I got a taste of Eden-Tomorrow when they released a short demo a few weeks ago. I enjoyed the mystery, I was intrigued by the gameplay and I was looking forward to playing the full game. It has been developed exclusively for PSVR by Soulpix, a 3D animation company turned game development studio. This is the first title from them and I hope it is not the last, but the experience wasn’t as smooth sailing as I’d have hoped.
You play as Michael, a man with no memory who has just dropped from the sky in some kind of pod onto an alien planet filled with dangerous creatures. Luckily Newton — an elated spherical flying droid — detaches itself from the pod and guides you to safety and to eventually figure out the mystery of why you are there. Newton is almost too upbeat, and while others may find it annoying, I kind of liked it. It reminded me of Wheatley from Portal 2, although rather than Stephen Merchant’s charming West Country twang, Newton's voice is more robotic and less desirable.
Once you are out of the pod, Newton teaches you some of the gameplay mechanics to help you get out of the cave you have landed in. What interested me the most is your ability to take over control of Newton. You do this by entering safe zones which are conveniently placed exactly where you need them throughout the game. Once you take control of Newton, Michael is protected by a shield. At first I enjoyed flying around as Newton, but as time went on, the same fetch quests became tedious and in some cases frustrating. The aim is for Newton to help you find some water and get you to safety, but on your journey you begin to find out the truth of why you are there. When you are playing as Michael, you are mostly walking through environments, walking across ledges and occasionally opening doors or interacting with technology. And when you are in control of Newton, you are collecting energy capsules or blasting doors and scrap metal to open up a path.
There was one point where I was getting motion sickness trying to track down an energy capsule (one of the quests that is repeated throughout). I had to keep moving quickly because I was being chased by another droid and after various attempts I simply had to stop. I had already got motion sick from the game during previous play, and this is due to the lack of comfort settings and the character movement. When moving forward, if you move the analogue stick slightly left or right, you will strafe. Unless you move slowly and take care when going forward, the strafing becomes disorientating. And when you combine this with flying up and down, sprinting and frantically trying to find something that is not located in a sensible place (as was the case with this particular energy capsule), even those with an iron stomach would find it hard to manage. A lack of guidance and some poor design only exacerbated the issue.
If you can get past the motion problems, the story is the strongest element of Eden-Tomorrow. If like me, you are a sci-fi enthusiast, you will enjoy the unfolding mystery. There isn’t anything particularly mind-blowing or new, but I enjoyed how the story was told. On your travels you encounter other crashed pods and remains of technology and human life. Encountering these hints at what has happened on the planet either through found objects or Newton’s ramblings. You start to see signs of something called “Mother”, either written in blood or mentioned in voice recordings found on your journey, but to say any more would ruin the surprise. When you are not flying Newton, you are walking through caves, open desert, old ruins or part of what used to be some kind of space age building. I found that some of these moments worked and others did not. I wanted to run through some of the areas because the space was quite big and empty and I just wanted to get from A to B as quickly as possible. But that was easier said than done, since the motion sickness forced me to slow things down. One moment that had the potential to be more exciting was when I had to sneak through a small tunnel and eventually tiptoe past a sleeping creature. But this experience was held back by lifeless animations and badly implemented stealth.
The music is very good throughout and does a good job of making some of the moments feel epic. The sound effects on the other hand are not so great. Some sounds would feel disconnected from each other or from the object they were coming from. For example, a pod dropped up ahead of me and the sound of it falling through the air didn’t fit with the sound of it impacting the ground, plus the impact sounded like it cut off too early.
Graphically, although there is generally quite a dull colour palette and basic animations, it is one of the more visually clear PSVR games out there. At times, it was pleasant to see just how clearly I could make out Newton when it was up close. Overall I liked the creature design and they were intimidating when near, but some of the human design wasn’t quite as good and they seemed to be either too small or out of proportion. You encounter a variety of worm and dragon-like creatures, and mixed with the beige desert setting some of the worms felt like something out of Jodorowsky’s Dune. But the game overall reminds me more of David Lynch’s Dune — which isn’t a compliment.
Although my time with Eden-Tomorrow started off well, by the end of the five-hour story I was exhausted by its frustrating and repetitive gameplay. And even though I enjoyed the story for the most part, by the end I had lost enthusiasm because my experience had been tainted by bad design and motion sickness. In its current state, I would not recommend it for those who are susceptible to motion sickness and even if you have the stomach for it, I would take care when moving around. Despite its faults, I can’t help but see the potential in this title and it’s priced reasonably so you’ll feel like you got your money’s worth. There aren't many titles this length and with an interesting sci-fi story available on the PSVR, so Eden-Tomorrow may scratch that itch.
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