Virtual reality is at its best when it puts players in places that might otherwise not be attainable: space exploration, fantasy worlds – the possibilities are near infinite. And Anshar Studios Detached is one of those aforementioned space exploration games. Not only that, but it’s a good one, which are a bit harder to come by.
This space-based light puzzle game sees you playing a space hauler whose ship and cargo come under attack by pirates. In the ensuing levels it’s up to you to reunite with your partner, reboot certain systems and hopefully escape with your life. The light puzzling mostly revolves around navigating your environments in time to reach certain goals, but the maze-like surroundings and the zero-gravity of the vacuum make it trickier than it would otherwise appear. Though the story is threadbare – our synopsis describes almost all of the narrative – it offers just enough of a framework to give the gameplay a loose focus as opposed to offering completely aimless scenarios. Now that doesn’t sound like the highest of praise, and it’s not. The narrative feels more like an afterthought, but it does its job just well enough to not be insulting. The real star is the gameplay anyways.
Floating through zero-gravity in VR is a transcendent experience. Using a thruster pack to navigate, as well as a collection of gadgets you pick up along the way, makes for quite a bit of fun. Not having a firm idea of what to consider “up” at any given moment is a freeing, wonderful experience, but it’s also very easy to see how it could cause motion sickness problems. To this effect, Anshar implement comfort settings that minimise this. For anyone who already has their VR legs, you’re going to want to turn these settings off immediately as it’s far too restrictive. The comfort setting creates a vignette that narrows your FOV while rotating, but the default is set to max, which makes it borderline impossible to see what you need to locate during motion. The good news is, with the settings completely off, the experience was impressively stable, and we didn’t so much as get a flutter of nausea at any point during the entire game.
There are also a few fantastic set-pieces in the game that really show off how awe-inspiring VR can be. One involves launching an escape pod at terminal velocity, while navigating through the innards of a rather large ship, and it conveys a sense of scale and speed so immaculately that it’s almost worth playing the game for that sequence alone. There is also a cat-and-mouse sequence with an attack drone, which, paired with the fact you have finite oxygen and fuel – supplemented by scattered pickups, of course – does an excellent job at ratcheting up the tension. This is further enhanced by the fact that the title has a very impressive draw-distance actually allowing you to track the targets from long-range without feeling like you’re staring at unfinished textures. And this is after accounting for the fact that the game already has impressive graphics for a VR title.
The single player component will likely run about three hours depending on how easily you locate your objectives, which often don’t have objective markers. And then, should you choose, you can transition to the game’s multiplayer component. We would not recommend doing it the other way around, as the campaign proves invaluable to figuring out all of the title’s mechanics. The downside, however, is – and this is actually rather tragic – it's borderline impossible to find a match. It’s the unfortunate downside to VR’s still-minuscule install base. Which is a shame because the game’s marquee multiplayer mode seems like a ton of fun. It’s a CTF-esque mode where players navigate an asteroid and debris field to acquire a package and drop it off to a moving ship. And it’s a 1v1 mode too, which seems like it could be an absolute blast – it just needs the population to support it.
While most of the VR titles that are slim on content feel like incomplete titles, Detached manages to subvert this expectation, delivering a fun filled zero-gravity romp through its limited runtime. If a community for the title manifests, a really interesting and unique multiplayer mode is part of the equation as well. Some truly stunning setpieces and the opportunity to float through space to a haunting cosmic score make for a grand ol’ time. The game’s steep price to content ratio might scare off some, but that’s not exactly a new thing in the VR realm, and ultimately the price of entry still feels worth it.