Video games have been found to teach players a lot. Studies have shown that games with many choices such as the Mass Effect trilogy can help develop decision-making skills, while combat can help improve motor function and reaction timing. Sandbox games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Minecraft can help boost creativity in developing brains. Puzzle-platformers like Zorya: The Celestial Sisters, on the other hand, will likely improve communication and problem-solving skills among gamers.
Zorya‘s style of communicative gameplay is a lot like It Takes Two, which is also an asymmetrical puzzle and co-op title. However, where It Takes Two is very hectic and fast-paced in most of its chapters, Zorya: The Celestial Sisters is more relaxed, allowing players the time to explore each space without so much pressure to solve puzzles quickly or in settings with a lot of pressure. Still, featuring both online and local co-op, it requires a hefty amount of communication between the two players in order to succeed, and it expertly guides players into doing this through trial and error.
Zorya: The Celestial Sisters’ Gameplay
As the title implies, Zorya: The Celestial Sisters stars the two celestial sisters, Aysu and Solveig. The goddesses of the Moon and Sun, respectively, oversaw the land of Viraj until she was tricked by two advisors, Huginn and Muninn. They preyed on Aysu’s sadness stemming from envy for her sister. Aysu, who brought darkness and wind, was not worshipped the same as the goddess who brought sunlight and nourished crops. Huginn and Muninn convinced her to exile herself on Viraj, leaving behind Solveig, who would spend all her power while her sister is away. Eventually, the land would freeze over, resulting in the snowy tundra players see throughout Zorya: The Celestial Sisters. Now, the two sisters must work together to be reunited and restore balance.
Just like It Takes Two‘s Cody and May, each player will control one of two characters in Zorya—either Solveig or Aysu. Solveig is symbolized by the sunlight and controls the directions of the shadows by changing the time of day, and therefore, where the sun is positioned. While this happens, Aysu’s job is to navigate to the goal, but she can only walk through the shadows or else she’ll be burned by the sunlight. Furthermore, Aysu’s player will have a traditional third-person view from the ground while Solveig can see the entire map from the sky. Later on, Aysu and Solveig will gain more abilities, such as Aysu’s power of the wind, which can be used to push enemies away or push objects down tracks, and Solveig’s light beam, which can burn enemies or activate pillars to move platforms.
How Zorya Teaches Players
Because of Zorya‘s asymmetrical cooperative gameplay explained above, it’s important for players to communicate with one another frequently, if not constantly. But the different perspectives paired with difficult puzzles also mean players need to play around with their abilities a lot, and they shouldn’t be afraid to fail. The sunlight is unforgiving if Aysu accidentally steps in it, so while partners need to communicate, they also need to explore each and every space.
In the beginning, Solveig will do a lot more guiding because of the nature of her position. Zorya: The Celestial Sisters masterfully teaches players how to encounter new problems from starting with the absolute basics: navigating from point A to point B using only shadows. The first constellation Crow is largely introductory in this way, showing players each of the elementary mechanics they’ll need to get by. But, in these first few lessons, Aysu’s abilities are limited, and because Solveig can see the entire map and control the shadows, Aysu will largely follow her lead until later on when she acquires a few more skills.
These new abilities will start to include pushing objects like pillars along tracks so that Solveig can reach and activate them, which can unlock doors and move platforms across water. This is where The Celestial Sisters requires players to tinker with each puzzle and explore possible pathways and options. Puzzles aren’t always straightforward, and Zorya sometimes uses trickery as a means of teaching the player. While one stage might present itself with pillars on a track, implying that it needs to be pushed, this might be intentionally misleading, and pairs will need to play around with their abilities rather than go for the expected solutions. However, similar to the expertly designed Witness and its many puzzles, Zorya shows this to players early on so they can take the skill with them throughout their journeys.
Because Zorya: The Celestial Sisters relies so heavily on communication and thinking outside the box to solve each puzzle, there isn’t an AI that players can pair up with to play the game. They’ll need to find a friend, partner, or family member to play alongside them in local or online co-op. There is a friend pass available that the purchaser can give their buddy who hasn’t purchased the game, but it only grants access to the first few levels of Zorya. Still, like how It Takes Two is an excellent game for couples, Zorya: The Celestial Sisters is great for pairs in many types of cohesive relationships including roommates, friends, and siblings as well because it shows how communication is so necessary to solve problems, and doing so together brings not only loved ones together, but Aysu and Solveig as well.
Zorya: The Celestial Sisters releases on February 8, 2022 for PC and Switch.
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