GDC 2017: First Hands-On Preview With The Gallery: Episode 2 – Heart of the Emberstone
My demo for The Gallery: Episode 2 – Heart of the Emberstone ended the exact same way Episode 1 ended for me: with my mouth open, staring up at the sky. In the first episode, you’re ascending into what can only be described as a portal of some kind as The Watcher, a mysterious and ominous character, talks to you about what’s coming next just before the credits roll. The ending of my Episode 2 demo was much more visually arresting.
At GDC 2017, Cloudhead Games allowed me to have the first hands-on preview of the upcoming sequel to their 2016 hit VR adventure title, The Gallery: Episode 1 – The Call of the Starseed [Review: 9/10]. After over $1 million in revenue and winning our award for Best VR Game Narrative of 2016, Episode 2 is picking up right where it left off.
The demo began with me standing in front of a large, circular door. I reached out with my right hand, which was laden with an ornate, clearly alien gauntlet — the same one you receive at the end of Episode 1. A crystal reacts to the glowing part of the gauntlet, triggering a mechanism that allows me to unlock the door by moving my hand forward.
From there, I’m treated to a room that I am later told will serve as the hub of the adventure. The Gallery: Episode 2 is designed as a longer journey (around 6 hours) rife with exploration. Instead of following a mostly linear path like the first game, this time you’re free to roam between different areas, unlocking secrets as you go.
For starters, this room contained plenty of secrets. In front of me was a shining pad on the ground that, when stepped upon, created a cascading effect of stones around me to spawn what looked like a topographical map. My guess is that I can use this hub portal to fast travel in the future.
To my left and right were chests that had floating crystals that I could once again activate with my right hand. This time, each of them spawned a special puzzle that needed to be solved very carefully. My hands disappeared and my right hand movements were now represented by only the crystal, which I had to slowly move through a tube.
Inside the tube I saw red obstacles that were moving around to hinder my progress. I had to carefully move the crystals through the tubes without touching the insides of the tube themselves. It sounds confusing, but you can see a glimpse of them in the teaser above.
After my demo of The Gallery: Episode 2 I spoke with the team at Cloudhead and they emphasized how small of a slice this demo was of the full game. I didn’t get to explore the greater world, I only saw one other character — a hologram of a woman exploring the room (could it be your missing sister?) and poked around with a few puzzles.
But that being said, what I did see got me very excited. This strange new alien world of Ember is coming to life in wondrous detail and I’m aching to dive back into this universe. The biggest issue with Episode 1 was the linearity and brevity; both of those elements seem to be improved, if just a bit, this time around.
The demo ended with a giant stone-like creature emerging from the smoke and shadows, standing tall above the tower I was inside, and reaching down with his enormous hand towards me as I stood there, mouth agape, looking upwards just as last time.
We don’t have an exact release date for The Gallery: Episode 2, but it is slated for Spring 2017, which means within just a couple of months. Stay tuned at UploadVR for more coverage on the game as we get closer to release.
The Gallery Episode 2 will release simultaneously for both HTC Vive and Oculus Rift with Touch this Spring. Cloudhead is also working on bringing both existing and all future episodes to PlayStation VR (PSVR) with no timeframe for release.