Insomniac is a legendary videogame studio that is responsible for bringing such iconic titles as Ratchet and Clank, Resistance, and Sunset Overdrive to market. Today, the former creative director of the latter two games, Marcus Smith, took me inside the campy, gory, colorful world of his latest project: Feral Rites.
Feral Rites is a virtual reality game being developed exclusively for the Oculus Rift. Beyond its VR support this is a tough game to pin down genre-wise. Rites combines the classic brawling of Streets of Rage or Double Dragon, the combo emphasis of Devil May Cry, the exploratory token hunting of a 3D platformer, and the performance boosting systems of a basic RPG. Let’s break all of those down one at a time.
From a VR perspective, Rites is very similar to Chronos in the way that it utilizes the technology. As you play, you’ll find yourself viewing the action from a fixed camera point placed within the world. Camera transitions are triggered when you move your character over one of many glowing blue lines strewn across your path.
Smith explained that the addition of the blue lines represented the moment when the entire game began to click and motion sickness was reduced. VR games like these need clear transition triggers, according to Smith, in order to keep players from feeling frustrated or surprised by the camera jumps.
Combat in Feral Rites will be familiar to brawler fans. You have a light attack, a heavy attack, a grab, a block, and a dodge-roll. Combos are strung together by combining light attacks, heavy attacks, jumps, and grabs.
Your fighting skills become enhanced through one of the game’s most heavily touted mechanics: beast mode. At any time during the game, you can transform into a hulking jaguar for more powerful attacks and increased defense, or a limber panther to increase your traversal speed. The jaguar has combos of its own and also serves to show off one of Feral Rites most significant surprises: blood.
This game is really quite bloody – which will be a bit of a shock for Insomniac fans that know the studio best for the squeaky clean Ratchet and Clank series, though maybe not so much to those that just finished the excellent Edge of Nowhere. As you fight, you’ll sometimes be prompted to “Execute” your foes by pressing B. This triggers a brief animation in which your character decapitates, devours, and otherwise mauls the object of your violent affections to death. Even after battles end your claws and fangs remain blood-spattered, which serves as a macabre reminder that in this game you are much more animal than man.
The world of Feral Rites is more open ended and sprawling than most 3rd person VR games to date. You will consistently encounter multiple path options, and exploration is rewarded through tokens and collectibles. Smith explained that his team wanted the world to feel open and living rather than static and aggressively pre-planned.
Feral Rites completes Insomniac’s initial trifecta of games being developed exclusively for the Oculus Rift. On the subject of exclusive content Smith had this to say:
At the end of the day this is a business…its not an open source world… for Insomniac its in our best interest, but I do understand that, as a consumer, there are often times where you really want to play something but don’t have a certain console. But I grew owning an Intelivision while my neighbor had an Atari. These types of things are a routine part of the video game world.”
Feral Rites releases in Fall of 2016 at an undisclosed price point. The length of the game is also still up in the air but keep an eye out for more on the game coming soon.