An empty wasteland lies before me. There is no indication of life. I have nothing in my hands, nor my pockets. This is the most desolate experience imaginable. My quest, at this point, is not so much to survive, but to discover exactly what it is that intends to be my undoing. Only then can I learn how to overcome this predestined threat.
Of course, this emptiness is a clever precursor to the core action loop of Grave. It’s a moments calm in which to adjust to the speed of the videogame, the which you know inhabit and the control system that allows you to navigate it. Grave doesn’t differ too much from the traditional first-person shooter (FPS) template in that regard (aside from the fact that you have no firearms at this point) but it’s a testament to the audience that Broken Window Studios is aiming their experience at: you’re expected to already know how an FPS functions. There’s no hand-holding here; you are dropped into a world and expected to learn it’s functions through natural experimentation.
Once you find your feet it’s not long until you arrive in a small abandoned township. A cluster of buildings hides a variety of tools – matches, torches, fuel tanks, flares – though exactly how these will be of any help is not yet known. However, it is a fundamental part of this world that you should understand all of these items hold one shared property: the ability to give light.
Light is your friend. Without light, you will soon be dead. You’ll probably soon be dead anyway, but light gives you a fighting chance. Come nightfall you’ll find the reason why Grave offers all of these light-giving tools and it’s not just so that you can see in the dark.
Strange objects stand alone in a field. Inanimate during the day time, at nightfall they become active. A previously empty space becomes a whirling mess of stone, metal and light, and through this teleports an alien race with only one singular intention: killing you. All the alien can do is charge at you, however that’s generally enough. At this point in your inexperience Grave isn’t so much a survival horror experience as it is postponing your inevitable death for a few moments more.
Once you’ve got the hang of the action and are gifted with the ability to concentrate the light from your torch, similar in it’s execution to Alan Wake, you can take the fight back to the aliens. It’s not easy to take them down; it requires quick reactions, accurate aim and nerves of steel. The enemies don’t slow down as you zap them: though your movement becomes limited, they just keep on scurrying towards you. It’ll often take til the final moments where it’s a split-second between you and them, but ensuring that you emerge victorious is what survival horror is all about.
The short sample of Grave that VRFocus was allowed time with was a confusing experience. There is clearly going to be a huge world to explore, numerous enemies to encounter and some interesting weaponry to tackle them with. However, just how Broken Window Studios intend on taking this small gameplay loop and expanding it into a full videogame experience lasting several hours remains to be seen. Grave is still undergoing a Kickstarter campaign with just a short while left to attain the necessary funding; if it makes it’s goal VRFocus will have the opportunity to see just what the team have in mind for the full Grave experience down the road.