I’m almost certain that I’m on record saying I’m not the biggest fan of ‘Roguelike’ games. I have a hard time enjoying a game in which I know that the core gameplay is that I will die, a whole lot, and have to re-start from scratch over and over again. That is why it’s safe to say that I had some hesitation with going into the world of ‘In Death’ from Sólfar Studios.
This is a game which I went into about as blind as you can get, having no background on the game or familiarity with the genre. I haven’t even touched any ‘Roguelike’ games for PlayStation VR, so this was going to be a truly unique experience for me! You may not hear this often, but let’s grab our quivers and longbows and dive into purgatory, WOOHOO!!!
When you start the game, you start on a platform in which you can see the current global leaderboard, as well as your personal game achievements. These achievements are well worded within their requirements to unlock each of them. It’s well worth the players time to work towards completing as many as possible as doing so powers up your character in a multitude of different ways. Bonus damage, increased defence and the type of power-ups that you could assume would be in a first-person archery game.
I love the fact that there is a clear and concise tutorial on how to play the game. Too often, I stumble upon games in which the tutorial is either not there or it only shows the absolute basics on what do without ever explaining advanced moves. From simple actions like teleporting and firing arrows, to how to fire teleporting arrows at cliffs so you can climb up the ledges. At first, it is a bit confusing, but with a little bit of practice, you will be firing arrows off like Legolas!
That’s enough babbling about that though, let’s talk about the game itself! So, on that platform that you start off on, if you just move forward you will embark on your first of many many MANY runs through Purgatory. Oddly enough I always pictured purgatory as dark and fiery, a hellish environment if you will. This specific version is set on a castle among the clouds?! Imagine if Harry Potter and Star Wars came together to form Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in Cloud City! Although, you won’t find the friendly likes of Albus Dumbledore or Chewbacca during your adventures. You might find the evil version of Moaning Myrtle and Dobby though! As you embark out unto this castle in the sky, you will quickly realise that you are not the only visitor. The castle is filled with Crusaders, Bowman, ghosts, zombies and other hellish creatures that go bump in the night.
Of course, you have your handy bow by your side, as well as a shield which is surprisingly helpful against blocking different projectiles as well as light damage to enemies that may come too close for comfort. As you defeat enemies, you can pick up special arrows to use. Your normal arrows are infinite, so fire as many as you want! The special arrows do have a limit though. There is a handy gauge on your bow that shows your current health, to which you get 6 hits and you are dead, as well as how much special ammo you have left. I wouldn’t worry TOO much thought about using this ammo as I felt that you do pick it up fairly often, and let’s face it, I would rather use the special ammo to survive an encounter rather than die and start from scratch. The special ammo you get turns your arrows into Ice, Fire and Explosive varients which do extra damage and some AOE (Area of Effect) damage as well. You have the ability to move around normally, but you also have a teleportation arrow which you can shoot that will move your character when in a tight pinch or if you want to move around a bit more quickly.
I understand that the developers had a vision and opted to create In Death as a Roguelike, however, I do believe there is a massive missed opportunity by having no standard single-player campaign. The game virtually has no story in its current state, which is, by all means, fine, so some people may have a hard time getting into the game in an immersive state. It would be cool to have checkpoints and individual levels so that those of us that are not Bow-fu masters would have the chance to fight the Archangel Gabriel. Sadly, I was never able to get to that point because the game is so difficult.
Speaking of which, one thing that gamers should be aware of, THE GAME DOES NOT HOLD YOUR HAND. No doubt about it, In Death is difficult. There is an interesting growth in the difficulty level as you play the game and unlock the achievements that boost your character, the enemies seemingly become more difficult. I honestly was never able to progress more than a half hour into each run before running into a mob of creatures that were able to swiftly take me down.
There is no traditional Multiplayer mode, but what In Death does offer, which I thought was pretty neat, is that you can challenge another player in a game where you both have the exact same map and you go through as far as you can until you die. Whoever has the higher score at the end will win. Admittedly, I think it would be have been awesome if the developers could find a way for two players to team up in their run through purgatory. They could spawn extra boogity boos and other creatures too! I can understand why that would may impossible to do though. (Rob – This sounds like Josh is asking for something we saw with The Persistence. In that, you had a companion app and the second player could use the app to spawn in helpful items, open doors, turn lights on/off, and spawn in as many enemies as they wanted.)
Let’s not forget the fact that the game is played in VR. You have the ability to play the game with the PlayStation Move controllers as well as the standard DualShock controller. I played with both for review sake. While using the Move controllers gives the game a more immersive feel, I did ultimately prefer using DualShock as I felt my aim was a bit more accurate. That could be just personal preference though. Both ways of playing are fine.
The graphics in the game were surprisingly very nice! With using the PlayStation Gold headset, I truly felt like I was one with the clouds. The castle has great detail to it and I thought that the lighting was well done. At no point did I feel like I was in a spot that was too dark to see what was going on and yet I still could be startled by going around a corner and being met with a room of ghouls and monks. The only times I thought the graphics were laughable was when a ghoul would get too close to me. They look like lifeless brown scary humanoid blobs, though those lifeless brown scary humanoid blobs can, and will, kill you quickly if you don’t take care of them swiftly!
In Death is a game that is definitely worth adding to your collection of PlayStation VR titles. Despite the Roguelike gameplay, you will find that with each death, you are ready to jump right back in immediately to try and better your last run. The great visuals and sound effects are aesthetically pleasing, and the only small details that people may not like are easily forgivable by the overall experience the game has to offer.