Recent offerings for PlayStation VR
By Gieson Cacho // The Mercury News (TNS)
To close out 2019, Sony published a diverse collection of PlayStation VR titles that’s highlighted by Stardust Odyssey and Audica. Both are full-fledged games that are built with the specification of the headset in mind.
Agharta Studio had two goals when creating a virtual reality project. The most important of all was player comfort. They didn’t want to make anyone sick while playing their game. The second was the format. They imagined their audience playing the game sitting down using two PlayStation Move controllers.
These limitations spurred the team’s creativity, and they came up with Stardust Odyssey, a game that’s inspired by the Silk Road. The project takes place in a fantasy world where flying caravans venture through terrain. As a smuggler, players have to steal the cargo and find relics among the voyagers. To do this, they travel aboard a magic-powered ethercraft. Players pilot the smooth- and slow-moving vehicle down linear, tunnel-like levels. Along the way, they steal items from the ships and search for treasures such as ether cages that hold resources that upgrade the player’s ship.
Stardust Odyssey is easy to play and leverages the feeling of flight without bottoming out a player’s stomach. Although it looks simple, the game has plenty of depth as players pilot the ship so that it hides from Guardians protecting caravans. If they’re spotted, players engage in combat by using the spells on board. In the beginning, players have two orbs of magic, and they’ll be limited to a few rune upgrades, but the cargo they collect and treasure they find over the course of the 10-hour campaign opens a progression path to make the ethercraft more powerful. They can purchase power-ups using the cargo they find and that lets them handle the harder challenges ahead.
Whenever someone brings up virtual reality, Beat Saber eventually comes up. The rhythm game has had a tremendous impact in the popularity of the medium and how games are developed. Seeing the success of the game, it’s no surprise that Harmonix introduced its own take on the genre, but instead of having laser swords, players arm themselves with guns. They have to shoot at targets in rhythm with the music while also accurately doing it. That’s the core element of the game.
Harmonix adds other flourishes as well. In some cases, targets will fly at players and they’ll have to melee them with the controller. In other instances, they’ll have to hold on to the trigger for a sustained note in a song. Another technique has players shooting sideways.
Played well, Audica can make players feel like John Wick as they nail targets with the right timing. Like its Harmonix’s previous titles, Audica features a leaderboard and several difficulty modes. On the hardest mode, players have to get into a subconscious flow state as they hit targets and shift their body and line of sight to pick up on shootable objects. In addition to playing a total of 33 songs on the mostly electronic soundtrack, players have the opportunity to create their own levels for each song.
Photos courtesy Sony Interactive Entertainment/TNS