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Preview: Chronos

Gunfire Games’ Chronos was a surprise reveal at Oculus VR’s ‘Step into the Rift’ event, San Francisco, last week, especially as the studio’s first title, Herobound: Spirit Champions, has only just launched on Gear VR. However fresh they may be, Gunfire Games clearly have a grasp on what makes virtual reality (VR) experiences tick, as Chronos is one of the finest titles currently available to play on the consumer edition of the Oculus Rift head-mounted display (HMD).

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Of the 9 demos available to play on the consumer Oculus Rift (aka CV1) at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), Chronos was the only with a realistic aesthetic set in a fantasy world. Taking cues from the likes of The Legend of Zelda and Shadow of the Colossus, the scenery ranges from beautiful green pastures in the deep below the mountain range you stand upon to dank dungeon crevices and battle worn stone walls. There is no doubt that Chronos is a very pretty videogame.

The action begins with the player outside of the enemy lair in which the vertical slice of the adventure takes place. While the player’s avatar is sure footed upon the high-raised stone ground, you yourself are an ethereal being a few feet behind. Vertigo is an easy trick to pull in VR of course, but the moment you look down and realise you have nothing between you and a several hundred foot drop is as breathtaking in Chronos as it has been in any other experience yet presented on an Oculus Rift.

Inside the maze of stone the demo of Chronos mixed-up combat and puzzle solving. Using an Xbox One control pad (as was the case with all the Oculus Rift CV1 demos) the player has light vertical strikes available on the X button and heavy horizontal blows on the Y button. A dodge manoeuvre is available on the B button, with a striking resemblance to Link’s infamous forward roll. The combat starts simply, with a solo enemy who is not quick to react, but later in the demo you will encounter multiple bad guys with a combination of close- and long-range weaponry.

The puzzle element of Chronos is fairly simple for those who take the time to explore. The first instance demands that you raise a gate by turning a lever, but doing so awakes a giant beast who is not too pleased with your presence. The player must rush through the gate passed the giant before it catches you; however once through, you aren’t exactly out of harms’ way.

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Later puzzles revolve around you finding an object and connecting it with a piece of scenery. Observant players will have no trouble here as the objects are highlighted, however we can expect more complex puzzle solving to arrive in a fuller version of the videogame, and so too should the combat become more complicated.

In terms of VR, Chronos does well to utilise the player’s fixed camera. The player is free to look around each area of course, but they will always begin each room in a predetermined location. When moving from room-to-room Chronos delivers new areas in an instant cut; this may sound jarring to those familiar with VR videogames, and yet here there is simply no issue. It doesn’t feel disorientating nor was there ever any fear of the dreaded simulator sickness. It’s too early to tell if this is due to the improved hardware or whether the software is designed to accommodate these issues, or – most likely – a combination of the two.

There are a significant amount of touches that make Chronos enjoyable as a VR experience opposed to a traditional monitor. For example, our hero will look directly at you when approaching the position of you camera and the sense of scale is unparalleled. The moments where you have but only the option to drop down a hole allow the player to lean-in and observe what horrors might lie below, and the silky smooth textures on the rocks and walls are clearly a mile ahead of anything we’ve yet seen in VR.

Gunfire Games may be a new team on the VR scene, but they’ve clearly already established a pedigree. Herobound: Spirit Champions was a more than respectable introduction and Chronos is looking set to become an inspired new IP and early venture into the high-end VR experiences that we’ve all been waiting for. There’s no telling just yet when we’ll get to see more of Chronos, but at this moment in time it’s certainly one of the most enticing prospects for the Oculus Rift CV1 launch.