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It’s no surprise that I love me some old-school first-person shooters. I think I’m remembered rather ‘fondly’ for screaming at people who do not include Blood on their list of the best shooters ever made. I will forever shill for that sweet 90s/early 2000s goodness without remorse or regret. Thus, I expected a Doom or Quake clone (there’s no shortage of that these days) or a cheap horde shooter when I was roped in to try out Paradox Vector, a vector graphics shooter made by a single guy. After playing the game for quite a while, I’m glad to report that Paradox Vector is a different beast altogether.

Paradox Vector is a weird game. It’s a minimalist first-person shooter featuring wireframe vector visuals and gameplay inspired by Metroidvania FPSs (don’t @me) rather than no-nonsense games like Doom or Quake. Oh, and the game is heavily inspired by the works of M.C. Escher and cosmic horror fiction. So, as you can see, appearances are deceptive and Paradox Vector has a lot going for it —  a strange mix of genres and ideas to be sure but hey, in a time when retro FPSs are dime-a-dozen, I’ll take anything unique that comes my way.

The story of Paradox Vector is as otherwordly as the game itself. You play as the daughter of a disgraced scientist trying to prove the existence of a long-lost civilization in the South Pole. Following in the footsteps of your father and to avenge his honor, you travel through time to reach back into earth’s primordial age. Alas, something goes wrong and you become a prisoner of a vast fortress that predates even dinosaurs. The game revolves around collecting the 9 Paradox Triangles scattered throughout the world to return to our time. But this is not to be an easy feat, as this strange realm is inhabited by creatures and traps that defy our perception and logic.

To be honest, Paradox Vector didn’t really capture my attention during the first 30 minutes or so. The visuals, while unique (ripped straight from the mind of a 1980s teenager imagining what a cyberworld would look like 20 years later), looked kind of plain and the gunplay felt too basic. However, after an hour of playing, everything sort of fell into place. The neon-lit walls and ceilings, non-linear labyrinthian levels with mathematically impossible geometry, the creepy ambiance, non-euclidean imagery, and Lovecraft’s favorite jellyfish monsters make for a short yet ingenious experience.

paradox vector

By far, the best things about Paradox Vector are its aesthetics and level design. At the Mountains of Madness seems to be a big inspiration for the game and Paradox Vector wears it on its sleeves. The haunting sense of loneliness and the bewilderment induced by the unknown follows the player every step of the way.

The game uses a hub system similar to, let’s say, Hexen but much less frustrating and without the ridiculous amount of button hunting. In true Metroidvania fashion, you can revisit and access previously blocked-off parts of dungeons when you acquire items that let you do so. The game doesn’t hold your hand and  you are free to explore dungeons at your leisure- provided you have the item/ability needed to access them.

From the outside, the levels in Paradox Vector make it seem like they’re something you get stuck in for hours. But, despite the complex level layouts or the lack of any distinguishable landmarks, it’s easy to find your way around the levels thanks to the memorable geometry-based level design that doesn’t miss a chance to play mind games on you. Each level rewards you in the form of upgrades, weapons, or new items that can be used to get into previously inaccessible areas. Each level leads into the next in an organic manner and backtracking seldom feels like a chore.

However, the game is still in Early Access despite being feature complete. Paradox Vector has trouble keeping up a solid 60 FPS in the hub area and you may experience crashes if you try to alt-tab out of the game. Moreover, the shooting can come across as inaccurate due to the off-center crosshair, and the audio-visual feedback during combat is not that satisfying either. This, combined with the already basic gunplay makes the combat sections rather forgettable.

Final Impression

Paradox Vector is a well-paced albeit short experience that welcomes you with its Tron-like wireframe visuals, unsettling atmosphere, impeccable level design that plays around with the concept of impossible geometry and rewarding exploration. The combat isn’t perfect but it gets the job done. The EA version is feature-complete and it’s quite cheap at $9.99/₹ 349. As such, there’s no real reason to not buy Paradox Vector if you dig what the game has to offer.

UPDATE: A new patch was released on the day of this review that seems to have fixed the issue with the aiming as well as provide a performance boost in outside areas.


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