Vaporum: Lockdown - XB1 Review

Vaporum: Lockdown
by developer and publisher Fatbot GamesMicrosoft Xbox One review written by Nick with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

The steampunk setting of Vaporum: Lockdown is immediately appealing, and the progression elements are enjoyable as well. It’s not a terribly long game, but perhaps that is to its benefit as I have to admit I enjoyed the game more at the outset than I did by the time I was finished with it. There is a lot to like about this 3D, grid-based dungeon crawler that serves as a prequel to Vaporum, which released a few years ago.

To begin with, we are in the role of a single character named Ellie Teller. The narrative begins simply enough, discussing where society stands and how people rather mindlessly devote themselves to the nebulous cause of betterment. Elli’s father was one such person who is now gone from her life – but she has somewhat followed in his footsteps years later. She finds herself in a research facility out in the ocean as Vaporum: Lockdown teaches you its basics of movement, combat and progression. From there, things escalate rather quickly as the various creatures and robots within the facility become aggressive and Elli’s partner on her communications channel gives her some warning that something has gone terribly wrong.

From there, Vaporum: Lockdown takes on a somewhat tense setting that immediately reminded me of the first two Bioshock games. Lots of blue and green hues, the steampunk setting, the first-person view and more give it that claustrophobic vibe that I enjoyed from those games. Though instead of being an action title, this is much more akin to the old Eye of the Beholder or Legend of Grimrock games. It is a blend of action-RPG and dungeon crawler. What does that mean, exactly? Instead of turn-based combat with oodles of menus, the combat is a bit more fluid. Instead of working through menus that overlay other menus, you have weapons you can equip to one or both hands to shoot guns or swing melee attacks as you and your opponents have the option to move around and try to get in and out of lines of sight. There are more advanced techniques (similar to what you would think of as magical attacks if this were a fantasy setting) where you can launch fire out in a line directly in front of you, or electricity more out to your sides or temporarily increasing your rate of attack.

The combat generally works quite well, even if it can be a little redundant at times. I mean – you do spend about 90% of your combat time spamming the left button on your controller as rapidly as your cooldown times will allow as enemies try to bop you back. It gets a bit more intense and perilous when enemies swarm around you, hitting you from multiple sides. Room design is a big factor here, as sometimes you will find yourself out in the open and more easily surrounded, and other times you may find yourself in a somewhat narrow passage that is just begging for you to launch a fire attack forward in a narrow column of flames that spans multiple tiles and starts to burn away at multiple enemies at once. As the game progresses, enemies do seem to get a bit more variety in their movements and attacks, but a great deal of successful combat is taking your time as you explore and making sure to upgrade as much as possible.

As you lead Elli through the various levels, you spend almost as much time solving quests as you do fighting enemies. Sometimes the quests are pretty straightforward and you find yourself fetching batteries to charge up panels that will then let you open a door. Other times you might find yourself using a gun to strike a button on the far wall that changes how the panels on the floor around (or under you0 are configured (open or closed for example) while sliding or pushing a large box around to put its weight on a sensor that will hold a door open for you. These physics-based puzzles are usually not too difficult to figure out – at least in the earlier going. Where the puzzles started to wear on my patience a bit later was when I encountered timed ones that required precise movements within specific windows. One early example was shooting a wall button and then turning around to sprint into a nearby room before the gate popped back into place.

I enjoyed those kinds of environmental puzzles far less. For one, the controls are a little clunky – which is fine for a dungeon crawler, but shows up more when you are in a hurry with your movements. Additionally, in the later levels some of these puzzles are a bit more spread out and sometimes it is not obvious what hitting a button or stepping on a panel is doing further down the hall or around a corner, requiring a lot of trial and error. Equally frustrating are the hidden / breakable walls, as there is little to nothing to differentiate them from other walls most of the time, leading you to waste a bunch of time either striking everything or doubling back a great deal. Perhaps a skill to sniff those out would have been helpful.

There is a lot of option content to be had here if you like exploration and want to try and find every one of the aforementioned puzzles as possible. The research facility is an enjoyably creepy setting. There’s a great sense of isolation, and a lot of times a moving gear out of the corner of my eye made me jumpy because I thought it was an enemy. Conversely, there were times I visually missed on seeing an encroaching enemy because I was so lost in just looking around or working through a puzzle. The audio lacks music, but there’s plenty of sound effects and some audio recorders to be found along the way that keep the story and game moving along.


Vaporum: Lockdown creates a nice sense of isolation and is a fun experience, despite some frustrating puzzles along the way. The presentation is solid and the progression elements are rewarding, even if the combat itself can be slightly repetitive after a time. Vaporum: Lockdown made a great initial impression on me, though by the time I got into the title’s later content, I was less enamored with it overall.

Score: 7 / 10



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