Doctor Who fans already got their first taste of the BBC’s beloved sci-fi series in VR this year. But, in just a few months’ time, a full VR game will let fans fly across the universe and through time.
Doctor Who: The Edge Of Time is coming to PSVR, Oculus Quest, Rift and HTC Vive in September. It’s under development at Maze Theory, a London-based studio also working on next year’s Peaky Blinders VR game. As with Doctor Who: The Runaway, the VR movie that premiered at Tribeca earlier this year, it stars current Doctor Jodie Whittaker in an all-new adventure. Unlike that piece, though, this is a fully interactive game, and one that sounds like a fan’s dream come true.
“You play as the Doctor’s friend,” Maze Theory CEO Ian Hambleton tells me. “She’s being held at the edge of time by this mysterious force. That baddie has woken up to reality and decided they don’t like the way that the universe has turned out, and they’ve released a reality virus.”
Pretty standard fare for Doctor’s usual madcap antics, then. The difference, Maze Theory hopes, is that you’ll find the shows key elements even more compelling in VR.
“Our north star for the project is for fans and gamers to feel like they’re inside the episode,” Hambleton says, “and to experience it to such a true level that they’d never be able to do with screen-based media.”
But, while the story may be all-new, large parts of The Edge Of Time will play like a greatest hits for series veterans. The game will feature classic villains, including the haunting weeping angels and, yes, a certain breed of aliens hellbent on extermination. I’ve played a few small sections of the game, including (somewhat reluctantly) an angels section. It’s every bit as terrifying as you might imagine it to be.
“Actually meeting a Dalek and standing in front of a Dalek is pretty awesome,” adds Russ Harding, Creative Director on the game. “We’ve had people that have come in that are fans. Just to see a Dalek at scale or even to hide from one is awesome.”
Moreover, Maze Theory also worked with the BBC production team to create its own characters for the game. “Anything from the enemies or the foes that we’ve worked with the writers on are based on driving the narrative and taking players through the whole experience,” Harding notes. “It is about weaving all those elements together; story, interaction, gameplay to enhance certain interactions, using the right kind of enemies at the right time.”
Part of those interactions will involve wielding the Sonic Screwdriver, a do-all device that’s long seemed like a perfect VR companion tool. As you might imagine, there’s countless things you could do with a franchise such as this in VR, but Maze Theory wants to visit some unexpected locations too.
“What I’m particularly proud of is that we don’t go to the obvious things,” Hambleton adds. “A lot of the stuff you currently get [in VR] is dinosaurs or full-on [sci-fi]. But we’re going to Victorian London, which is going to be amazing in VR.”
Expect the game to last around two or three hours when it launches, then. It sounds like this might be part of a growing category of VR titles such as Vader Immortal that’s more focused on experience and emotion. But there will be more traditional game elements, too.
“As a game, it’s packed with lots of mechanics,” Harding says. “Everything from choosing the environment to give you lots of spectacles or the detail with lots of things to interact with, we’ve got some very big room-scale physical puzzles to unlock chambers and new parts of worlds.”
Personally, though, I’m most excited about meeting some weird and wonderful characters in VR. Meeting the angels, which only move when you’re not looking at them, freezes me on the spot with fear. In the opening scene a London laundrette is flooded with a gooey alien specimen; I lean into a washing machine where the monster sleeps and his eye suddenly opens, startling me and sending me tumbling backward. This is an important area for Maze Theory, especially with next year’s Peaky Blinders game, but it’ll play a part in The Edge of Time too. I’m not much of a Whovian myself, but the chance to immerse myself in a world this weird is tempting.
“I think so much narrative is driven by characters that it’s hard to keep avoiding it in VR,” Harding (who previously worked on The London Heist at Sony London) explains. “I think we’ve been really lucky because [Doctor Who] is a really rich world where we do get to introduce foes and enemies.”
“We do also believe it will bleed over into sci-fi lovers,” Hambleton adds. “VR enthusiasts will also love it, because VR is just the most amazing medium for transporting you to different worlds and places. And in this you get to do that.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Maze Theory says to look for The Edge Of Time in early September. The company is also looking into possible VR arcade rollouts for those that want to jump into the world of Doctor Who but don’t own a headset.