Review: In Death
Repetitive, unforgiving, yet difficult to stop playing.
Thankfully endless wave shooters for virtual reality (VR) headsets are much less common nowadays, supplanted by far more ingenious first-person shooters (FPS) that make for a much more interesting adventure. Some of these titles try to appeal to a wide audience through gentle difficulty curves, role-playing game (RPG) elements like upgrades and gameplay driven narratives. These are all fine additions, but what happens when these methods are thrown out? You get roguelike VR shooter In Death, which proves to have a very apt name.
The creation of Everest VR’s Sólfar Studios, In Death is a stripped back, no frills bow and arrow FPS, where the challenge is to survive and progress as far as possible on one solitary life. Make a wrong move and lose too much life and its back to the beginning, but just to add a further twist to proceedings all the levels are procedurally generated, so you’ll never play the same one twice.
This feature is certainly needed for In Death as the style of gameplay it provides is highly repetitious, wandering through an ethereal world full of medieval castles, filled with ghouls, deadly monks, Knights and more otherworldly creatures to kill. They all want to kill you and while some attacks do slightly vary – a knight will draw its sword while a monk will keep its distance and fire arrows – the actual combat AI isn’t particularly clever or adaptive, once spotted they come straight for the kill.
That being said, after a couple of playthroughs you not only learn how to manipulate the enemies depending on the level layout but also find In Death growing on you as it starts to reveal its subtle nuances.
Death isn’t just about completely restarting, it’s about breathing new life into the next assault. There are numerous achievements to be completed, each one offering a bonus like increased headshot damage or money collection which permanently stay with you for each level. These can then help you advance that little bit further, delving ever deeper into the In Death dungeons.
Obviously to do all this you need to master In Death’s mechanics which are some of the best seen in any VR title. Movement for example is well catered for with two default teleportation options and a selectable smooth locomotion. Your bow can fire not only damage giving arrows but also teleportation arrows, allowing you to skip around the ruins and up to battlements. Yet in the heat of combat firing one of these isn’t necessarily the most efficient option, so the developer has included teleportation shards which can be quickly thrown if needed. They do actually work really well in a bind should you not have smooth locomotion on. Ideally, all players will have this option switched on as it makes strafing out the way of arrows so much easier.
Unfortunately you can’t move with an arrow drawn, which can prove to be annoying at times although a shield is provided just in case. For those that aren’t big fans of bows then there’s always the crossbow which is way more fun. This does need to be unlocked via a certain number of kills, but once you do it’s difficult to switch back. The crossbow does lack some of the precision range of the bow, but makes up for it with quick reloading, excellent close combat handling, and the ability to walk whilst loaded, great for when stepping out from a corner and a monster is right in your face.
In Death is a VR videogame for those that want a challenge. The level design and weapon handling are beautiful with soaring angelic structures emanating from the clouds, pin point accuracy for satisfying headshots. The devil seems to be in the details with In Death, offering rinse and repeat gameplay that will keep you coming back for more.