When Insomniac Games announced that they would be allowing press, and the general public if you didn’t mind the lines, to play Stormland hands-on during the Pax West 2018 weekend, I was very excited. I first saw a trailer for Stormland several months ago, and it looked to offer some very immersive VR gameplay mixed with an actual story, and, perhaps most intriguingly, co-op. So I made sure to visit the lovely folks from Insomniac Games and spent about half an hour inside an Oculus Rift headset exploring an early build of Stormland. Here are my thoughts.
Stormland is Incredibly Immersive
Yes, Stormland is very beautiful. The screenshots I had seen do the graphics justice. I’ve always been impressed when VR games make full use of the fact that you are in a virtual body and replace menus with in-game mechanics, such as holstering weapons on your belt or behind your shoulder. Stormland dials the immersion up to eleven. There’s a reason that Insomniac Games rented out a large space a few blocks away from the Washington State Convention Center for its demos; they needed the space to create several room-scale environments for players to fully experience Stormland.
Unrelatedly, I will continue to dream of a wireless solution for the Oculus Rift.
Upon first entering the game, I went through a short tutorial to familiarize myself with the controls and my new body. I’m an Android with fully articulated arms and hands, and when I look down, I see my legs and feet. Stormland offers full locomotion, including movement via the Oculus Touch controller, yourself in the room, and snap turning. During a brief chat with Chad Dezern, Chief Creative Officer at Insomniac Games, after my demo, I was told that other locomotion options are also being considered for the title.
It took me a little while to get my VR legs. While I was immediately comfortable and in love with being able to hold up my wrist to see a projected map or picking up fruits and squeezing them to refill what amounts to my mana reserves, I was less enthused when Stormland first asked me to step off a ledge. Now, the mechanics of that are fantastic. Extend your hands forward like Superman and step off a cliff to start gliding forward and towards the ground. Squeeze the Oculus Touch triggers to begin boosting across a field of clouds; it’s incredible. And slightly scary for those not keen to get on roller coasters or go bungee-jumping. After overcoming the first few challenges, however, I felt more and more comfortable and started moving around with ease. Climbing up the side of a rocky wall or any other building in the game is an amazing experience all by itself.
In Stormland, you’ll explore islands that are floating in the clouds, for lack of a better description. You’ll use a variety of weapons, energy shields, and even grenades. Weapons can be dismantled by grabbing them with both hands and pulling, grenades require you to push a button and then make a throwing motion, and your shield can be held up like an actual shield. You can even hold weapons with both hands for improved accuracy and fire rate.
The immersion factor in Stormland is off the charts, and I can’t wait to play more of this. I may need to sweat-proof my Oculus Rift and somehow pad my room, so I don’t destroy things while I’m flying around the game.
Stormland’s Ever-Changing Content and Co-Op
My brief time with Stormland didn’t allow me to get much of a grasp on its story, but Chad told me that the game’s content would continually change and evolve. Players can expect weekly events and the title is designed in such a way to always provide new experiences. The world is dynamic in a way that will allow players to explore and find new content and upgrades on a regular basis.
You’ll also be able to play Stormland in co-op with friends, something I can’t wait to find out more about in the future.
I came away from Pax West with a lot of anticipation for Stormland‘s future, and it’s quickly become my most anticipated VR title of next year. Stormland is due to be released for the Oculus Rift in 2019.