Having tested the waters last year with its short but sweet debut experience Downward Spiral: Prologue, 3rd Eye Studios has returned in 2018 all guns a blazing with the next instalment in the franchise, Downward Spiral: Horus Station. Looking to expand on that initial offering, Downward Spiral: Horus Station offers the next chapter of the space-based adventure with more of just about everything to create a far richer and involved virtual reality (VR) experience.
You don’t necessarily need to have played the first title to understand what’s going on in Downward Spiral: Horus Station, although story wise it does help a little. There’s no real introduction or tutorial to speak of, you’re just thrown straight in with a couple of pointers on how the control configurations work.
If you’ve played any sort of space-based title – like Lone Echo for example – you’ll instantly be at home with the low-gravity movement system of grabbing ledges and handles to pull yourself about and fling across wide open rooms. Yet there’s much more instore as you progress, with a very handy grappling hook style weapon becoming available early on and then a jet tool which grants you more speed. These really do help getting around the station a breeze and work far better than just using your hands. At points grabbing a wall or handle can glitch on occasion, and certainly doesn’t feel as robust as Lone Echo’s hands-on mechanics.
Horus Station is a massive sprawling construct yet it isn’t exactly open and free roaming. 3rd Eye Studios has a story to tell, and as such Downward Spiral: Horus Station is fairly linear in its construct – at points you do start to come back on yourself several times. There are sections with numerous doors yet only one is accessible, limiting that exploration factor to finding local items to unlock the next door.
And with a lot of doors to open one big problem seems to be the loading of the next area. Reviewed on Oculus Rift, every time a new door had to be opened the visuals in Downward Spiral: Horus Station started jumping all over the place, only for a few seconds, yet it was terribly immersion breaking and will likely cause discomfort for some players. Once the opening sequence had finished everything was fine, and going back through the same door wouldn’t present an issue.
Despite this issue once inside some of the cavernous areas of Downward Spiral: Horus Station – or when venturing outside – the title is a visual feast. It has that impressive feel of old school sci-fi technology – levers to pull, grainy dot-matrix style screens – mixed in with a bold futuristic aesthetic that emulates films like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Wars.
Thankfully this isn’t some quiet solo adventure that revolves around puzzles and figuring out the story. There are lots of little angry robots to deal with, and a nice assortment of weapons to find, mimicking shotguns, rifles, pistols and more. Adding to this is the co-op element where you and a mate can join forces, which not only helps with the more difficult puzzles but also the action sequences, especially when it comes to the boss areas.
Downward Spiral: Horus Station does exactly what it needed to, presenting a far grander and more engaging instalment to the VR series. It’s not perfect, with some annoying glitches that really do need to be ironed out. However, the core experience is thoroughly enjoyable and more importantly massive. With eight acts to play through, and each one taking around an hour – depending on how long you search for collectables – there’s a solid amount of content to get engrossed in. For players that enjoy floating around in space, Downward Spiral: Horus Station is a great all-rounder.