Sony’s China Hero initiative holds promise. It’s a PlayStation-run incubator designed to nurture talent from an emerging market that often puts style ahead of substance. Chinese-developed games like Reboant offer some of VR’s most striking visuals, but last mere minutes. Others like Seeking Dawn promise hours of gameplay that are padded out with laborious crafting and survival mechanics. Under Sony’s wing, though, Beijing-based Vivagames shows reassuring progress with Immortal Legacy: The Jade Cipher.
There’s a much-needed sense of structure to this relatively simple first-person shooter. Vivagames’ shiny screenshots aren’t masking a simple wave shooter or on-rails campaign but instead a full, linear adventure that’ll take you around five hours to blast through. Immortal Legacy is never terribly inventive or even particularly memorable, but it is at least an earnest shot at delivering the type of experience many PSVR owners desperately want more of.
Potential shines throughout, though it’s largely just out of reach. The nonsensical plot offers a glimmer of promise with detailed, if embarrassingly under-dressed, companions and some interesting interactions. An early encounter with a cigar-chomping thug is particularly squeamish, suggesting Viva might find great use for VR here. Minutes later you meet a fairly intimidating villain that makes an effectively deadly entrance.
Inexplicably, though, the game’s cast completely disappears about 20 minutes in and doesn’t show up again until the final cutscene. It seems clear that some of Immortal Legacy’s grander ambitions were cut from the game without their setups being taken out too. It’s in need of a narrative tidy up; these plot beats are made far too early and openly to have been considered teasers for a sequel.
Immortal Legacy deals better with more familiar traits, though. The campaign has a welcome touch of progression, from shootouts over rocky mountain tops to creepy treks through dark caverns. It’s one part action adventure, one part survival horror (and, right at the end, one part painfully dull sci-fi shooter). As a standard FPS it’s serviceable, if formulaic, with tidy action sequences quickly mopped up with some well-placed headshots.
What’s lacking, though, is the thrill of a gunfight. Immortal Legacy’s uncharted island (which owes a debt to a certain series of the same name) is packed with mercenaries and monsters to riddle with bullets, but they’re all devoid of real threat and tension. It’s pretty easygoing, failing to deliver any sense of urgency when your life is on the line. It hampers the horror element somewhat (which is either a pro or a con depending on your outlook), though the game does feel better suited to the slower-paced scares than the Hollywood set pieces. Sheepishly stepping through a cave armed with a flashlight in one hand and a pistol on its last few bullets in the other is wonderfully immersive.
It’s just a shame the game never gets experimental with its foundations. Human and monster enemies never mix, for example, and some persistent enemies simply disappear if you put enough distance between them. Immortal Legacy often feels more like a template than a game, just begging to be iterated on to find the real magic. It never gets there.
Messier still is the game’s control scheme, which is an enemy in its own right. I can see the logic behind the button mapping to the Move controllers but the translation is, frankly, dire. Turning is assigned to one of the top corresponding face buttons on both controllers with the button next to it opening that hand’s inventory system. On paper it makes sense but in practise, you’ll be accidentally opening your inventory and fighting with the controls in the middle of action setpieces. It’s hard to tell if Viva is simply failing at intuition or aiming for Resident Evil-style tank controls, but the answer makes little difference. Why there’s no PlayStation Aim support is beyond me.
Immortal Legacy is clearly half the game it was once intended to be, with missing puzzle pieces strewn throughout. What remains, though, is an often half-decent, if mostly uneventful, shooter. Control issues aside, it’s a palatable bit of VR action that, if nothing else, suggests China’s VR development scene is making strides beyond its previous efforts. Hopefully the next wave of China-made VR games gives us something truly special.
Immortal Legacy: The Jade Cipher is available now on PSVR. Read our Game Review Guidelines for more information on how we arrived at this score.