Preview: Titanic VR – Historical Education Comes Alive Beneath the Waves
Immersive VR Education once again showcases its talent in VR edutainment.
Ask anyone to name a shipwreck and there’s a very good chance the HMS Titanic will be mentioned. The tragic sinking back in 1912 cost over 1,400 people their lives, becoming one of the world’s worst maritime disasters. Because of the loss of life, the grandeur of the vessel and the way it went down, the story of the Titanic has been told countless times, through books, films, and now virtual reality (VR). Immersive VR Education – the team behind Apollo 11 VR – decided to recreate the sunken ship (which wasn’t found until 1985) in VR as a means to educate players through an immersive entertainment format.
Currently available via Steam Early Access for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, Titanic VR takes you to the deep dark depths of the Atlantic ocean, so you can get up close to one of the world’s most famous ships, recreated that well that you almost want to reach out and touch it.
Currently the experience is split into two areas – with more to follow as development continues – the main campaign and a free-roaming exploration mode. The campaign follows a story arc in which you play Dr. Ethan Lynch, Associate Professor of Maritime Archaeology at the fictional University of Nova Scotia. With funding from a mysterious investor, Dr. Lynch and his PhD Candidate Jean Robinson set out aboard a research vessel to dive the wreck and answer questions that have remained unanswered for a century.
In this early play through the campaign has two parts, the first is inside a submersible which you can manoeuvre around the Titanic. Then as missions decree you put a VR headset on to control a small ROV to get you inside the ship. When you find items you then head back to the surface for the second part, cleaning and unlocking the clues that these sunken objects hold.
Without a doubt the best part of Titanic VR is exploring the ship using the submersible and ROV. Controls are easy enough, to maintain realism and immersion the submersible controls are a set of levers in front of you, enabling you to twist the craft, ascend or descend, then move forwards, backwards and side to side (strafing). As with a real sub nothing is fast, everything is methodical and timely. It’s this pace, alongside the often eerie – but beautiful – music, that makes Titanic VR dramatic and awe inspiring. The first time Titanic appears out of the dark gloom is a magical moment, slowly sweeping down the hull looking at all the detail Immersive VR Education has put into the ship.
Then having the ability to inspect the wreck even closer with the ROV is great, but it does have a limited range so you can’t go wandering off too far. It does have two robotic arms so you can pick up things yet there’s not a great deal to interact with inside the Titanic itself – it has been on the seabed for a century.
Once objects in the campaign have been collected and brought to the surface they then need to be cleaned in particular baths of chemicals so they don’t degrade. This is the more mundane part of the experience – and the part that evolves the story – so you’ll likely try to get through it as quickly as possible to head back down.
Luckily if all you want to do is explore the Titanic then you can do at your own leisure using the free roam mode. Which is where a lot of players are going to spend their time.
This maybe an early access title but Titanic VR already feels highly polished. There were a couple of buggy moments but nothing too bad that it ruined the experience. Quite frankly, if this is the way VR education is heading it’s time to become a student again, and VRFocus will be keeping a close eye on development.