VR technology seems to come around in cycles for gaming and the current push looks set to reach into the next generation. With PlayStation already confirming future VR support.
With improved consoles often comes better games and we expect the same for VR. The genre is still trapped somewhat in the realms of novelty and constrained by the capabilities of the human eye.
Motion sickness remains an ever-present concern when developing VR titles, limiting the scope of games. There are some titles either already out there or in development that offer a glimpse at the future of VR games.
One such title, Blade and Sorcery, has been available in early access since late last year and has been causing a stir amongst gamers. Reviewing very well with audiences. Blade and Sorcery could be one of the best representations of future VR games currently on the market.
The Ambitious VR Pioneers
Most VR titles currently on the market are like glorified tech demos or stationary experiences. That doesn’t make them bad games but it does limit their long term appeal and that’s the larger threat to the genre.
It’s hard to imagine people playing Eagle Flight VR or Nintendo Labo VR several years after their release. The genre needs to get bigger but the ideal technology is almost implausible and that’s the paradox of VR games.
Some studios have already pushed the envelope with VR capabilities. Creating full-fledged games that combat the motion sickness issue. Resident Evil 7’s entire campaign was playable in VR.
And to good effect, perhaps benefiting from the slower pace of gameplay but it generally ran well. Farpoint also offered a competent FPS experience on VR. The game was pretty by-the-numbers but crucially it worked.
Customisable viewing control options and predictable front-facing enemy patterns helped eliminate nausea. But other promising games like Crisis on the Planet of the Apes were reduced to buggy rail shooters.
A Future From Humble Beginnings
With the possible exception of Resident Evil 7, the best VR games are still a pale comparison to none VR titles. Even success stories like Farpoint would be panned as a traditional FPS title for uninspired design.
Having to combat the issues of the technology first means the game design is a secondary concern. This is the second big issue with the current generation of VR games. The implications of the technology are so stringent, that gameplay and level design have to be designed specifically for it.
But now, Blade and Sorcery could offer a glimpse of the future of VR technology. One that relies not on a desperate attempt to keep pace with traditional games but to adapt gameplay in a way that suits VR.
The title impressively comes from first-time developer WarpFrog, a studio recently established by popular modder KospY. The elusive KospY is probably best known for his work in the Fallout New Vegas modding community.
Blade and Sorcery
It’s fair to say the game borrows a lot of cues from Gorn and Skyrim VR. But where those games were let down by groggy combat and difficulty issues, Blade and Sorcery excels. The game leans into a graphic depiction of violence which has helped its’ legend grow.
The final product even promises decapitations. Gore and viscera are starkly missing from the VR library and sadly are big selling points. Cast your memory back to cult games like Manhunt, Postal or even prior to that the original Doom.
But focusing too much on the gore would be a let down in the true representation of Blade and Sorcery. Where it truly excels is in a thought out combat system that adds to the immersion of VR.
Weapons have different weights which affect the lag on motion controls. Rather than intuitively flailing your arms, choice of weapon and timing of your attacks are crucial to battle.
The collision detection is also excellent for a first-time developer. Weapons can even be carefully balanced on each other or used to climb surfaces. Which creates a satisfying sensation when duelling with shielded enemies.
Precise shots, particularly from weapons like hatchets can be used to drag an opponents shields and expose them. Creating a great sense of realism and a wide variety to combat.
Essentially it has a high skill ceiling and a low skill floor which is the perfect combination for any game trying to attract new players.
Drawbacks and Magic
Blade and Sorcery also battles the mundanity of certain VR tasks with its’ implementation of magic. Weapons can be telekinetically drawn to the player’s hand, eliminating the need for cumbersome changes.
That telekinesis can also be used on a variety of interactable objects adding another layer to combat. Weapons and masonry can be flung at encroaching enemies often for instant kills.
Blade and Sorcery also grants players the ability to slow time and cast lighting. Interchangeable magic abilities are promised for the future as this game is still in early access. Combined with the brutal reality of traditional combat, the magic elements create a fun, fantasy break.
Battles can be gruesome slogs or you can wheel around like an all-powerful deity laying waste to enemies. The choice is yours. There’s so much freedom in combat, but then combat is essentially all this game has to offer.
The gameplay is nothing more than a horde mode across four maps. Whilst it can be fun to charge through waves of enemies. Like a lot of VR titles, it also feels like a glorified tech demo. That’s the only real drawback to Blade and Sorcery.
There’s nothing in the way of story and not much else to do. There’s plenty of updates required for Blade and Sorcery before it will be a fully-fledged experience. For now, Blade and Sorcery merely offers a glimpse to the future of VR gaming.