Preview: Crystal Rift on HTC Vive

It may just be that VRFocus has sampled it at almost every stage of its production, but Crystal Rift seems to be making some remarkable progress. Psytec Games’ first-person dungeon crawler started out as an engaging, if relatively simple puzzler that has only grown in size and ambition over the years, adding entirely new features and committing to a number of other platforms outside of the Oculus Rift head-mounted display (HMD). Shown for the first time on the HTC Vive at EGX last week, Psytec Games had prepared the most impressive version of the title yet seen, even if it will be familiar to those currently playing the Early Access edition.


The version on display here was the same area seen in previous demos, only now including the new monsters and combat mechanics that were added in last August’s update on Oculus Rift. Sadly, technical and practical limitations prevented Psytec Games from using the SteamVR position-tracked controllers, which allow players to realistically wield a sword. Instead, attacks are assigned to a gamepad button, as having 4 people at a time each experiencing the joy of being able to freely swing a sword around perhaps isn’t the safest approach for a relatively compact convention booth.

That said, from a HMD perspective, the HTC Vive version of Crystal Rift seems to be just as competent as the Oculus Rift version, remaining as comfortable and immersive an experience as it has always been. Testing out the SteamVR and Oculus Touch controller support will be the real differentiator here, but until it’s possible to do so, rest safe in the knowledge that the title is shaping up equally on both platforms.

On to the experience itself, then. Crystal Rift’s gird-based gameplay is still intact and still proves a great entry point for VR, allowing players move at their own, comfortable pace while still providing those first-person thrills that the technology immediately gives off. The sword itself is the source of several new gameplay mechanics, as switching between modes will not only change the type of swing but also charge move that activates one of several powers. You might shoot a blast of energy at opponents or bring up a shield to defend yourself against the new monsters.

Crystal Rift screenshot

Crystal Rift has always had a charming, haunted house-esque feel to it and these monsters largely keep in line with this atmosphere. Through this area players encounter a mummy, transparent green blobs and a rock monster, all looking like they’ve walked in from an amusement park. They aren’t especially threatening, then, but that doesn’t really seem to be the point, at least in the title’s earlier stages. These fights can be won by selecting the right weapon type and then simply stepping back and forth in-between attacks and getting a quick hit in. This can admittedly be a dizzying experience, but the developer has now loaded Crystal Rift with a number of comfort options so that players can customise the title’s movement for what works for them.

Psytec Games promises that the complexity of these encounters will increase as more enemies enter the fray – as they aren’t especially challenging right now – and it’s important to remember that SteamVR and Oculus Touch support will allow players to put their own spin on the combat. The foundations for this system are in place but it will be up to later levels and challenges to prove their worth.

But, even with this considered, Crystal Rift is turning into quite the package for a launch window VR experience. With first-person action, elaborate online level sharing and support for the latest input solutions, Psytec Games’ little project that could is shaping up to be a great jumping on point for VR.