GDC 2018: Downward Spiral: Horus Station Hands-On Impressions

Tuesday, April 10th, 2018

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Downward Spiral: Horus Station | Logo

Platform(s): PlayStation 4/PlayStation 4 Pro & PC
(with optional PlayStation VR, Oculus Touch, HTC Vive, and Windows Mixed Reality support)
Publisher(s): 3rd Eye Studios
Release Date: Spring 2018
Website

Virtual Reality gaming is something that a lot of developers are still figuring out as a medium. There are some questions that you’d expect (‘How to tell a story when you can’t grip people into a cinematic sequence?’) and some you don’t expect (‘How do we manage a massive inventory in VR, and still make it accessible to the player?’). In Downward Spiral: Horus Station, 3rd Eye Studios has managed to make one of the most immersive, spooky, accessible, and terrifyingly gorgeous virtual reality games that I have ever had the opportunity to experience. In other words, they get VR right.

The story of Downward Spiral: Horus Station takes place in a space vessel that was abandoned by its crew. As you play through the game in either single player or co-op mode (both players can play in VR on their own machines), you have to piece together the plot of the game through what you observe in the world around you, much like in the original classic Myst.

Downward Spiral: Horus Station | Place

The story in Downward Spiral: Horus Station is told through imagery instead of exposition dumping. (Image courtesy of Curve Digital).

During my time with Downward Spiral: Horus Station, I was quickly placed into an Oculus Rift headset and turned loose inside the game’s vessel setting in co-op mode. And I just floated. In what is some of the smoothest and most realistic-feeling locomotion I have experienced in VR so far, I found myself floating in zero-g between points at various speeds due to the realistic movement inertia that I would create. What this means is that I would have to use the Oculus Touch controllers to first grip and then push myself off of piping, walls, floor, and computers to get around the room, and sometimes the only thing I could do was just float in the air until I could run into yet another surface to push off of. And even when I obtained a weapon early on that I could aim at a wall and pull myself quickly towards, I would still often be gripping surfaces and walls, and using them to move around.

Downward Spiral: Horus Station | FLoating

You’re floating around between locations. And even the tool you can get to ‘zip’ between locations (as seen below) does not mean that you’ll be able to abandon having to grip surfaces occasionally. (Images courtesy of Curve Digital).

Downward Spiral: Horus Station | Weapon

The atmosphere of Downward Spiral: Horus Station felt incredibly realistic to the point that I could almost taste the stagnant station air in my mouth as I was moving from room to room, solving puzzles and fighting robotic enemies along the way. There is a strong and addictive explorative feel to the game, and I never knew what to expect. This was evidenced as towards the end of my demo, I suddenly came across a giant sentry robot that my weapons simply could not kill (despite me trying hard…repeatedly…), and I had to quietly sneak past while hiding behind pillars in some of the most tense gameplay moments that I have yet to experience in VR. I played my demo in co-op mode, and it both absolutely works for the game of Downward Spiral: Horus Station and it fits in naturally with the puzzles to the point where it almost seems that the game was in fact designed to be experienced with another person besides you (which is quite the accomplishment in itself).

Downward Spiral: Horus Station | Co-op Mode

Downward Spiral: Horus Station is a natural fit for co-op mode, and I was pleased with the puzzles that the game presented. (Image courtesy of Curve Digital).

One more thing worth mentioning is that 3rd Eye Studios absolutely nailed the inventory weapon system in Downward Spiral: Horus Station in what is probably my favorite method to date. When you want to switch weapons, you press a button on the Touch Controller, and a 3-D space weapon collection window opens up. You then grab a weapon out of the space in real time, and it is automatically equipped. It is something that needs to be seen to be believed and a system that I can see easily being adopted for future VR FPS titles.

Downward Spiral: Horus Station is a great way to showcase the potential of telling a heavy, non-conventional story in realistic VR and I am really excited to be getting this game when it comes out in Spring 2018 for Steam and the PlayStation 4/PlayStation 4 Pro.



What do you think of playing a co-op game in VR? Are you excited for Downward Spiral: Horus Station to come out?

Let us know in the comments below!

About Quentin H.

Likes pina coladas and getting caught in the rain. And video games. Cannot forget those video games. Anime too. Should not forget that either.