For the fifth time in a row we get a main submachine entry with a wholly unique graph design. Before diving into the graph, it is worth noting that Submachine 5 is the first game in the series to feature a minute worth of warmup gameplay before the puzzles begin. This is just my speculation, but I think submachine 5 was designed this way to emphasize the specific atmosphere this game was going for, which I will get to later.
For the first time since the original Submachine, we have the main objective established at the beginning of the game: Gather the three wisdom gems and use them on the mover to get to the edge. While the player uses the teleporter from Submachine 4 to get to the main objective, all of the keys and locks are found in the root. Again we have a simple tutorial puzzle where the player must plug a cord into a socket to light the path forward. There is also a key here which isn't used until the end of the game. Missing this key can unfortunately cause confusion and frustration in the endgame, as the rest of the graph is separated from the tutorial area, giving the player little incentive to search here.
We then get two more basic key and lock puzzles before the first cipher plate is obtained. it is up to the player to realize how the cipher plate works with the transporter. At this point the player must find the other cipher plate as well before the puzzles continue. Obtaining the other cipher plate unlocks all major areas of the game. The player will also have to realize at this point that the second cipher plate can be placed both individually and along with the first cipher plate to reach a total of 7 unique locations.
With the major gameplay mechanic established, it is up to the player to travel back and forth between the locations to retrieve the three wisdom gems. Each wisdom gem have their own set of locks and keys to solve, and can be obtained in whatever order the player chooses to. There are also no multi key locks in this game (apart from the main objective), and only one of the ten keys have a lock in the same location. Designing the game this way gives the game a slow and labor intensive atmosphere to it. This is very fitting, considering you are basically Murtaugh's worker at this point in the story. This is why I think the introduction was an intentional design decision as well, as it is the slowest and most labor focused opening we've encountered in the series.
While I am not personally an avid fan of this entry, I must commend it for being a beast of its own. After the success of the Lab, it could have been tempting to rely on a similar graph structure to grab a safe success sequel, but I can happily say this is not the case here, nor any of the future entries. While this game is similar to the Lab in that both focus on a transportation mechanic, Skutnik manages to redesign it in a way that supports the unique theme and atmosphere of the Root.
Tune in tomorrow for the dungeon graph breakdown of Submachine 6: the Edge