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The Foundation VR game looks as faithful to Isaac Asimov's books as the Apple TV show

Hands down.

Journey To Foundation
Image credit: Archiact

One of the big surprises from Sony's PlayStation State of Play broadcast was the announcement of a virtual reality game based on Isaac Asimov's much-loved sci-fi book series, Foundation.

Journey to Foundation, developed by Canadian studio Archiact, is due out on PSVR2, Meta Quest 2 and Pico 4 autumn 2023.

The announcement trailer, which begins with a quote from Asimov's book, talks about the Empire falling and the galaxy plunging into 30,000 years of chaos and war. That's very much the same setup as Asimov's series, which revolves around a devastating prediction of humanity's collapse by a maths genius called Hari Seldon. The Foundation itself is a group led by Seldon that attempts to limit the impact of this inevitable collapse by populating new, far-flung worlds. Suffice it to say, this plan does not go exactly to plan. Or maybe it does, if you're Hari Seldon.

Now's the time to look at the trailer for Journey to Foundation, below:

Watch on YouTube

Foundation has long been considered unadaptable. That didn't stop Apple giving it a good shot, with a much-hyped and incredibly flashy TV series that gets its second season this summer. Foundation's first series didn't go down well with fans of the books in part because it didn't have much to do with them. While it shared the same premise and some of the characters, it devolved into standard, banal sci-fi fare, with action scenes unrecognisable from the source material.

(I will say that Lee Pace, who plays Brother Day, is spectacular in the TV show, and steals every scene. The decision to go with three clones of the Empire somewhat sharing the throne at all times is the only successful diversion from Asimov's books, in my opinion.)

Watch on YouTube

Journey to Foundation, based on its trailer, appears likely to similarly lean on action. We see the player character weilding a gun in that jittery, floating hand style we often see in VR games, occasionally popping up from behind cover to shoot enemies. We even see the player character employ what initially looks like a magic power to force an enemy into submission. It's got that left hand magic power, right hand gun Bioshock thing going on.

Asimov's Foundation is famously devoid of action, apart from isolated incidents. For this reason it's often described as dull. Gizmodo lists Foundation as one of the top 10 books people pretend to have read. The point is people talk about Foundation more than they read it because it's smart sci-fi and it's cool to be smart.

And so, a VR cover shooter isn't really what I want from a Foundation video game. I'm not sure I want a Foundation video game at all. But I'm keen to learn more, to give the project the benefit of the doubt, so here's the press release with more detail:

"In Journey to Foundation, players embark on a clandestine mission as Agent Ward, a spy sent to the edge of the Galactic Empire to infiltrate a group of deserters... only to uncover a dire truth that could change the course of history.

"Armed with the best tools and weapons the Empire has to offer, you'll have to decide who to trust.

"Will you fight for an Empire that Hari Seldon has predicted will collapse into 30,000 years of anarchy, or will you defect to the Foundation and help them build a new cradle for humanity?"

Journey to Foundation
I'm not sure what this object is, but hopefully it has something to do with MATHS! | Image credit: Archiact

I'm a little worried by the wording here - we're promised a game set in the Foundation universe, in which your choices matter, and the ability to use a "Mentalics" feature. This lets you use "mental science" to uncover and influence the emotions of others, and is directly lifted from Asimov's series. Essentially, it's telepathy and mind control all rolled into one. I think this is the magic power we see in the trailer, with the character seemingly taking control of an enemy's mind.

Gameplay wise, we're told you can "disguise, hack and blast your way through the galaxy", which, again, doesn't feel particularly Foundation.

"It's up to you to decide how to approach each situation, with tools at your disposal to forge your own path."

Of course I will reserve ultimate judgement until Journey to Foundation comes out later this year, but my first impression is Journey to Foundation looks a lot like a sci-fi VR game that happens to be based on Foundation, rather than a game that's faithful to Foundation. Perhaps that's okay! I would have been more forgiving of the Apple TV series if it had been great in its own right, rather than mediocre. But I'm increasingly of the mind that it's impossible to adapt Foundation in any shape or form, and should be left to the pages of Asimov's epic.

Perhaps that was Hari Seldon's plan all along.

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