who has the same patience and mental approach as yourself, as some solutions can take time to work out and require descriptive work to help the person on the other side of the walkie-talkie understand what is being told to them. With me and fellow DarkZero writer Ian, this added an amusing element where – I guess this means we have our minds in the gutters – we would describe symbols like “looks like a penis with a curly base and is climaxing” or “it is a Tie Fighter with a missing roof” or “it looks like a goalkeeper’s box although slanted to the side.” Not the best detective work, but we understood it. This is key so that messages are relayed to each other without any confusion.

It truly feels that the developers went all out with the puzzle designs. There were always snippets of brainy puzzles in the previous games, but this time around they really are the front and centre of this game, the soul of the experience. There are rarely any puzzles that are bad or nonsensical, which the last couple of games did feature. The worst they get is when one player is made to wait around a little while the other player is performing the action. While the best puzzles are the ones that bring a sense of achievement, the relief which comes when the lightbulb moment switches on and the solution pops into the head. Those are the ones that help give the players a sense of euphoria.

Total Mayhem Games’ art direction helps push this fourth entry to be the most atmospheric and visually pleasing yet. The expanded landscape enables the explorers to get away from the setting of Castle Rock and explore its surroundings, the village and its critical locations, adding variety to what could have been a dreary medieval castle backdrop. The magical element has let the art team experiment with colours and styles that make sense within the plot of the game. There are some issues with the performance in which the frame rate would tank when moving into a new area. In one instance I thought the game had crashed because it was moving in single digits and froze for a few seconds. I am not sure if it is down to the way Unity has been used, but I find it hard to believe it would be a hardware issue, as the game was running on a Ryzen 5800x, Nvidia 3090 and on a Gen4 NVME drive.

For fans of the series, We Were Here Forever is clearly the best yet, a growth of everything the team at Total Mayhem Games has done in the previous We Were Here games to produce some of their best puzzle designs. The team have stuck with their initial concept all these years and iterated on it, eventually coming to this great conclusion. If you are new to the game, there is no harm starting here, it is the best entry so far, but with the other games being free/cheap, I recommend playing them all and seeing how each one has improved to arrive at this swansong.

This review is for We Were Here Forever, though, and with that in mind it should be noted that there are not many games like this, ones that rely on communication and asymmetrical puzzle solving. Even so, this has not stopped the developers from making this fourth entry bigger, larger and more adventurous than ever before. Sometimes doing this can be a negative, but for this series, it has been done with huge success. This is a quality cooperative experience that I wholly recommend for people who enjoy solving ingenious puzzles with a like-minded friend.

8 out of 10
DarkZero