Review: Shadow Legend VR
Great moments and missed opportunities.
After an Early Access period on Steam virtual reality (VR) developer VitruviusVR launched its fantasy adventure Shadow Legend VR for PC VR headsets in March 2019. Almost a year later and it’s the turn of PlayStation VR. This should benefit PlayStation VR players as the studio has been able to take any problems and rectify them, creating a smoother, more polished experience. And in some respects this has been achieved, with Shadow Legend VR offering a reasonable experience. But there’s this feeling Shadow Legend VR could’ve been so much more.
So you play a Grand Master of the Knights Templar tasked with saving the world from an evil, vengeful god who doesn’t like humanity. Naturally, there’s a good god who created everyone in the first place who wants humanity to live. Sword in hand you need to kill a few nasty beasts, find a load of runes, collect then sell everything to win the day.
To begin with, Shadow Legend VR has all the hallmarks of a decent role-playing game (RPG) set in a fantasy realm. You begin in the Knights Templar castle where you’re introduced to elements such as smithing, sharpening your sword by actually spinning a grinding wheel, cooking a little steak to fill your belly, feeding and playing with the animals and engaging in some archery practice. Yet few of these elements make it past this first area, abandoned to being an amusing side note.
The archery does, of course, make it through and become a staple of the gameplay if you so wish. You can only have one weapon on your back, either a bow or a mage’s staff, both offering ranged capabilities (a gun which fires mini cannonballs is available later but let’s not go there). While the staffs are simply point and shoot, the PlayStation Move tracking can make long-range shots a little problematic, constantly having to readjust. The bow, on the other hand, doesn’t suffer anywhere near as much, with its feel and accuracy nicely robust and snappy.
But what good is a fantasy title without a sword? The studio has certainly endeavoured to make the melee combat a realistic, engaged affair, being able to parry and block attacks before delivering fatal blows. Yet the swordplay comes across as wooden, with enemies very easy to read throughout the videogame and you don’t have the option of a shield. Attacks don’t always seem to connect even when the damage appears. After enough damage is done circular white indicators appear, indicating a head or arm can be removed which kind of ruin that sense of fighting through this medieval realm of Anaria.
That woodenness is also apparent in the standard enemies. Most of the skeletons, for example, will attack from afar with a bow until you get close enough for a sword fight. They will stay rigid to the spot when using a bow with no interest in looking for a new position. It’s even worse when you come across the corpses in the graveyard which for some reason have a little pile of bombs. These creatures will literally stand where they are until either you die or they do, offering a very boring encounter. It’s the boss fights where all the action and fun is to be had. Multi staged, they do pose a challenge and show a little more intelligence than their subordinates.
It’s easy to tell VitruviusVR has nicely tailored the title for VR gameplay, with lots of items to pick up, collect and interact with. There are plenty of ladders to climb, walls to shimmy across, handles to turn as you explore the various levels. Be prepared for a lot of this. The levels aren’t massively abundant with enemies but they are littered with runes. Glowing red, blue, yellow, green, depending on the area, runes are the main collectable in Shadow Legend VR – in amongst all the gold items – and seemingly do nothing, to begin with. Aside from PlayStation Trophies, the runes are required when trying to purchase some of the better weapons from the trader – where all those gold collectables are sold. Unlocking the ice bow or electric staff to unleash elemental damage.
Important for any action RPG in VR is movement. Thankfully there are options for both teleportation and smooth locomotion (with added vignette if needed), as well as snap and smooth rotation. This should ensure a comfortable experience for all no matter the action taking place. The smooth locomotion does only have one speed which was just a touch too slow, however, likely good for the pace of the experience as it’s not overly long. A normal run through will likely take around 4-5 hours, then add on an hour or so to find all the runes.
Shadow Legend VR is most certainly one of those 50/50 VR titles with both recommendable and questionable elements. Why wasn’t there more crafting elements to make better weapons? Or why didn’t the swords become blunt over time, necessitating the use of the grinding wheels? Shadow Legend VR isn’t a bad VR title by any means, it looks good and offers a fun few hours but it could’ve been so much more.