Robinson: The Journey Hands-on Preview: Dinos, and Ships, and VR, Oh My
Based on a hands-on demo with Crytek’s Robinson: The Journey I can say that PlayStation VR supporters have a game to brag about, because it definitely pays off on its promise of transporting you to an alien planet by taking advantage of Sony’s upcoming VR gadget and an engaging world to explore.
You play as a young boy who has crash landed on a mysterious planet, so you must figure out why he’s there and why the colonization ship he was on went down. To help you find your way you’re accompanied by a Halo-monitor like AI named Higs, who Crytek explained is sort of a Father figure for the lead character, and will help him pioneer his way through the planet, which just so happens to be littered with dinosaurs. What’s neat about their relationship is that Higs gives advice, but the hero doesn’t have to heed it, so their relationship will mirror the one most kids have with their parents.
In terms of gameplay Robinson’s main focus is on exploration and puzzle solving, but there’s action to take part in too. In the demo, which required the use of a controller, I was able to fully explore the game’s world as if I were the main character thanks to the PlayStation VR’s more than capable abilities. It was thrilling to look around in 360 degrees of motion at the game’s environment, which resembles an alternate take on what Earth must’ve looked like during the Dinosaur age. The PlayStation VR’s resolution, while not full on HD at this point, still offered a clear enough rendering of the game’s visuals to sell the virtual experience.
The environment felt alive and vibrant thanks to the massive trees, and fruit that were sprinkled throughout it, but more so for the fact that there are dinosaurs to interact with. Robison is like being in Jurassic Park when you come across these ancient beasts, which treat you with curiosity, or in the case of raptors, as potential prey. I had to interact with one long necked dinosaur by throwing wreckage debris at him, which he did not appreciate, so I had to find another solution to the puzzle he controlled. Eventually I figured out that I had to use the debris to knock down a piece of fruit for the Dino to take more interest in than me, which opened up the path I needed to take.
To pull of these interactions, or others like scaling a cliff face, you must use the controller in tandem with your own head movements with the PlayStation VR. This may sound clunky, but it actually feels very intuitive, especially during the climbing segments, which were some of my favorite moments from the demo. I had to look up at each grip, then use the controller to release my previous grip to reach for the higher ledge to keep my progression going. This in effect simulated the feeling of climbing a surface in real life, which is why I appreciated it so much even though climbing things in video games is usually the most mundane aspect about them.
The success of the PlayStation VR and the other players in the new space will depend on the software developers are creating for it, so I found it refreshing to get a taste of how Crytek thinks a VR game should play. Even though the Robinson demo was mainly focused on exploration, I still enjoyed the experience thanks to the immersion and resulting sense of wonder at being on an alien world can elicit in one’s mind. To me, this is what gets me excited for diving head first into VR gaming, so I’m definitely looking forward to checking out Robinson: The Journey when it exclusively releases for the PlayStation VR.
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