The launch of Sony's virtual reality headset served up an impressively strong start for the as-of-yet unproven technology. A large number of games, offering a rather impressive variety alongside some quality exclusives, made for an intriguing entry into the VR space. Unfortunately, since the exceptional launch, the PlayStation VR lineup has been, at best, a feeble dribble. Fated: The Silent Oath was originally going to be a launch title, but after a pretty extreme delay, it's releasing now – and the device is all the better for it.
Developed by Frima, Fated is a first-person narrative-driven walking simulator focusing on Norse Mythology. You assume the role of Ulfir, a man recently slain and brought back from the dead by one of your gods, but with a catch: your resurrection comes at the cost of your voice. You rejoin your family and have to escape from the enemies of the gods of old, namely giants. Right away, being mute is the first clever thing that Frima does with VR immersion. Since you can't speak, the game has you engage in conversations by shaking and nodding your head, and it is on you to actually do that. It helps incorporate you into the narrative in a more tactile way than if you just listened to your character responding to people in the world without actually choosing how to approach the conversations.
These conversations largely happen with your wife, daughter, and nephew, and honestly, make for some rather engaging family connections. The voice work is good, and the game does a decent job of making you actually care about your family almost instantly. This was essential for Frima to pull off, too, as the game is exceptionally short. While there are a couple of small puzzles, the title is mostly walking and talking, and the whole experience is over in about 80 minutes. It functions like a nice episodic chunk of gameplay, which was originally the plan, though it's unclear if more episodes are planned still, as there's been no news on that front for some time.
Frima's cleverness doesn't stop at gameplay, though. It's clear looking at the title that the devs knew VR simply can't handle hyper realistic looking games just yet, and any of the releases that have tried for realism are a testament to that. Instead, the art direction opts for a much more stylized look. The end result is a game that knows its limitations perfectly well, and makes the most of it. The use of colour – particularly in a cave system you find late in the game – and just the environmental design in general are exceptional. The art direction is also used to convey quite a lot of information about Norse Mythology, using murals on walls, and designing many of the creatures with history in mind.
The music is yet another strong area in the title, particularly the main theme, which is nothing short of beautiful. It's a shame that the game's audio struggles to keep up that level of quality, though. The voice work and actual audio itself is all fine, but the directional audio leaves something to be desired. Like many other VR titles, Fated opts for turning in increments, and this effects the 3D audio rather severely, making many of the audio transitions quite jarring.
Fated: The Silent Oath is a brief but worthwhile reason to turn your PlayStation VR headset on. While walking simulators in virtual reality are already becoming dime a dozen, Fated actually backs this up with good voice work, characters that are very easy to care about, and a strong, laser-focused art direction.