Degrees of Separation PC Review

A pretty platformer with both enjoyable and frustrating bits, Degrees of Separation lacks the variety to stand out from the pack but can and does entertain while telling a heartfelt story.

By Woozie, Posted 20 Feb 2019

A barrier going through the center of the screen separates the opposite worlds that clash in Degress of Separation. It shifts its position as the two protagonists move around, being present even when they’re far from each other. Ember comes from a land of fire and warmth, Rime from one of frost and cold. The two protagonists are drawn to each other but unable to cross out of their realms, setting off on a journey where they must use their contrasting natures to overcome obstacles and break the barrier that keeps them apart.

In Rime’s world, water freezes, making it possible to walk on its surface, platforms lower and pushing round objects turns them into growing snowballs. Ember cannot walk on the water’s surface but she’s able to submerge, while platforms move upwards when in her part of the screen. Similarly, pushing the snowball into Ember’s world makes it gradually smaller as warmth melts the snow away. The two different worlds cater to a handful of neat interactions that are creatively employed on a number of occasions when facing the more challenging platforming sequences that Degrees of Separation throws your way.

Degrees of Separation, PC, Review, Screenshot

Aside from each protagonists’ particularities, Degrees of Separation introduces elements that impact platforming in each of its five worlds. In the second world, Ember and Rime get staves that let them turn the line that divides their contrasting realms into a physical bridge that they can use to solve puzzles. The third world lets them trigger an explosion at the center point where the worlds meet, breaking rocks that block their path. In the fourth world they can don a cloak that removes the world-changing effects of the character wearing it. Then, the fifth world reduces the influence of Ember and Rime’s realms to small circles around them.

While all these are neat shifts that do freshen up the platforming, Degrees of Separation could have done more when it comes to puzzle variety. Although these abilities change up the way that you’re approaching the game’s different puzzles, you’ll be mostly stuck manipulating ropes, raising and lowering platforms, building snowballs and blocking or using steam to advance further by collecting scarves required to progress. The more you push on, the more the sequences being to feel samey.

As I made my way through the first world, I initially took the scarves spread around to be optional objectives. That’s only partially true, however, as the doors to each subsequent world requires a set number of scarves to open. Each scarf requires completing a smaller or larger platforming bit and, the open nature of each world is a nice touch, allowing you to approach the challenges in whichever order you feel like it. Checkpoints also allow for faster travelling in between different points of the world. It’s a plus because their difficulty also varies quite a bit. While in some cases the solution is as straightforward as grabbing unto a rope to raise a wooden gate for the other character to pass through, other puzzles require quite a bit of fiddling with the barrier between Rime and Ember’s worlds and repeatedly shifting their positions.

Degrees of Separation, PC, Review, Screenshot

Cooperation is very much required for advancing, but after playing through Degrees of Separation on my own, I’m left with the impression that the game is much more enjoyable when tackled in co-op, alongside a friend or significant other. Where in co-op each player controls one of the two protagonists, solo play requires constant switching between characters. While it’s easily done by pressing Q, the more demanding puzzles require a lot of going back and forth between Ember and Rime, or awkwardly jumping over each other in tight spaces. This can make longer sessions feel tiring. It’s also not as fluid and satisfying to have to constantly reposition characters, when you could be communicating with another player for an smoother flow to things.

Progressing through levels and collecting scarves prompts interventions from a narrator that describes Ember and Rime’s relationship, alongside what’s going on with their worlds. Sometimes, the narrator even offers hints as to how different sections can be approached in order to solve them.  It’s all well voice acted and written, and, while it didn’t make me care for the characters themselves, the narration did manage to make me somewhat curious about the conclusion to their struggle of breaking the barrier between their worlds.

Degrees of Separation is quite pretty but, although its storybook aesthetic has its own personality, a good number of locations and scenes end up blending together. Despite its worlds being themed around different locations, from a lush forest housing a wizard’s tower to more oppressive underground mines, I can’t say that there were a lot of elements that particularly stood out. The soundtrack, on the other hand is quite gorgeous, giving the game a fairytale-esque charm.

Degrees of Separation, PC, Review, Screenshot

Degrees of Separation’s reliance on the physical barrier between two opposing worlds as the main mechanic in its puzzle solving, lends itself to more than a few brain twisting challenges. At the same time, it could have also used a few more refreshers. While it’s very much playable in single-player, you’re bound to have a better time with it in local co-op, as that removes the constant need of switching characters and awkwardly jumping over your companion (online co-op didn’t make the launch but is scheduled for a later patch). Its open-ended levels allow you to fiddle around and approach puzzles in whichever order you want to, which is a welcome bit of freedom. A pretty platformer with both enjoyable and frustrating bits, Degrees of Separation lacks the variety to stand out from the pack but can and does entertain while telling a heartfelt story.

Bogdan Robert, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Modus Games
Developer(s): Moondrop
Genres: Puzzle, Platformer
Themes: Adventure
Release Date: 2019-02-14

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