Hands-on With In Death (HTC Vive)
For the purpose of transparency, this hands-on was completed using a code provided by the company or their respective PR company. The use of a free code does not affect my judgement of this product..
Please note this hands-on was created using a product that is currently in Early Access, meaning some of the issues could be resolved over time.
Sólfar Studios the team who brought Everest VR to the HTC Vive have released their second VR project In Death. The game is currently in Early Access, but the question is at the moment does it show promise?
The game does not come with any sort of story, this is just a ranged combat dungeon crawler really. From what I have played for this hands-on I really don’t think the team need to add any sort of story/campaign mode – because the game does what it does well. The game is set in purgatory and on your death you are given the option to look at the leader boards, the achievement’s if you have unlocked any or to re-spawn. Once you re-spawn you are placed back into purgatory to face your next level, and eventually your next death.
As previously mentioned this game is all about ranged combat, and your armed with a bow and arrow. You will start each life with a standard arrow, but as you progress you may be granted another type of arrow to add to your bow. Also throughout the level you find a shop that will allow you purchase other types of arrows or extra health, but at the moment the amount of gold you require it is a lengthy process collecting enough to be able to use the shops.
The bow is not only your weapon, but is also used for your movement. How this works is you can select a teleportation arrow by using the touch pad on the controller you have assigned your arrows to, where ever this lands you will teleport to that spot. However, if you require quicker shorter teleportation without holding the bow up the touch pad will give you a teleportation shard to throw – this is suggested as a dodge mechanic in the tutorial. The menu also offers experimental free movement, but in it’s early access state I found it to be very buggy – and to be honest found the way they’ve implemented to teleportation to be a great way of movement.
Given that the bow and arrow is the main element of the gameplay and movement, this part of the game’s development was going to be vital. I am glad to that the team at Sólfar Studios have made some of the most responsive and accurate bow and arrow gameplay I have experienced so far in VR. Meaning that you are instantly taken in by the gameplay, and also makes the movement mechanic a pleasure to use.
You will also come across varying enemies in the stages, these can either attack from close up or from a distance. You will have two ways to evade their attacks, the aforementioned teleport shards or a shield. To activate the shield you will need to press the trigger on your bow hand – this will instantly replace it with a shield. This comes in handy for when axes are thrown at you or arrows come raining in. You can also knock the close-quarter enemies back with your shield to allow the time to either teleport or get a shot in with your bow (if your quick enough).
You may be thinking the die, spawn, repeat sounds like the game will soon become boring, but purgatory is procedurally generated. Meaning you are never going to play the same dungeon twice, and the enemies will also vary. The dungeons are set out in cathedrals, and each one will come with three main areas and a boss area. Meaning it leaves it open for something new each time to have to start again.
One thing I loved is when you spawn in purgatory from either loading the game up or after each death, the cathedrals will float up and be constructed in front of you – this does really look fantastic. The setting of the cathedral leaves the game open for some lovely design, but at the moment I think it needs touching up when it comes to the textures and the sharpness of them. Although please remember this game is still in early access, so this could be done before the full release of In Death. When it comes to the audio it matches the setting with the use of Gregorian chant music, but what they have done really well is not made this overbearing. This means you can also take in other sounds from the game, be it the noise from the enemies or the arrows from the archers whizzing past your head.
In Death is one of the most challenging games I have ever faced in VR, with the die, re-spawn, try again mechanic brings to mind Dark Souls. So, if you are thinking of buying expect frustration to show it’s face at some point. They have included a demo mode in the game, and I would recommend having some goes in demo mode before taking on your first stint in purgatory.
When it comes to longevity given the games procedurally generated dungeons, as long as you are enjoying the frustration in brings you can go back to the game whenever you are in mood. The game also has a last 24 hours leader board, meaning if you like to showcase your skills there is reason to aim higher. The game also brings with it some achievements to aim for as well. These aren’t only your standard achievements, doing some of these achievements will give you boosts in the games. For example the first head-shot one will increase your head-shot bonus moving forward, again giving you reason to try to aim for completing some of the achievements even if you aren’t a completionist.
In Death even in this early access stage brings a lot with it, with the only real issue being the textures could be a bit sharper. The procedurally generated dungeons means you will never play the same level twice, and the bow and arrow plays out in the most responsive and accurate way I have experienced so far in VR. The only turn-off I see for some players is the challenge that the game brings with it, you will have to be prepared to be frustrated at times.
Version Played: HTC Vive
Also available on Oculus Rift
Developers: Sólfar Studios