For Qora, many things come in twos.
First, there’s the story. On the surface, the game is about your quest to answer an inexplicable calling to explore a mysterious temple.
But the more interesting aspect of the game is the vignettes that run parallel to your journey. As you make your way further and further into the mysterious temple, you’ll be prompted to use a blessing given to you by gods to peer through ‘the divide.’ Here, you’ll get glimpses of another world. You’re never quite sure what these visions mean. Sometimes they seem to be glimpses of the past, but other times they show truly surreal events.
Unfortunately, the mechanic and the storyline itself, entertaining as they are, fail to deliver a truly satisfying story. This is where another of Qora’s ‘twos’ come in.
Steam’s achievements indicate that there are at least two endings to the game. Through what I considered a natural playthrough, I arrived at the second of the two endings first. The results were jarring.
Part of the issue is that Qora tries to walk the line between serious and playful. The game’s undertone suggests you’re working towards a deeper meaning, but there are sprinkles of comedic elements along the way. The second ending, however, seems to focus more on comedy than meaning.
Having inadvertently come to the second ending first, I found it difficult to justify the two hours I spent exploring the blurred worlds Qora offered. It felt like the entire thing had been a long-winded set-up to an inside joke. Under different circumstances, I might be praising the ending for its creativity, but it will always be the one I arrived at first. And the saying about first impressions definitely holds true here.
The game’s humor is not the issue. During the actual playthrough, it is used fairly well to create a lighthearted, but meaningful adventure. Sure, some of the jokes are a bit too blunt or lack relevance to the story as a whole, but they add to a game whose very foundation is built on charm.
The game also excels in one of its most heavily promoted areas: beautiful landscapes. Your adventure through the mysterious temple is accompanied by consistently amazing backdrops that deliver a sense of mysticism.
Unfortunately, the game also seems to realize this is one of its best features. Periodically, it forces you to stop as birds or bats fly across the screen for several seconds. These moments appear to have no significance to the story or gameplay. Instead, it seems their only purpose is to highlight the art. What’s most unfortunate about this is that it’s completely unnecessary. The backgrounds often speak for themselves, making you want to pause and admire them on your own.
The good news is, the game isn’t supported by pretty pictures alone. The background music is a pleasant mix of relaxing and magical sounds that fit the tone and style. The music rarely sticks with you, but it never takes away from the experience, either.
For the final set of Qora’s ‘twos,’ there’s the gameplay. To be blunt, there’s very little. The entire game uses five buttons: the four arrow keys and the space bar. This segments the game into two audiences.
First, there’s the vast majority of gamers. For them, this game will be incredibly unsatisfying. While there are puzzles, they are extremely easy to solve. Aside from finding a few secret paths, you’ll mostly be going left or right. If you’re looking for a challenge, look somewhere else.
However, this game is meant for a different set of gamers. It’s an art piece in video game form. In lieu of complicated missions, the game focuses on its narrative structure. Certainly, there are games that provide both art and gameplay, but Qora is more in line with To the Moon rather than Limbo.
Ultimately, you’ll need to decide what you’re hoping for out of a game like Qora and make your decision accordingly. If you want to test your mental might or reflexes, consider other games, like Fez or Bastion. But if you want a relaxing stroll through a beautiful world and a chance to ponder an interesting, although brief, story, Qora should deliver.