Last month a free demo for Eden Tomorrow appeared on the Playstation Store. The first 30 minutes of this sci-fi adventure game were included and after playing it through on stream, I came away with high hopes. It seemed more polished than your average PSVR title and the demo ended on a cliffhanger which (as any good demo should) left me excited to experience what happened next.
Unfortunately, after recording myself playing through the first hour and a half of the full release, I'm sad to report that the game never really reaches the heights promised by the demo. In actual fact, after passing the point where the demo ends, the overall quality starts taking a noticeable dip and what I thought was going to be a rip-roaring space adventure, quickly turns into a dull guided tour around bland, brown and basic environments.
You can watch my disappointment unfold in this week's episode of Ian's VR Corner below, which kicks off with a belter of a tune, even if I do say so myself.
Eden Tomorrow begins with what is rapidly becoming a regular VR trope - the cramped interior of an emergency escape pod. As you hurtle towards the surface of a Mars-like alien planet (yet another VR trope), said escape pod slowly begins breaking apart as it comes under attack from a giant, winged beastie. This ferocious monster is one of the first things you'll encounter once the pod crash lands and, as you struggle to break free from the wreckage, it towers over you, its teeth snapping together mere inches from your face. There's a great sense of scale and a feeling of utter helplessness in this moment, but it was the first and last time that I genuinely felt any kind of peril in the game.
The promise of an exciting, narrative driven sci-fi adventure soon fades away after you meet Newton, your robotic guide. Newton is a floating ball, similar in design to Portal 2's Wheatley but with none of the wit, charm or underlying menace. At times you get to control Newton yourself, utilising his small body and powers of flight to to gather important quest items that are out of reach of your weak, human body. For the remainder of the game though, or at least in the first 90 minutes that I played, he's nothing more than a backseat driver and if you fail to follow his orders to the letter, chances are you'll end up staring at a death screen.
This type of handholding soon gets old, robbing the game of all freedom and in turn, fun. Newton will often tell you to stand still when there's trouble afoot and then he'll float off and do all the exciting stuff while you just kind of stand there twiddling your thumbs. An early encounter with a strange pocket of anti-gravity sees him literally carrying you through 5 minutes of the game and there's nothing to do but look around at the foggy, grey-brown scenery and wonder where the excitement of those first few minutes went.
Presentation wise, things take a turn for the worst after the first 30 minutes too. Textures suddenly become basic and low-res and animations become rudimentary. There's a bit in the video above where I have to slowly move past some baby monsters that act more like malfunctioning animatronics at a dodgy amusement park than they do, actual, aggressive animals. This massive dip in quality has a huge impact on the immersion and as the proceedings start to feel more and more budget, any tension you might have felt fades away into the ether.
Interactivity with the environment is also severely limited. The DualShock 4 is the only control method present and picking items up is a simple case of pressing X near something and watching it disappear. Red Matter, another VR game that's set on a Mars-like planet utilises the Move controllers and it lets you reach into its word and pick up and play with its objects. Using force feedback and clever programming it gives those items weight and heft and it makes you feel like you're really interacting with the world. On the other hand, interactivity in Eden Tomorrow is so limited that at times it feels like you might as well not even be there, which is pretty much the worst thing you can say about any VR game.
The few puzzles that I encountered during the first 90 minutes were both basic and dull and they amounted to little more than looking around for something that's on the floor somewhere. While this may change at some point later in the game, in the portion I played there was also no way to protect myself, so any hazards had to be avoided by just moving very, very slowly past them.
With a decent enough selection of comfort settings on offer, beginners to VR will probably find something to enjoy here. The action is sedate enough to negate most instances of VR sickness and it's never scary enough to be overwhelming in the way VR games like Resident Evil 7 are. For VR veterans though, there's little here to recommend. If you have a number of virtual hours under your belt, you're bound to have seen and experienced everything Eden Tomorrow has to offer, but in bigger and better games.
Perhaps there are moments in the later game that match the excitement I felt in those first few, promising moments of the demo, but when there's many more interesting and imaginative VR games out there to sample, I've had absolutely no interest in returning to find out.