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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Game On: Firmament review – another gorgeous puzzler from local studio Cyan

By Riordan Zentler For The Spokesman-Review

At long last following its 2018 announcement and a successful Kickstarter campaign launched in March 2019, Spokane-based video game developer Cyan Inc. released their latest immersive puzzler, Firmament, on Thursday. A total of 18,420 backers pledged over $1.4 million to aid development.

Although their use of Kickstarter might cause some to think otherwise, Cyan’s been a developer for a very long time – founded by brothers Rand and Robyn Miller in 1987, they initially created whimsical point-and-click adventure games designed primarily for children in the form of The Manhole, Spelunx and Cosmic Osmo and the Worlds Beyond the Mackerel.

The company hit its stride when it unleashed Myst upon the world in 1991. It sold 6 million units and became the best-selling PC game of all time until The Sims took that title in 2002. Creating several sequels, Cyan quickly cemented itself as the developer of immersive, bizarre worlds populated by esoteric puzzles.

Cyan’s history is important to understanding the love and care that went into Firmament, as its game design philosophy is quite similar to their previous works. The company granted me an early review copy of the title, and when describing the game to my mother over the phone, she piped up, “Were they inspired by Myst?” Well yes, Mom – I imagine so!

While still whimsical and fascinating, Firmament’s setting is more grounded than the dreamlike realms of Myst or alien worlds of Obduction. Firmament’s gameplay primarily takes place in three locations. There’s Curievale Bluff, a factory planted in a frosty mountain range; St. Andrew Vaults, an overgrown seed vault built upon massive stone pillars; and the Juleston Reservoir, where a coniferous forest flanks a monolithic spire.

But despite its small size, my favorite area was the Swan, a lobby-like hub world dominated by massive, gold-embossed mechanical astronomer’s tools. Fans of the steampunk aesthetic will share my love for this region.

While there exists a great number of notes, books, and other hints at the lore behind Firmament’s world – all classic staples of compelling environmental storytelling – one thing Cyan did very differently this time around was include a narrator of sorts, an apparition who provides an appropriate amount of exposition, context for what players are seeing and the occasional clue.

Her instructions are appropriately vague, and there is nothing hamfisted about her inclusion. Then there’s the addition of sprinting – something that nearly every first-person game has these days – and the intuitive “Adjunct” tool that makes it a breeze to interact with the game world. It’s refreshing to see Cyan modernizing their approach to game design while still holding onto many tried-and-true elements.

It’s a very charming game, and a bit more accessible than many of Cyan’s previous titles. The only thing that holds me back from truly loving Firmament is the studio’s aforementioned penchant for esoteric puzzles. I derive little joy from solving puzzles where the first few things I try to accomplish end up being deadends. Being faced with a puzzle where it’s initially unclear what I’m even working toward is incredibly demoralizing to me personally.

This is very much a matter of personal taste – hence my use of the term “esoteric.” Cyan’s puzzles clearly aren’t intended to be straightforward. If their games were just pretty slideshows populated by word searches and Sudoku, they’d be incredibly dull and unimaginative. And “unimaginative” is just about the last word I would use to describe Cyan.

Firmament is available on PC and Mac via the Steam Store and Good Old Games. It can be played with traditional controls or in VR with Valve Index, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Rift S or Quest 2 via Oculus Link. PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 and PS VR 2 releases are to follow at a later date. It’s also verified for Steam Deck, where I can personally confirm it runs like a dream.

Riordan Zentler can be reached at

Editor’s note: This story and photo captions have been updated to include the correct years of Cyan’s crowdfunding campaign and of Firmament’s initial intended release date.