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Preview: Star Wars: Trials on Tatooine

The newly revealed Star Wars virtual reality (VR) experience plays deeply into the cannon progression outlined by the hugely successful Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In the motion-picture the viewer learns of a new school for Jedi established by Luke Skywalker, and the destruction of this at the hands of Kylo Ren that lead to his disappearance. Star Wars: Trials on Tatooine casts the player as one of the pupils of this school.

The experience begins with the classic scaling yellow text informing the player of the present situation before the Millennium Falcon flies overhead. A light appears on the horizon before the screen fades and the player finds themselves on the surface of Tatooine. Star Wars: Trials on Tatooine is a very slow experience, with the player given time to acclimatise to their surroundings before the action hits.

Star Wars: Trials on Tatooine screenshot

The first interactive moment comes when the Millennium Falcon lands and Han Solo (sadly not voiced by Harrison Ford) delivers you a gift from Luke Skywalker: R2-D2. Solo brings with him a patrol unit of two Tie-Fighters, whom he quickly takes out of action. However, during the brief fight the Millennium Falcon is damaged, and the player is asked to assist R2-D2 – albeit in a very limited capacity – with repairs.

Feeling very similar to Valve’s own Aperture Labs, Star Wars: Trials on Tatooine has the player move objects and press buttons for the next few minutes, and little else besides. There’s the intention of building tension when the enemy Stormtroopers arrive on the scene, but sadly the delivery falls flat. Given the uninteresting nature of the early interactivity one would hope that the moment of being granted a lightsaber would act as the turning point to an action-heavy experience. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

As Stormtroopers approach the player is told to keep R2-D2 out of danger. Any Star Wars fan worth their salt immediately translates this as deflect blaster shots using their newly equipped lightsaber. This is the only combat-orientated mechanic and while it could well be fun, the enemy aggression is so lacklustre that the player simply isn’t compelled to get rough-and-ready to take the advantage. The pacing is slow so that Star Wars: Trials on Tatooine‘s combat feels like bunting the ball in a baseball game, rather than a high-octane, death-defying feat of mind power and combat-prowess.

Star Wars: Trials on Tatooine screenshot

Issues with Star Wars: Trials on Tatooine are compounded by technological hurdles. The player is placed within a circle and VRFocus was advised not to move outside this virtual limitation; this would be fair enough despite the circle being far smaller than that which the HTC Vive’s roomscale technology allows, however even the slightest of movements caused the screen to turn pale blue and completely lose any semblance of real-world tracking. This isn’t a simple bug: it made one instance of the repair procedure practically impossible due to being unable to reach the buttons Han Solo was asking to be activated.

A year ago Star Wars: Trials on Tatooine would have been an exciting glimpse into a potential future videogame experience. However, in the weeks prior to the consumer launches of both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive – with more than 50 original videogame titles set to launch across the two head-mounted displays (HMDs) – a technical demonstration of this nature is simply disappointing. As VRFocus has discussed on a number of occasions, there’s great potential for a hugely engrossing VR experience in the Star Wars franchise, whether that be exploration or combat based, but Star Wars: Trials on Tatooine is neither of these things and falls far short of current expectations for VR videogames.