I have always had this small fear of VR as it has always seemed a little unnerving mainly because I am always worried about unexpected digestive pyrotechnics due to my need to control my environment. But at EGX I had the opportunity to demo the VR game from Psytec Games, Crystal Rift on HTC Vive headset.
Crystal Rift is a strategic puzzle game and is ‘a grid-based dungeon-crawler in first person style’. The best way to describe the graphics is a mix of minecraft/doom 3 with the occasional creature in the shadows. I won’t spoil what happens in the demo as it’s much more fun to watch players work their way through but hopefully you get an idea from the images below. Within this dungeon, there are traps, secrets and mini fights and you have a handy sword which can be different elements (fire/ice etc) to fight these creatures off. You start with 5 full hearts and each death proceeds you to losing a heart. If you keep a look out though, there are some vials which will replenish them if you’re running a little low. I was quite impressed that I managed to make it through to the end with only a handful of deaths and managed to get through the traps. Sadly, I didn’t successfully collect any secrets but saw them as I was passing through so know what I missed!
Another feature in the game to mention is that there is an editor that you can bring up within your headset to add secrets or edit levels. A Minecraft style bar comes up and the dungeon is your oyster so to speak. One of the exhibitors for the game was saying they have to replay the levels to make sure they find all of the secrets! Although I didn’t get to test it myself, I did watch one of the other press guys having a little look at it. I like the idea of making it a more interactive game, especially when you can keep it fresh for other players and friends.
Now let’s talk about the VR aspect. The demo was a stand up affair with a controller for movement. This felt incredibly odd as when you are inside the world, you want to walk around but knowing me I would fall. The controls were nice and simple, which is handy because not being able to look down at the controller in a mad panic was a little unnerving as you have no hands! Now although I don’t suffer from motion sickness, I do get anxious if I’m not in control of my surroundings (which makes me a terrible passenger in a car at times) so certain moments did make me close my eyes until I could hear that I was through that section. This isn’t an issue with the game, but certainly an issue with my brain. I must admit that I would also suddenly remember that I had legs (strange I know, but try playing a game where you’re walking around… but you’re not) and my knees would suddenly jar and make me try to find my balance again. A very odd sensation indeed and I wonder how I would cope if I were on a treadmill or in a large room to roam around in while wearing the headset. The only thing I forgot to do was actually look around, I was very forward facing and only occasionally remembered to look up or down which is why I missed things!
After the demo, my lovely friend Jolly took over and I sat down to discuss my experience with John who was running the booth. I explained how I really enjoyed it and it was an odd sensation as it’s not a gaming experience I have had before. We chatted about the future of Crystal Rift and how they hope that it will be featured in a bigger booth next year allowing more people to play. He explained how their queues had been pretty constant with some people queuing for 2-3 hours for around 15-20 minutes of play time. John said how everyone commented that it was worth the wait which is great and there had been a lot of positive feedback. I really wish I had been prepared to do a full interview with John as he was a pleasure to talk to about the game and he was keen to hear about our experience, something that I think the indie game areas take a lot more time to do which is always great as we love to get to know them and share their passion for these titles.
As VR becomes more accessible over the next year or so, there will be several titles that will be ready to play. Crystal Rift is certainly one I would like to recommend if you like Zelda style dungeons with a darker side and a keen interest in building or developing in-game areas to create something new or a little different. Great fun and a very enjoyable first experience in VR. The game is available on Steam, Humble and VR ready so if you are lucky enough to have an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, give it a go.
For more info, please check out http://www.crystalrift.com and be sure to check out the trailer!