Islands of Insight is an open-world first-person puzzle game from Lunarch Studios and Dead by Daylight developer Behaviour Interactive that’s currently in the midst of an open playtest on Steam. I’ve been playing it quite a bit since the weekend (the playtest began on September 7) and so far, I’m happy to say that I’m having a really good time with it.
Islands of Insight reminds me quite a lot of The Talos Principle, with a couple shots of The Witness and Uru: Ages Beyond Myst thrown in for good measure. The game world is a series of floating islands that blends wilderness, ancient ruins, and mysticism, and there’s a vaguely condescending greater power of some sort riding herd over the whole thing.
But there are some key differences, too. For one, it’s a much more open world: Different regions need to be unlocked by completing certain tasks, but for the most part you can just go wherever and do whatever you want. It’s also a shared world—not exactly multiplayer, because there are no co-op puzzles (not yet, at least), but you can see other people in the world and interact with them in limited ways.
Along with the multiple types of puzzles—tetromino block-droppers, logic and perspective puzzles, memory tests, fractal-draggers, and more—there other types of activities to take on, like chasing floating orbs or discovering objects and gateways: Just simple stuff to do if you if you want switch your brain off and just knock around inside the game world. It really comes off as more of a digital playground than a straight-up puzzle game: Aside from the broad concept that a supreme being has you in this world for some sort of greater purpose (which may or may not actually be the case), there doesn’t seem to be any overarching narrative in place at this point, so everyone’s just sort of running around having fun. I find it oddly relaxing. Islands of Insight doesn’t have the carefully manufactured tranquillity of The Talos Principle, but there’s literally nothing to do but poke around and play, and the absence of a big-picture goal is kind of liberating.
Of course, that also reflects the fact that Islands of Insight is still in a pre-release state, which can be seen in the technical clangers that occasionally crop up. There are surprise server resets now and then, and the wings I earned by completing a puzzle sequence that enable me to fly through the world suddenly disappeared for no apparent reason and didn’t come back until developer Lunarch Studios got involved. But it’s nothing out of the ordinary for a tech test, and overall I think it’s actually going quite smoothly.
The big question for me is how well Islands of Insight will hold up over the long run. The tech test is focused solely on the game’s performance and it’s far too early in the process to judge less tangible elements, like the quality of its narrative or opportunities for exploration. And even without that, I’m enjoying the game for what it is right now: A place to just be after I’ve maxed out on Pentiment and Amid Evil. Still, I hope there’s some kind of reasonably solid narrative path to pursue in the full game; I faded pretty quickly on The Witness in large part because it was all just sort of there, without any visible point or purpose. (To be fair, I also found the puzzles extremely obtuse.)
The Islands of Insight playtest is open to all and set to run until September 21 on Steam. A full release date hasn’t been announced.