The tale of Theseus isn’t exactly a bad starting point for a video game. One of Greek mythology’s more popular yarns, it obviously depicts the titular warrior’s conflict with a murderous Minotaur – and his relationship with Ariadne, a descendent of Zeus. And that’s exactly the subject of this third-person PlayStation VR adventure from Italian developer Forge Reply – but does it land a killing blow or get lost in its own labyrinths?
Well, you read that previous sentence correctly: this is a virtual reality game presented from a third-person perspective. It’s quite a novelty to see a more traditional character action title utilising PlayStation VR, and it does bring some inherent advantages to the genre. The camera work is particularly good, switching between fixed positions and over-the-shoulder viewpoints to help to convey a real sense of scale.
As with most VR games, being close to the main character presents the illusion of a full-size man, so when the camera pulls back you get a real sense of the enormity of his beastly adversary. The game also leverages its perspective in other areas: climbing sequences reveal the risks of a single wrong move, as perilous abysses lurk below – seemingly expanding all the way to Hades and beyond. Again, it’s that stereoscopic 3D effect put to good use.
But while the game makes it immediately clear that PlayStation VR can be utilised just as well in third-person as it already is in first-person, the gameplay’s not good enough to carry the novelty. You’ll spend the majority of your 90 minute playthrough practically walking in straight lines, and while the release does include the most rudimentary of Uncharted-esque platforming, you’ll probably wish it didn’t as its slow and cumbersome to control.
The combat fares even worse, relying on some of the least satisfying swordplay we’ve seen in some time. There’s a neat idea whereby you’re able to combine the fire from your torch with melee attacks, but it rarely feels as satisfying as it should – especially when you consider Theseus’ status as the Grant Mitchell of his day. The protagonist seems so weak and fragile here, and that’s not aided by the slew of stealth segments which prompt an insta-fail if you’re not careful.
The game’s not exactly hard, and the respawns do help pad its insulting running time, but too many segments rely on trial and error. There are efforts made by the title to guide you, but we ran into a few brick walls, and the slow loading paired with poor checkpointing just outright kills the pacing. It’s a shame because there are some nice set-pieces – like a part where you sprint to safety in slow-motion while the Minotaur charges towards you – but they’re murdered by repetition when you inevitably muck them up.
Elsewhere, there are corpses in the world that you can loot for an alternative ending, as well as braziers to light – but the reality is that you’ll have seen Theseus through in the span of an evening. It’s not the end of the world, of course – but at £15.99, it’s far too expensive for what you get. That’s not to say there’s zero value in the experience – it’s an interesting tech demo that looks pretty tasty – but you’re going to want to wait for a sale if this review hasn’t completely put you off.
Ariadne wouldn’t fall in love with Theseus in this state, but Forge Reply’s virtual reality adaptation of a classic story isn’t an unmitigated disaster. The combat and platforming disappoints and there’s not enough meat on the release’s bones, but it proves that third-person adventures can work with PlayStation VR – and it looks pretty nice to boot. It’s a bit of a missed opportunity, then, as there is value in what’s presented here – it’s just far, far too expensive to recommend and isn’t as fun as it should be to play.