Preview: Stormland – Redefining VR Adventure Games
Insomniac Games are back for more VR-exclusive adventures, and it’s shaping-up to be something special.
One of the most prolific virtual reality (VR) videogame developers in the western world, Insomniac Games already has three titles under its belt. Coming back for more the company is now looking to push even harder, and deliver the kind of experience that long-time VR fans have been wishing for since the days of development kits.
Stormland is a title that has obviously taken inspiration from many of modern VR’s biggest releases. Shades of Robinson: The Journey and Lone Echo can be seen in Stormland’s traversal system; the directness of firearm usage parallels that of Robo Recall and Firewall: Zero Hour; the pacing between exploration and combat akin to that of Apex Construct or even L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files. Stormland essentially appears to be the maturing of a genre: an unofficial front-man for VR adventure videogames.
As you may well have assumed from the above, Stormland is an adventure videogame in which the player is free to explore in between engaging in bouts of firearm-based combat. So far, so predictable; and yet there’s something to Stormland that makes it feel more cohesive than many of its peers. The movement system which sees the player able to tether to objects and push themselves faster/higher with inverted momentum offers a connection with the world similar to Lone Echo, the salvaging of assets to create new upgrades is a basic but accessible take on an experience system, and the variety of weapons – even in the obviously trimmed early build that VRFocus experienced – is satisfying and varied enough.
The important thing to note here is that while the above description is breaking down Stormland into its individual mechanics, the experience itself is far less disjointed. The videogame world has been elegantly designed to give you access to all of these assets but never make you feel as though you have been forced to use them; while essentially linear in the build VRFocus has experienced, Stormland makes a concerted effort to present the illusion of freedom. There may really only be one way to tackle each objective, but Stormland somehow makes you believe that the way in which you faced each challenge was through choice.
Exactly how this will pan out over a fuller experience is very hard to tell at this stage. While Stormland looks very impressive next to the overwhelmingly restricting Defector and of a more polished standard than the likes of Vox Machinae or Space Junkies, it also has a much harder task of delivering on the promises the demonstration version of the videogame have laid out for it.
So Stormland is a VR title that takes inspiration from some of the best the medium has yet offered to make something bigger than the sum of its parts. It’s surprising to see the developer go this route after the more immediate nature of The Unspoken and Feral Rites, but fresh from the success of Spider-Man for PlayStation 4, Stormland is undoubtedly Insomniac Games’ most ambitious VR project to date. With a release scheduled for 2019, stay right here at VRFocus for all the latest details on Stormland and every other AAA VR title coming to the Oculus Rift.