Have you ever had one of those games you were really excited for, but once the game finally comes out you end up not just disliking it, but actually kind of hating it? Enter Highwire Games’ Golem. Despite being delayed over and over since 2015’s announcement, it doesn’t feel like a stretch to say more delays may have been the right call. What we have here is a game that gets several things right to an impressive level while completely and utterly dropping the ball in other key areas.
But let’s start with the good stuff. You play a bedridden child named Twine, living in a post apocalyptic fantasy realm, who discovers he is a “dreamer”, someone capable of controlling the mighty Golems. This ancient city is walled off, so the Golems are actually the only means of penetrating the magical veil. Once Twine takes control of the Golems, the open world experience really gets going as you slowly gain access to more and more of the city. The story and the world building are really great, and help enrich the experience, as does the sandbox itself. The environment and art direction are amazing, and the world feels both unique and interesting to explore. This extends to the animations as well, which are surprisingly good. The humans and Golems you encounter have a wide range of animations to draw from, and the fluidity is impressive. Finally, the music, from Halo composer Martin O’Donnell is simply divine. Incredible in isolation and in service to the game, Golem features one of the most beautiful scores of the year, and frankly, of the generation.
However, these great qualities serve combat and gameplay that are at best tedious and at worst frustrating beyond belief. At its most basic, Golem is a melee combat game. While there are some world traversal puzzles, melee combat is very much the main feature. The problem with this is that tracking and general implementation of combat are woeful. It was so poor that we were convinced we were playing the game incorrectly and kept trying different things to see if things would improve. This was to no avail unfortunately. There were a few moments where the combat went off without a hitch, but this was a depressingly rare occurrence. And to add salt in the wound, for those brief moments where the combat was working properly, it was exceptional. Parrying and offering counter attacks felt gratifying and powerful. But for every second of proper functionality, there were 10 more that consisted of the camera losing the weapon's location or Golems swinging directly through your weapon and decapitating you.
As you progress through the game, the speed and intensity of fighting ramps up, too. When you first start you can see each swing coming from the other side of the planet, but as you keep going, things pick up the pace quite a bit. And if it weren’t for the tracking problems, that would be a fun thing to hear. But with how imprecise everything feels, this is yet another means of generating a frustrating experience.
Each time you die, you also lose your equipment. You have amulets that offer a buff, Masks that function as keycards, and then weapons.. And for some misguided reason, each item can only be used once. You also can’t change equipment on the fly, instead having to return to your “workshop” to swap things out, including your masks. So not only do you lose your old equipment if you do this, you have to walk a long way back to resume your task, as the checkpoints aren’t exactly frequent.
Even just the act of walking back to a location carries with it some problems. This is where the game’s numerous delays start to show themselves. The locomotion system is tanky, where moving your head forward slightly allows you to walk, and you move your head side to side to turn. It’s not ideal, and we found ourselves constantly having to “reset” our head so the game would still register our forward momentum. The problem is many of the VR games we have now have already moved past this and come up with better ideas for how to traverse an environment. It makes the title feel as if it launched alongside PlayStation VR rather than several years after. It is however a small mercy that you can always pick up a DualShock 4 and just play the game more traditionally.
On the technical side things fare a little better most of the time. Framerate is rock solid, while comfort settings are varied and work quite well if you need them. The problem here lies with the syncing of the camera. When you hold down the options button to reorient yourself to the camera, things start to get a little wacky. This is something almost all VR titles allow you to do quickly and efficiently, but no so with Golem. Not only does it take a while for the reorientation to take effect, but it doesn’t work right away. Usually immediately after resetting the camera, the perspective that you are placed is incorrect. It seems like before things right themselves your face and hand are swapped so nothing moves properly. And to make matters worse before that happens, the camera sync doesn’t work at all, instead having a static image that movies around as you move, and it is absolutely nauseating. Even for those with a strong constitution, this game caused headaches, and immense bouts of nausea, and that’s largely thanks to how poorly the camera syncing works.
Golem is a game that had a shot at being good if it launched alongside the PSVR. Fast-forward a couple years and impressive virtual reality titles are fairly common. This, depressingly, is not one of those. By the time we took the headset off, we were left with not just a feeling of disappointment, but also one of anger. Anger at the promise it once held. Anger that, despite its flaws, it did some things really well. Anger that it simply wasn’t good.
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On PSVR you really have to work within its boundaries and tracking and lack of movement options on the move controller are top of the pile. It almost sounds like this was built on PC VR rig and the devs just forgot to make the changes needed for PSVR.
Ouch... Let's hope for a better PS5 VR port.
@Shepard93n7 Ooo that'd be fun! There's a good game in here somewhere, I swear it!
@TooBarFoo The most incredible part is it's a PSVR exclusive! I don't think it's releasing on Oculus or Vive at all, so far as I know! Which just...what. How in the world!
Psvr is just a tech demo. Call me in 5 years.
@jess3a3 I don't know there's loads of great games now on it.
Come for the low-key James Bond reference in the article's title, stay for the excellent review. Sorry to hear that the game didn't live up to expectations!
Since the Last Labyrinth devs responded to this site's review of that game, let's hope the Golem devs will do the same because there is a good game here. I saw PSVR without Parole and Polish Paul play it and I thought it looked fun. However, according to Upload VR, the checkpoints are really flawed which worries me. I'm hoping that the developers will offer a patch to fix the game. So far though, this looks like something that could have benefitted better on the PS5 but that's just me.
I still think it's a better melee VR game than Reborn: A Samurai Awakens though. At least Golem is nice to look at and the framerate remains solid.
Still, as I said, I really hope the developers patch the game up since there is potential.
What a bummer. I had high hopes for this ever since the teaser trailer. Oh well, Audica it is then.
This game seems to be the divisive PSVR game that Death Stranding is on PS4. Polish Paul gave it 10/10 and PSVR without Parole gave it high marks throughout with only a couple squabbles. 4/10 is really really low, considering the other reviews. Mind you in reading the review, it seems like Graham was just angry and trying to shoot down the game as much as possible without giving it much credit in anything.
...I would have liked to see Sammy review the game and get his take on it. I think it would have been a little less drama.
Yeah I wouldn't trust this review. I've seen several other places praising this game with 9's and 10's. After the atrocity that was Push Square's Last Labyrinth review I'll take your opinion with a grain of salt.
Shadow dropped. This game was VR hype machine forever. What a waste. I know Sammy and others are bummed for sure.
@Nyne11Tyme I actually wasn't massively looking forward to this personally. I've always thought it's got good ideas, but I dunno... It never really looked "right" to me. Couldn't put my finger on it.
@AdamNovice True. Sure, there were a few stinkers here and there but the same can be said with other VR platforms.
Does using the Dualshock make the combat any better compared to the Move controllers?
@lacerz Same! I've been excited for this game since the very first announcement. And to have it come out this way, I'm kinda crushed
@SoulsBourne128 I absolutely agree. There are nuggets of something really special in here. They're just buried until a heap of flaws. But they are unquestionably there! Patch it up a bit would be awesome! The tracking alone getting fixed up would be a huge improvement!
@jess3a3 I heartily disagree. PSVR might have the worst graphical fidelity of the big sets, but there are a lottttt of really great games on there!
@Party_Cannon I described the soundtrack as one of the best of the entire console generation, talked about how great the world is, and mentioned that when the combat worked, it was really great. I fail to see how that constitutes not giving it credit for anything.
I was, however, angry, you are correct there. I was massively excited for this game for a very long time, and the end product being as unenjoyable as it was proved to be massively frustrating. I find it rather disingenuous to suggest I was shooting the game down simply to generate drama though.
@PSfan4Life22 I didn't personally review, nor have I played, Last Labyrinth, so that shouldn't really have any bearing on this specific review. Although you are right, this is ultimately an opinion. It's not like I wanted the game to go down like this. I was incredibly excited for it!
@RR529 Not in my opinion no. It made moving a little less unfun, but the combat definitely felt better (when it worked) with the move!
@get2sammyb sorry if i got you mixed up. I just remember some "we dont know much but just the idea" type quotes early on....i dont even recall seeing any hands on or dev updates. It was always on the VR anticipated lists and just shadow dropped out of nowhere?😕
@PSfan4Life22 I just looked at gamerankings and didn’t find any other reviews for it, what other reviews are you talking about?
I don’t blame you for the grain of salt with Last Labyrinth though. And it’s same thing with finding other reviews for it.
@Jaz007 You should check VRgamecritic, the PSVR reddit, and Youtube.
I dont think that's a good thing to express in a review honestly. Dont blame gamers for overreacting because of a bloody game then. Besides I ve never been impressed by what was shown.
If it's just the gameplay and tracking that is bad one can hopefully .... hope... that that can be patched.
So this game got great reviews from Polish Paul (10/10), PSVRwithoutParole and game chronicles. This site and Upload VR hated it. Is this just one of those games you love or hate or are there two versions of the game out there.????
@Hamst88 Certainly starting to look that way! I've seen those other super high scores as well!
Hmmm.....this game has a 7.8 user score on metacritic and one review from a user. I wonder if it's the devs, given how much you are disappointed with the game. What a shame as this looked promising.
Not really going to trust this review alone. I still remember the crap score this site gave Firewall based on the fact that they did not think a PSVR game could support an online community for more then a couple months. Well it has been over a year and player base is better then ever.
Based on your trophies you earned in Golem it does not look like you played much. 1/3 at most. Do you plan to go back and play more? If so you should set up your psvr station properly. There should be no tracking issues.
Sit 5 to 6 feet in front of camera facing it. Make sure your move controller is fully in view as far as you can reach in all directions.
Easy to set up using the build in psvr camera display screen before the game starts.
where is the Shenmue review?
@gbanas92 I understand your frustration with the combat. It has a steep learning curve and can get frustrating. Until you get the hang of it. Then it becomes a STUNNINGLY great game.
I played it a lot and I hardly get hit anymore. When I get hit, it's by my own mistake. The tracking is absolutely perfect, when you get hit you are simply not blocking correctly. I got the platinum but I enjoy this one so much that I still keep playing it, just because the combat is so great and the whole atmosphere is just breathtaking.
I think that is what causing al the wildly different review scores - those who give the high marks have learned how the combat works.
Btw I absolutely hated the original moving system, but after the patch I played it with a move and navigation controller. That really transforms the game into the beauty it is.
I can't recommend this game enough.
@Warrie. Absolutely agreed 9n the atmosphere! The game was downright lovely to look at!!!
Also agreed, I definitely prefer the new control scheme as well!
And also also agreed on the learning curve! I did start getting a firm grasp on combat a couple hours in, but I did still run into tracking problems with the weapons frequently enough that it was massivel fristrating, as opposed to just a weapons mismatch, which is a common complaint I've seen as a (not from you) criticism of anyone critical of the game. It was more just actual tracking issues with the moves umfortunately.
@DavidEdgrrr yeah im planning to go back, i was planning to wait for patches which are now, but there are just other games there i wanna playore, especially given my feelings on the launch version.
My psvr was/is set up proper haha, thats why i found it so frustrating! I reposotioned everything multiple times too to see if my setup was in.fact the issue. Even tried sitting and standing in each setup to see what was up too!
Hi @gbanas92, nothing is more frustrating than having tracking issues in VR games And maybe you do have tracking issues, but in the first hours I was convinced I had tracking issues too when I was sure I blocked correctly and still got hit. The enemy seemed to simply smash right through my blocks.
What changed the game for me is that I did not simply block by holding my sword still, but instead I smash my sword against his, just like you would do in real life. Fighting with a sword was easier for me than with a halbert, with a halbert you have to make contact with the tip of the edge.
And what I learned after about 10 hours or so - some attacks seemed unblockable, until I learned those hits first seem to come from directly left and right, but actually at the end are way lower than expected. So I block those by holding my sword diagonal and smash his attack away with a downward motion.
If you can move your sword around without any hickups - I think you're in the same boat as I was in. The tutorial should have been much better in Golem, explaining these nuances much better, or perhaps a training mode.
Appreciate your feedback. Hope you give this one another chance
@Warrie yeah absolutely had a similat experience early on. Started by simply placing my sword in the "correct" spot, which did nottt work for very long haha. Yeah each weapon had very different areas of contact.
Fighting against golems with weapons beyond swords is when the depth to the combat started clicking. But the tracking issues persisted that's where i mentioned how awesome the game felt when tracking wasn't woeful. Those brief moments when I wasn't fighting with the tracking, it was awesome!
And for your last point, i could only sometimes move my sword without hiccups haha. I was fighting with tracking literally the whole time I played. Weapon tracking waa constantly getting messed up. Tried everything to fix it too. Different camera positions, different body positions, system restarts, turning the system completely off and on, unplugging everything. All of it! And the tracking resets didn't help either because of how inconsistently it actually worked
I was so dang excited for the game too I was so ready to love it! And I ended up fighting against it the whole time. I hope those patches fix everything. And definitely glad so many people seem to love it and had much better experiences than I did Regardless of how many people disagree with or just outright don't believe my opinion haha
Hi @gbanas92 , ah ok, you really have tracking issues then when you can't move the sword around without hickups. How weird! You don't have issues like that in other VR games?
The tracking is absolutely perfect for me, when I move my arm and sword in the game, it just corresponds 100% perfectly with my real arm movement - which is what making the combat so immersive for me.
I did a challenge for myself and did a full sweep - clearing all enemies that are available - without getting hit once. I read a dlc is coming with tougher enemies which I'm looking forward to now.
Much respect for your feedback by the way. Your collegue wrote a very unfair review of Last Labyrinth without giving any arguments which really pissed me off
@Warrie Yeah exactly! Hiccups even when just moving the thing around! And for the most part nah, tracking's usually pretty great. I play Beat Saber practically every day without issue haha. That's why it stood so far out. Tracking is rarely an issue!
I had flashes of my tracking working for me the way you got to experience, but it was so rare. I really wish it were like that more often (or just the whole time haha).
And no problem! Always more than happy to discuss differing opinions on games when it's a discussion like this!
Sony won't allow your game past VR certification if there is any tracking issues.
If you are having tracking issues and a holding options reset doesn't fix it you need to address your set up. You have interference of some sort.
Not all games track the same. Beat saber since it's really fast might use the moves gyros and accelerometers more than actual location in 3d space.
@DavidEdgrrr Beat saber I was just using as an example because I by far play it the most, but I absolutely agree. I have to assume the gyros play a much bigger part in that game.
I don't know about any. It'd be pretty hard to say that every VR game has launched completely functional. If it were literally unplayable that'd be different.
And I did address my setup. Many, many times trying to find something that would make it work. That's why it was such a problem. If I can play most games no problem immediately (or with let's say one adjustment) and I tried at least a dozen setups specifically because I was convinced I did have something wrong, that's kinda messed up.
And the problem wasn't the camera placement with the reset button not working. It was tricky to put into words so it might not have terribly clear in the review itself, but pressing it would attach the camera to the incorrect part of the golem (or Twine), but still function normally apart from that before shifting to an even worse thing where the image would turn 2d but you could still move your head in the space, and it was absolutely nauseating, and I don't get motion sick. It was brutal.
Yup. I fully understand. I'm a dev who works on psvr games. The think you describe is showing its not properly calibrated.
One thing to try is the full psvr recalibration where you hold the Hemet up to the camera from different angles to recalibrate.
It's a pain for sure. But there must be something funking with your tracking.
My home set up tool me awhile to get right.
@DavidEdgrrr I did that too More or less as a last resort but still haha. Although I have moved my entire setup again since the last time I tried so might be worth doing it again!
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