Hands-on with Unimversiv: Colosseum VR

A new release on Unimersiv, Colosseum VR takes players back to ancient Rome with a view to offering an educational look at the infamous historic period. Much like other Unimersiv titles, including the recently revealed VR Dinos, Colosseum VR is a slow-paced experience that offers the player the freedom to explore and educate themselves in virtual reality (VR).

Colosseum VR is presented in a rather unusual fashion. Obviously intended to be the first part of an as-yet-unannounced series, the experience begins in a science-fiction themed metallic area with a floating robotic head informing the player that they are about to ‘experience time travel for the first time’. The primary gameplay mode, ‘Guided Tour’, is a cardinal sin for VR: automatically moving the player along a set track with no freedom of control. Though playable with a head-mounted display (HMD), this mode is obviously intended for the traditional 2D monitor version of the experience and some notification of this on the main menu would be appreciated.

Colosseum VR screenshot

Thankfully, the ‘Free Tour’ mode is much more attuned to the needs of VR. The experience here plays in third-person by default, which is not an issue in and of itself, however the camera is locked to the rear of your on-screen avatar’s head, opposed to offering free look around the area. It’s a bizarre design choice that minimises the player’s opportunity to view the wondrous world placed in front of them.

And in that regard, Colosseum VR truly shines. VR Dinos was a pleasant enough looking experience, but foliage and animating prehistoric beasts is hard to do with a AAA budget. The grand scale of Rome and the Colosseum it hosts is not lost in Colosseum VR, and the crisp, clean visuals are some of the best yet seen in a small scale educational VR production. It’s a shame then that Unimersiv has chosen to limit the chance to freely look around this environment. The first-person option that is available is scaled accurately, but still fails to provide some of the sense of wonder that Colosseum VR could so easily provide.

The educational aspect of Colosseum VR plays out similarly to VR Dinos in the Free Tour mode, however a voice actor delivers the informational dialogue when approaching a Unimersiv icon as opposed to text. The Guided Tour has a running commentary throughout, and both scripts are delivered with panache. Credit goes to the voice actor for making would could become an overwhelmingly tedious learning exercise a thoroughly entertaining one.

Colosseum VR screenshot

Much like VR Dinos, Colosseum VR suffers from a lack of interactive opportunities. It would be hard to suggest Unimersiv invest in creating a combat system for gladiator duels – such an exercise would take Colosseum VR away from its intended educational benefit – but offering objects and locations for additional discovery would certainly be of benefit for both the greater understanding of the period and replayability of Colosseum VR itself.