The range of videogames becoming available for virtual reality (VR) platforms is constantly expanding, from brand new genres such as Crytek’s The Climb and Owlchemy Labs’ Job Simulator: The 2050 Archives to adaptations of more familiar experiences like Pool Nation VR or Chronos. Mervils: A VR Adventure, now available as an ‘early access’ title, most definitely falls into the latter camp, but just because it’s recognisable for genre tropes doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a few unique ideas of its own.
In a somewhat inverse take on The Lord of the Rings, the plot of Mervils: A VR Adventure sees the player attempting to collect the scattered pages of a book to regain a lost power while a great evil magical being summons an army to take on the lands of small hobbit-like creatures known as Mervils. The story may not provide an all-too exciting premise, but the gameplay Mervils: A VR Adventure offers most certainly is surprising.
Mervils: A VR Adventure sits somewhere between a 3D vision of the 2D The Legend of Zelda videogames (more so the latter titles than Herobound’s homage to the early releases) and Super Mario 64. The player has a series of worlds to visit, in which they will engage in a series of platform antics in order to locate pages. They can also find quest givers throughout the worlds who will issue tasks – either immediately solvable or though convoluted puzzling quests (locate items, fetch quests and more) – and offer pages as rewards. This is the simplest explanation of Mervils: A VR Adventure’s gameplay, in reality in runs much deeper.
The role-playing game (RPG) aspect of Mervils: A VR Adventure influenced by The Legend of Zelda not only relates to the player’s perspective of the action (more on this later) but also the progression system featured in the videogame. Mervils: A VR Adventure is not as statistics heavy experience – you won’t be allocating stat points to specific attack and defence attributes, for example – but rather earning additional hit points and abilities piece-by-piece. It’s a slow and calculated system that, just as in The Legend of Zelda, keeps the player interested to discover what they will receive next.
With regards to the player’s viewpoint, Mervils: A VR Adventure is played in third-person. However, the camera does not automatically follow the on-screen avatar. Instead, the player will move their virtual embodiment towards and away from the camera, left and right, with no forced movement of their perspective. The press of a button will snap the camera to the avatar, giving the player free range to observe the environment before making judgement as to where they need to place themselves to achieve whichever goal they have set out to accomplish.
Mervils: A VR Adventure is an enjoyable and interesting RPG adventure with a good few ideas as to how to overcome the problems of bring traditional videogame genres to a new medium. It’s a lengthy experience, too, which is not all too common amongst the early wave of Oculus Rift videogame titles. Mervils: A VR Adventure is unlikely to have been top of many VR gamer’s ‘most wanted’ lists, but now that its here it’s hard to find a reason not to recommend giving it a chance to bring you into it’s joyfully colourful world.