Vaporum, from developer Fatbot Games, is a first-person dungeon crawler that combines a steam-punk aesthetic and enemies with the tried-and-true formula of a classic dungeon crawler. This unique concept of taking a genre rooted in Medieval times and making it more modern was a great idea from the developers and even innovated on some core tenets to make the experience something memorable. While I found this premise more intriguing than an average dungeon crawler setting, there wasn’t quite enough risks taken to make Vaporum a must-play for those looking to get into the genre.
Gameplay-wise, Vaporum consists of you exploring floor by moving in a grid-like pattern. The atmosphere is on-point in terms of mystique and intrigue going through the dull lit corridors not knowing what will pop out. The Steampunk aesthetic shines through and this definitely helped to draw me in.
Each level consists of a mix of exploration, combat, and puzzle solving. Puzzle solving was a much larger part of the game than I thought would be present and while they were executed adequately, never really added to the experience of the setting. Besides the introductory tutorials, the puzzles were rather hands-off leaving it up to you to figure out and sometimes could border on frustrating. Unfortunately, there were plenty of situations where I felt lost and couldn’t figure out how to proceed, but then again, it made the “aha” moments more fulfilling.
The environments did a good job of rewarding your exploration with secret rooms and hidden buttons that you could find to discover secret treasures and equipment. These areas usually were necessary to find for successful negotiating the dangerous hallways as you could earn additionally skill points from them. All of these elements really sold me on feeling alone in the environment and also created a sense of mystery not knowing what treasure or dreaded monstrosity lied around the corner. Finding new areas and solving puzzles, along with overall aesthetic and sound design, really enhanced the experience.
Exploring this strange Steampunk dungeon will have you encounter many enemies and they are unflinching in their pursuit. The combat itself operates in real-time and all attacks have minor cool-downs. It is very similar to an active turn-based system where you get a variety of melee, ranged, and skill based attacks. The combat can boil down to trying to find a safe spot in the environment so that you can only be attacked from one direction.
Fighting one enemy is a strategy, but you’ll really want to be concerned with this when you’re fighting more than one enemy. The layer of strategy comes in with being able to stop time and use this as an opportunity to plan your next course of action. I appreciated this, because when you’re fighting more than one enemy it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. There are some interesting and unique guns to use, as well as some useful skills. The combat is serviceable, but definitely not the highlight of Vaporum.
Where I had the most enjoyment was exploring and finding secrets in this mysterious world where you never quite knew what to expect. There is a story component which adds to the lore of the world with the initial cutscene setting up the premise for why you’re even venturing into this troubling dungeon, even though your main character does not remember anything. Throughout your play through, you’ll encounter audio logs to help further add to the atmosphere.
Overall, Vaporum was a game I enjoyed playing, mainly for its world building and exploration into something I truly never experienced. The controls and fighting in general were overly cumbersome, but did not overly detract from the experience. Since movement is based on a grid-like system turning can feel janky and overly sensitive making your character appear to be floating around too much. This is only a minor annoyance though, as I found Vaporum to be most of what I wanted in a good dungeon crawling experience.