GDC 16 in many ways felt like the confirmation of VR. Yes, we’ve been getting copious amounts of VR demos, news and the ensuing hype for the past few years, but never before has VR felt like the future of gaming — or at least a permanent fixture — until the most recent GDC. For its thirtieth installment, the show could have been named VRDC (and actually sort of was) and it would have been fitting. HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and PSVR demo units littered the halls of the Moscone Center, with every Tom, Dick and Harry showing off their game. Yet for the hundreds of different VR demos there were, most still felt like tech demos. It wasn’t until we sat down with Chronos that we truly felt like we were playing a VR game.
Do you want to be flying through the sky like a bird, or strapping on a trench coat and taking out a lobby of security guards like Neo? Stay far away from Chronos. This is a hardcore adventure RPG designed by Gunfire Games, a new Austin-based studio comprised of former members of Darksiders developer, Vigil Games. It’s a fitting team as Chronos feels a bit like Darksiders mixed with Dark Souls. The game allows players to explore an atmospheric fantasy world in full VR. Although much of is of a medieval style, there’s also contemporary and modern technology poking through every so often, giving it a unique feel.
After creating a character and choosing a weapon, players set off in the world to explore the depths of a mysterious labyrinth. Much like in Dark Souls, players should be prepared to die and are punished when they do. Dying takes a year of your player’s life, physically aging them in the process. Yep, it’s possible to play through as an old lady (and you probably will eventually depending on your skills). Much like both of the aforementioned games, there’s puzzles to be solved and shortcuts to unlock so you don’t need to constantly fight through the same areas (enemies respawn alongside you). It’s a tough game that’s more about being conservative than it is hacking and slashing through an area.
Considering that this is a preview of a VR game yet so far reads like a standard adventure RPG preview, you may be wondering if we’re talking about the right game at all. The beauty of Chronos is that it is a full-fledged, hardcore roguelike experience first and a VR experience second. The game takes place entirely from a third-person, top-down view and there’s no crazy sword swinging mechanics or objects constantly flying at the screen. Instead, the VR is tastefully used to give the game depth, allowing players to see just how high or low they are in this forbidding labyrinth and making them feel like the director of their experience.
When the novelty of the more gimmicky Rift titles wears off, Chronos will be the VR game you sink real time into. There have been many arguments on whether or not VR is suitable for traditional games and Chronos proves that it is. Of course, this is likely to be a 10-20 hour game and we demoed the game for a little less than an hour. Whether or not the VR effect is worth it in the long haul in a game of this type remains to be seen (and will soon be as Chronos is an Oculus exclusive launch title), but for now, Vigil has done what many other VR developers have failed to do: craft a game.