One of my favorite core game mechanics in any VR game is a good, responsive bow and arrow as a weapon. It’s why games like Longbow from The Lab are so addictive, Holopoint is so engaging, and why QuiVR was one of the first major co-op success stories. I’m still in love with archery in Skyrim VR as well, for example. So naturally when In Death was announced from Solfar Studios, it had my attention.
Rather than simply ask you to shoot waves of enemies flooding into a central point or performing what amounts to glorified target practice, In Death is a real, authentic game. You can see a 10-minute excerpt of me playing right here:
In Death isn’t an open world game or a sandbox environment by any means, but it does feature a large, medieval-style Gothic-themed castle to explore. You’ll start each round outside the castle and venture forth into its halls. Each time you play the layout is different, enemies are in different spots, and everything is just slightly altered enough to feel fresh. These are the roguelike elements the game’s description alludes to.
With each new game you’ll unlock different “perks” that alter things, such as tweaking damage and enemy spawns, as well as other effects. For example, on my second run I saw brand new enemy types that shot arrows much more quickly and even melee enemies with shields raised. Hitting the small portion of their head exposed at the top of the shield or their toes wasn’t easy — In Death is a game all about precision.
The whole game is built around an innovative archery-based movement system that lets you shoot a teleportation arrow and then immediately teleport to that spot. You can also toss an orb that will teleport you to the new spot. In the menus I could also enable a smooth locomotion mode to use the control stick on the Oculus Touch controllers. Using a combination of all three (like in the video above) felt like the best and most versatile option.
The bow and arrow mechanics worked great and felt super smooth. Using my left hand I could aim my bow and then pull back using the trigger on my right hand to knock an arrow. If I wanted to knock a teleportation arrow instead, I’d pull the string back with B instead of the trigger. Holding the trigger on my left hand turned my bow into a shield and holding Y on the left controller brought up a selection of arrows to switch to. Interestingly, the arrow selection feature also slows down time letting me side-step arrows while they’re in midair. That never got old.
Visually it’s quite stunning, especially when you get a look at the outdoor environments. The whole castle and its adjoining towers are all floating, suspended high in the air. The AI isn’t remarkable and mostly just walks in a straight line towards you, but the way they evolve in subsequent playthroughs makes their lack of intelligence less noticeable.
I’m not quite sure how well a game like this will hold up after a dozen or more attempts, but on first impression it’s one of the most polished and engaging archery-focused titles I’ve seen.
In Death is now available in Early Access on both Oculus Home and Steam for $19.99 with a 10% launch discount, so both Oculus Rift and HTC Vive users can get in on the action. It will also be coming to PSVR eventually as well.
If you decide to check it out, let us know what you think down in the comments below!