Virtual reality is here, and for a lot of game developers, it means exploring a whole new way of making and presenting games.
Decades after the head-mounted display wave of the future seemed poised to overtake gaming and all of society — at least from Hollywood’s point of view — a technology in which you wear a screen on your face and feel like you’re transported is finally viable. And with that tech comes a wealth of new games, each of which take a ginger step into a brand new medium and try to figure out how best to utilize it.
Here’s a quick list of the best VR experiences currently available on the Oculus Rift.
For people used to playing traditional video games and looking to ease into the world of VR, Chronos is a great option. An easy comparison to make is to liken it to Dark Souls. It’s a game full of pitched sword duels in which you have to carefully land blows and defend against the attacks of your foes to stay alive. Chronos also eschews the usual VR approach of the first-person viewpoint — in which you see the game through the eyes of the character you’re playing as — in favor of the third-person view, where you watch and control the action from a separate perspective, much like a camera recording an event.
Edge of Nowhere
Insomniac Games took a stab at doing horror in virtual reality in a way that’s different from nearly every other game in the genre on the platform. Rather than go the usual route, using a first-person perspective that has you playing as if you’re in the shoes (and seeing through the eyes) of the protagonist, it puts the camera behind the main character, just like in Chronos. The result is a more psychological, stealthy take on horror. Edge of Nowhere is another of those VR games that feels like it could easily exist as a more traditional game, but it does some experimentation with the platform to find new ways to scare players.
Keep Talking and No One Explodes
Keep Talking and No One Explodes is a party game where people share a room, but only one person is in VR. The person wearing the headset can see and interact with a bomb that’s covered in special panels, each presenting a puzzle that requires a solution to defuse the explosive. But the VR player has no idea what any of what they’re seeing means, so it’s on the other people in the room to help explain it, using a super-complex bomb-defusing manual. The game requires quick thinking, communication and teamwork, and it leads to some hilarious moments as players scramble to find the right information in the manual. Best of all, it’s an excuse to play a VR game while entertaining.
Most movement-heavy VR games are likely to make many players sick, as your brain interprets motion that your body isn’t corroborating, resulting in an awful nausea feeling. Windlands should be a game like that, but at least for me, it isn’t. Instead, it’s the kind of immersive VR experience fans are hoping to see on the platform. The game is all about leaping incredible heights and using a grappling hook to swing across insane gaps, while exploring a strange and ancient land.
One of the better-known Oculus titles to date is EVE: Valkyrie, a game that places you in the the role of a spaceship fighter pilot. The good news is that if you’re looking for that kind of experience, Valkyrie brings it. You’ll shoot through gorgeous space locales like shipyards and asteroid fields, hunting down and dogfighting enemy ships while trying to avoid missile locks and returned fire. It’s an intense game in terms of movement, which will make some people sick, but if you can handle it, Valkyrie is the kind of VR proof-of-concept that’s been exciting players for years.
Imagine the kind of cyberpunk, virtual dystopia that came out of sci-fi novels and films from the ’80s and ’90s, and you have Technolust. It’s the kind of game where you “jack in” as a hacker to cross virtual landscapes in order to steal data from a host of evil corporations. It’s grimy, dark, and completely retro-futuristic, all of which render it worth more than a cursory glance. Technolust’s games-within-the-game are a cool and fun addition, too, and add multiple layers to the VR experience.
Although it’s another game that doesn’t feel like virtual reality is a requirement for it to exist, Lucky’s Tale is still a good way to ease into VR, and it’s a game that makes interesting use of the way VR presents players with presence in a space. The game feels mostly like something akin to Mario 64, but with the player acting as the camera that hovers above the action, your ability to look around in the space does some interesting things to the standard platforming formula. In Lucky’s Tale, how you go about looking at each portion of a level changes how you deal with it.
The viking-centered Fated puts you in the role of a man on the verge of death, as he and his family return to their village after an accident. A gift from the gods has kept you from Valhalla but cost you your voice, and things are about to get weird in a Norse mythology kind of way. Fated is a story-focused game that’s a bit slow but heavy on character development and plot. There’s magic and mystery at play here — as well as quite a bit of Norse mythology — and VR is used to put you in the shoes of a character who’s simply trying to save his people from utter destruction.
It seems like survival games are all the rage these days, and the best survival offering on the Oculus store is Subnautica. After your giant spaceship crashes in an alien ocean, your task becomes salvaging the wreckage and finding a way to stay alive. That means gathering plants for food, finding components necessary to purify the water, and getting together the stuff needed to build tools. Oh, and you’ll need to keep from becoming lunch for some alien critter, as well. Subnautica is still being actively developed (it’s in Early Access on Steam), so it’s not altogether complete. However, it does provide a strange and beautiful world in which to get lost.
Another story-heavy experience, The Assembly is basically a first-person adventure game in which players gather items, solve puzzles, and unlock the story by interacting with characters and gathering info from the environment. The Assembly takes place in a secret scientific laboratory, where personal drama meets the unintended consequences of playing God. It’s not a action-heavy game, and The Assembly assuages some of the VR motion issues with useful tricks for getting around. It’s simply a good entry point for VR newbies who want something that’s heavy on story.