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Preview: XING: The Land Beyond on Oculus Rift

After experiencing the incredible comfort and weight of the consumer Oculus Rift (CV1), the ground-breaking Room Scale tracking of the HTC Vive and the higher resolution screens that both provide, it can be tough to go back to DK2. The Oculus Rift’s second development kit quickly replaced DK1 as the most advanced virtual reality (VR) head-mounted display (HMD) of its time, making many wonder how they ever coped with the original, but this too became outdated thanks to later VR kits. To VR users lucky enough to have tried the latest tech, DK2 feels heavy and limited, and it shows in any experience you try with it.

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That is except for XING: The Land Beyond. Thanks to comfortable design, soothing visuals and considered pacing, White Lotus Interactive’s anticipated first-person adventure title transcends the limits of the DK2 unit that it was recently shown off with.

XING: The Land Beyond is set in an idyllic interpretation of the afterlife. The sunny beach setting that kicks off this demo might first make one think they’ve accidentally loaded up Perfect Beach or Guided Meditation, which speaks volumes about just how tranquil an environment it is. For now, movement is carried out using a gamepad. White Lotus Interactive has stated it will be supporting various forms of locomotion but the speed of movement is spot on VR here, and walking isn’t jarring like it can be for other first-person titles that use this control scheme.

As you find your feet inside the title, it quickly becomes clear that the picturesque area isn’t just for show; it’s filled with things to explore and interact with from pools of water that gradually reveal more of the title’s story, to puzzles that are littered around. Players will have to search for objects and put them in their correct positions, align bridges to reveal paths and even engage in some logic-based challenges that see them using fire to clear the way and more.

Things start off easy enough with a locked door that’s easily opened by finding an item to place in a slot on one side of the barrier, with another slot already taken care of on the other side. It takes mere seconds to locate the item needed before progressing on to a small body of water fitted with bridges that aren’t immediately accessible. Again, a quick bit of exploration reveals another switch used to position the platforms and let you walk across them. Immediately after this you face another door, this time with the slots located on the other side. Finding the object on the floor, you must then throw it through a gap in the wall to unlock the way.

XING: The Land Beyond screenshot

XING: The Land Beyond progresses in this way for much of the demo. Soon after the second locked door is a larger body of water presenting a more demanding take of the platform mechanic. Later on, a campfire invites you to burn coconuts to take a wooden barricade down, while another puzzle tasks you with stepping on the correct platforms to solve it. These systems have all been seen before but are well executed and do well to introduce you to what will hopefully be some much trickier tasks later on.

In the 20 minute demo, none of these puzzles prove too taxing at first, though the area is also filled with collectables that will often ask players to come up with different solutions. It’s these elements that suggest XING: The Land Beyond is aspiring to be more than a simple showcase for how VR enhances an experience with some real trials. Don’t forget that this isn’t a title that’s exclusive to VR, which reassures that White Lotus Interactive is thinking about making this an engaging videogame first and an exercise in VR immersion second.

Using Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 4, the title also impresses from a visual perspective. In fact, it’s easy to forget that you’re viewing this welcoming, colourful new world through a 1080p display. Beaches are decorated with a mixture of lush vegetation and detailed rockery that provide pockets of eye candy wherever you’re looking.

What remains to be seen is if these environments and puzzles can sustain a full experience. As a short demo, XING: The Land Beyond captivates and entertains, but doesn’t break any new ground even in comparison to other VR titles. That’s fine for short term early VR in which most people that play the videogame will be happy just to step into a new environment, but hopefully White Lotus Interactive is planning later challenges and trials that will cement it as a must-play for new Oculus Rift owners.

That said, the fact that XING: The Land Beyond makes such an impression on the DK2 makes the thought of setting foot on its picturesque beaches and dense forests with the CV1 next year all the more exciting. It’s a case of so far, so good, providing White Lotus Interactive has some innovations up its sleeve.