When I first picked up my own VR headset a few years back, I was enamored with the simplest of experiences. The novelty of virtual reality on its own merits kept my attention for more than enough time but the longer I’ve played games in VR, the more I’ve been desiring games that reflect what we see in the standard gaming space.
The fine folks at Insomniac Games seem prepared to deliver an experience just like that with Stormland, an upcoming first-person game that places you in the metallic shoes of an android exploring a vast open world. Stormland was revealed by Insomniac Games and Oculus Studios earlier this Summer and at PAX West, I was able to go hands-on with it in its first playable demo.
What’s easily the most exciting part of Stormland is that Insomniac Games allows players to move about however they see fit in the Stormland, the location in which the game takes place. The Stormland is comprised of a series of different islands that sit above the clouds with each island containing their own areas of intrigue. In typical Insomniac Games fashion, it’s the means of traversal that makes exploring the world as fun as it is. In the same vein as past Insomniac games like Marvel’s Spider-Man and Sunset Overdrive, Stormland features traversal mechanics that are an absolute joy.
When going between many of the islands of the Stormland, you can simply push your hands forward to skim along the clouds. It’s a simple means of traversal but one that is incredibly responsive and has a sense of speed that doesn’t make you feel queasy. You can also freely climb up almost any surface that you see in the game by simply walking up to it and grabbing it with your hands to pull yourself up — it’s like Spider-Man climbing a wall. There’s also a glide functionality that is used to slowly lower you to the ground whenever you jump off of high ledges. Traversal is the one part of Stormland I’m still thinking about after my demo.
Combat was another interesting aspect of Stormland as you’re really able to pick and choose how you want to approach enemies. Because I didn’t know much of what I was doing, I mainly opted to rush in guns blazing with my machine gun and approach other androids in a very direct manner. In addition to utilizing this gun, you also have a shield that you can use to defend yourself with on your left arm. You also can opt to wield any weapon in the game with two hands for increased accuracy. There are also grenades at your disposal to take down larger groups at once. Later on, I also found a sniper rifle and used it to take out some robots from afar. The two-handed aiming system worked wonders with this sniper.
I was later told that even though I approached combat in a very loud and direct way, you can also opt to sleuth around the environment to take does foes with stealth. There was a lot of tall grass in one of the areas that I found myself in and was told by one of Stormland’s developers after my demo that I could have used it as cover to sneak up behind some of the other robots and rip out their batteries, leading to an instant kill. It’s this freedom to play in a manner that best suits your own situation or playstyle that I find to be really alluring.
There are a lot of other cool ideas within Stormland such as the ability to play with friends to complete various missions with. This is one aspect of the game I wasn’t able to check out in my own demo, but speaking with some of the developers from Insomniac afterward it’s something that sounds very promising.
For those looking for a VR game that will keep you coming back time and time again, Insomniac told me that Stormland will also be updated on a weekly basis with new content. The world will also be ever-changing so that you don’t bore of exploring what lies about. Along with a loot system in the game that will see you gathering steadily more powerful items as you progress and a resource system, some of the root ideas and concepts behind Stormland started to remind me of Destiny. It remains to be seen just how Stormland will continue to grow after launch, but Insomniac’s commitment to further building on this world makes it more likely to keep bringing players back.
There’s so much potential with Stormland and I think once players can get their hands (and faces) on it for themselves they’ll start to understand what I mean. This is one of the first games I’ve played in quite some time that feels like a fully fleshed-out experience in the VR space rather than just simply being another interesting tech demo that plays off of the novelties of virtual reality.
Stormland is easily the most impressive VR demo that I have played in the past few years and has further proved to me the talent that resides at Insomniac Games. Unfortunately, I don’t own an Oculus Rift headset of my own but Stormland sure makes me wish that I did. If you have a Rift, be sure to keep an eye out for Stormland as it’s scheduled to launch sometime in 2019 exclusive to the platform.