Subtlety has never been Oculus VR’s strong point. As a company they’re all about being the ‘biggest’ or the ‘best’. Being ‘first’ or being ‘better’. Being ‘affordable’ or being ‘high end’. They want to be out there, in front of the consumer and leading the field. So then, it comes as quite a shock that the first software product that the company revealed was done so with not a bang but a whimper.
VR Quest is wonderful: impressive and fun. It was also tucked away as one of four demonstrations available on a single-person booth. VRFocus actually had to request to see VR Quest as during our time at this particular booth as only two of the four demos were formerly offered to attendees. It’s quite a shock that VR Quest was so hidden, but even more so that we’re yet to hear anything about it from Oculus VR themselves.
Reportedly used as a technical demonstration when showing the Gear VR development kit to development studios, VR Quest is a simple dungeon crawler designed specifically for virtual reality (VR). Much like Lucky’s Tale, it assures that the third-person camera does have a future in VR and that traditional videogame genres can easily make the jump, as long as they are handled correctly. VR Quest promises to deliver an accessible take on the dungeon crawler genre as well as training newcomers in the ways of VR control, and for that it should be standing proud as Oculus VR’s first videogame creation.
The player begins in a room without consequence, given the control scheme and time to experiment with it. You play as a small friendly-looking troll armed with a sword and a bow. The former currently suffers from an unfortunate collision detection system in which swings can swipe through enemies without inflicting any damage – leaving the player vulnerable as the enemies close-in before the animation is finished – while the latter does well to show off the advantages of playing in VR. Though felled by walls and other obstacles, the player can shoot an arrow at any enemy from any location they like simply by moving the reticule – which appears in the centre of their vision – atop their person.
When playing VR Quest a bluetooth control pad is used. The left analog stick offers movement and face buttons are used for attacks, jumps and bringing up the map. The latter appears as a transparent 2D layout in the centre of the room (which does not pause the videogame) and doing so reveals that this demonstration build is really rather short. Only a handful of rooms are presented, throwing various enemy types at the player, before a boss-of-sorts is encountered. A single tentacle attacks from a pool in the middle of the room and the player must traverse this locale in order to obtain a key. They can simply attempt to avoid the swipes of the tentacle or, instead, they can attack the three weakspots and prevent it from emerging. Once the lay is obtained the player may return to a previously locked door, defeat a few more enemies and make their way to the treasure chest completing the demo.
Throughout all of this the player acts as the fourth wall. Similar to a traditional 2D monitor set-up, though here the player is able to pan around and look at specific areas of a room while the action takes place in another part. For example, it’s easy to set your troll facing away from the wall and swiping at oncoming enemies while you quickly glance at the opposing corner to see it there’s anything worth collecting (or any additional enemies) in that part of the room. It’s a simple yet effective means of adapting the genre to VR.
Of course, as a demonstration build VR Quest is far from finished. Along with the sword’s collision detection comes a number of other issues, such as the lack of a health meter (hearts are knocked from the player when hit, but nowhere does VR Quest inform you of how many you have) and the potential lack of challenge involved. As a demonstration of the Gear VR head-mounted display VR Quest is perfectly pitched, but making this demo into a full salable product isn’t necessarily going to be an easy undertaking.