It doesn’t take a whole lot to catch my interest on a personal level. If you ever see me at an event, walking down the street, or on Twitter, just mention a video game and I’ll probably have something to say about it. We can chat about The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, The Lord of the Rings, Dungeons & Dragons, EverQuest, The Elder Scrolls, or anything else. If you were paying attention though, you probably noticed that every property I just listed off is based in some type of a traditional fantasy setting. That’s my sweet spot, although I love all genres.
Suffice it to say that Vanishing Realms [Review: 8/10] is still one of my personal favorite VR games and it has a lot to do with the setting, mechanics, and general premise of dungeon delving inside a virtual reality headset.
The SoulKeeper VR is a bit different in that it aims to provide a more visually immersive and overall more engrossing experience, but it taps into the same stylistic splendor that fantasy RPGs have become known for over the years.
I don’t mean to imply that The SoulKeeper VR will be on the same tier as the other properties I listed before such as D&D or The Elder Scrolls — it’s made by a small team, on a small budget, with modest ambitious — but it does serve as an exciting glimpse into the future of even more massive and ambitious VR RPGs we might see later on down the line and that’s extremely exciting.
Earlier this year, I pulled back the curtain on The SoulKeeper VR and it’s changed a lot in the months since then. In the teaser trailer near the top of this article, you’ll notice several different types of enemies, spells, weapons, environments, and more. Luckily, I can confirm it looks just as epic inside the HMD.
For starters, this new demo featured a much-needed tutorial section. It walked me through how to use my staff, sword, and spells. The staff is accessed by reaching over my left should with my left hand and pulling the trigger — similar to switching weapons in other games like Space Pirate Trainer. From here, I can tap (as in lightly touch my finger to different areas) on the touchpad to switch between the different abilities on the staff, such as a flamethrower, a teleportation spell, and an energy shield.
Similarly, I reach over my right shoulder with my right hand to grab my sword, which I can use to cut down my foes up close. The ragdoll physics and lack of haptic feedback (a common problem in melee combat for VR) was a bit immersion-breaking, but I’d imagine those issues will get ironed out over time. When either hand is empty it can pick up objects and can also draw symbols in the air to access spells. The symbols have been simplified from things like boxes and swirls to arrows and lines this time around — they’re much easier to draw accurately and quickly now.
After I passed the tutorial, I played through a more polished version of the same demo as before. However, this time, the movement system has been expanded. Previously, I could only teleport using the staff, but now there is full optional touchpad locomotion, similar to Onward, that I much prefer since motion sickness does not impact me at all. I still found myself teleporting to cover larger distances.
After I completed a simple puzzle and fought off a few enemies, the roof opened up with a mighty dragon and I was transported to a preview of a new environment, which you see in the featured image at the top of this article. The sky was dark and brooding, the cliffsides were steep and terrifying, and the massive statues were intimidating. This is the area that finally realizes the vision of a grand, immersive fantasy adventure that few VR games have accomplished thus far.
There were a couple small wyverns (small dragons) flying around a tower, but they didn’t seem hostile. Eventually, I got tired of their mocking me and slayed them with well-placed fireballs. After walking around outside a while longer, taking in the sights, I touched the large crystal at the center of the map and was met with an ending screen for my short demo.
This is still just a small slice of the world that HELM Systems is building, but fans of RPGs and fantasy games in VR such as Vanishing Realms, Roomscale Tower, and Sword Master VR, should keep their eyes on The SoulKeeper VR. Don’t be surprised if this ends up being one of the first robust, immersive, fantasy adventues you take in the metaverse.
When The SoulKeeper VR eventually releases into Early Access for a paid fee on Steam, it will be even more expanded than it is now. Currently, the alpha version of the game is being distributed exclusively to early subscribers. There is no definitive date set for the eventual Early Access other than “soon.” We’ll keep you posted on any developments.