Review: Downward Spiral: Prologue
Hopefully the only way is up from here.
Space is awesome quite frankly. It’s a massive void with limitless possibilities, inspiring countless generations to look up at the stars and wonder what else is out there. Because of this it’s no surprise that virtual reality (VR) developers have used that dream of heading into the cosmos to create all manner of experiences, some fantastical while others err on the side of realism. For its first VR release, 3rd Eye Studios has gone for a mixture, with futuristic sci-fi and realistic zero-g working together to form Downward Spiral: Prologue.
As the name suggests Downward Spiral: Prologue is just the start of much bigger plans for 3rd Eye Studios, with a whole anthology series due to be released over time. So what’s this introduction like, well it’s a mixed bag, with awesome elements that come together to leave you dissatisfied as it’s just too short.
So you find yourself in this space station, there’s been no story intro as to why you’re there or what’s going on. So it’s time to explore. And this is where you instantly come across the videogame’s movement mechanic. You’re in a station that has no power and therefor no gravity. Zero-G is synonymous with simulator sickness in VR as you can be floating in one direction whilst looking here, there and everywhere. But for Downward Spiral: Prologue the studio seems to have nailed it, with no nausea inducing moments. You have to grab onto stuff, whether that’s a rail, a wall, a console or anything else within arms reach. And this is how you make your way through the majority of the experience.
So movement’s good, what about gameplay? For the most part this is a fairly simple affair in the campaign, pressing illuminated switches to unlock doors or open cabinets to find items. It’s not until you get into the later half of the videogame that some assemblance of action begins to take place, with flying orb shaped robots needing to be shot down before they zap you to death. It might be due to the realistic way 3rd Eye Studios has created the zero-g and the space suit itself that the shooting mechanics don’t quite feel one hundred percent accurate, needing a bit of trial and error to get right.
The one downside to the story mode is duration. Downward Spiral: Prologue can feel like its over before you’ve got into full stride but it’s certainly not some 5 min tech demo. A play through will probably take most players 30-40 minutes but that can feel immensely shorter as you do feel completely immersed in the gameplay and environment.
This review has only been based on the single-player Journey mode, with the title also featuring a co-op mode for the story as well as an eight person multiplayer. These should add so much needed longevity to the experience so long as enough players do decide to join in.
This is really only the start of things to come and 3rd Eye Studios has now showcased its talents for creating an engaging VR experience. So long as subsequent instalments develop a richly detailed story that grow the series into a sizable franchise, then Downward Spiral should become a VR title of note. At the moment though it just leaves you wanting.