First Impressions: Portal 2 Perpetual Testing Initiative
Valve recently released one of their more ambitious DLC packs in the form of Portal 2’s “Perpetual Testing Initiative” (best name ever!). What the free DLC offers players is both an unlimited selection of new test chambers to try out and the ability to make their own test chambers.
I’ve gotten a chance to play around with the new content and I have to say I’m pretty impressed. The tools they give you to mess around with are incredibly simple to use. Think of the create-a-home mode in The Sims, except with a more streamlined feel to it and only a limited number of options.
Not that having a limited number of options is a bad thing – it really makes you realize just how few elements there actually are in Portal 2. Its how those elements are combined that really makes the game interesting, and now the player gets a chance to combine those elements, and while it’s a little challenging, it’s also a lot of fun
Players can make difficult and elaborate puzzles, or just fill a room entirely with faith plates and soar through the air like I did. The great thing about making these chambers, though, is that even if you have a crazy idea like that, you can pretty easily just add a few elements, adjust a couple things and suddenly you have an actual test chamber on your hands.
The part of the DLC that I was most looking forward to is the ability to download and try out other people’s devious test chambers via the Steam Workshop. One of the smartest things that Valve implemented here was something called the Aperture Employee of the Moment – which highlights certain puzzles and puzzle collections all put together by one person. This is a great way to delve into the massive amount of chambers that have already been developed and is nice for those looking for a bit more guidance as far as what chambers to download.
So far one of the biggest downsides to this has been the simple fact that there’s not really any recognition for completing workshop chambers. Unlike the story mode, there’s no plot that you’re advancing and there’s no co-op support yet, so it’s not like you can enjoy the chambers with friends. I kept finding myself stuck in chambers and thinking, “why am I even doing this?”
There is a certain element of wanting to overcome the challenge, and for the most part I’ve soldiered through the tougher parts of chambers because, while it might hurt my brain, I do feel pretty proud of myself for finishing. That said, and maybe it’s just me, but I started to feel like the reward was a little bit less than what was deserved after such challenging puzzles.
It does seem that there’s an option for players to implement their own story into test chamber collections, although I haven’t seen how to do that and haven’t seen any chambers that implement it yet. That might be a good way to assuage some of the frustration present in these chambers that really don’t gain players much other than the ability to say that they’ve beaten them.
In the end, though, most of the chambers have proven not too frustrating, but I can see how it might get a bit tedious after a while. Still, the most fun I had with the new DLC was in actually creating chambers. There’s something terribly satisfying about implementing a crazy idea, then spending hours tweaking it to make your chamber just the way you want it. All in all, the “Perpetual Testing Initiative” is a success, although I wouldn’t consider it a replacement for Valve-made or story-driven DLC.