VR Game Review: Land’s End (Samsung Gear VR)

There are a lot of gimmicks in VR–especially the lowest point of entry in its technology, mobile VR–and I’ve spent a lot of money on a lot of games that kind of just…sucked ass.  So much so, they might even turn the average consumer off to VR entirely. It’s unfortunate, because VR tech today (yes, even mobile VR) is really fucking cool and works really fucking well *when implemented correctly*.

Land’s End is the game that got VR right. It’s the experience you think of when you think, “Virtual Reality.” You want to step into another world; a new reality so immersive you can practically call it your own. And that’s the experience that Land’s End offers.

As USTwo Games, the creators, describe it,”Land’s End is a VR adventure from the creators of Monument Valley. Set against spectacular landscapes, the player is tasked with awakening an ancient civilization using the powers of their mind.” USTwo grants your newfound telekinetic abilities by taking advantage of the Gear’s most basic features: by simply looking and touching the Gear’s built-in track pad, you focus your powers to manipulate objects in the environment and activate ancient gateways this civilization left behind.

But the strength of Land’s End isn’t in the puzzles. My enjoyment came from the drive to explore.  USTwo does a great job fleshing out what is really “cool” to look at in VR. They played with scale, distance, and perspective to make a world that seems so real, so much larger then life. Towering mountains, massive underground caves, narrow corridors, steep cliffs, and waterfalls await you in Land’s End. 

Unfortunately for some, you can’t free-roam explore the landscapes, with USTwo opting for a more visually comfortable static navigation system. To move around, players look at points around them and are more or less carted on a track to them, but the developers picked perspectives that let you most appreciate a virtual world. These are the spots you would have wound up at anyway, the spots that make you stop and say, “holy shit! That’s fucking awesome!” and you get to enjoy them without the motion sickness most free-roam mobile-VR games are famous for.

Now for the bad… sadly, Land’s End feels unfinished, more like an experiment than anything. That’s further confirmed by USTwo’s admission that, “Land’s End began as an investigation into new techniques for interaction and navigation in VR.” It certainly feels that way, like the game is one of the greatest experiences mobile VR has to offer right now, but it could have been so much more.

Personally, I think Land’s End is a great shut-your-mind-off-and-play-a-game, game. The puzzles are easy and straightforward, but just enough to take your mind off of whatever mind be weighing it down. Zen spaces are big in VR right now, but I’d say plug in your headphones and escape to Land’s End instead.

Sources:

Land’s End Press Kit. (n.d.). Retrieved September 06, 2017, from http://press.landsendgame.com/sheet.php?p=lands_end

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