Games & Reviews

Review: Vanishing Realms

Vanishing Realms - VR Today Magazine
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I’ve had my Vive for about three weeks now and I have to say, I’ve purchased and played a TON of games, maybe 20 or so in the last two weeks. When I saw in a Facebook group I’m in that someone had listed Vanishing Realms in their top 10 and described it as a cross between an RPG game and Zelda, I knew I had to stop everything I was doing and play it.  You see, I’m an old school adventure gamer.  I got my start by beta testing games like King’s QuestSpace Quest, and Leisure Suit Larry. Although I never got in to Zelda (hold the boos please!), I knew it was a game I’d like if I sat down to play it.

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This took me back to the old days of King’s Quest all over again.  I mean – sure, King’s Quest didn’t have these kinds of gorgeous environments, characters, weapons, etc., but just the fact that you’re an adventurer wandering around a world tying to figure out what to do while staying alive, really screamed at me. As soon as I started playing, I knew I’d be playing it for a long time.  As it turns out I played the game long after everyone else in the house went to bed and when I took my VR headset off everyone was asleep.  I didn’t know I had spent 3 hours in the game, the time just flew by!!  This is that kind of game.  You can discover stuff, and then go back and re-discover things once you have a better weapon or able to shoot arrows at things near the ceiling to get them down.

I have noticed, however, there are still a number of bugs in the game.  For example, on multiple items that are on the ground (there are a lot sprinkled throughout the game) where you need to bend down and pick them up, the object is actually below the ground. This means that even though my controller is on the ground and I’m pressing the trigger to grab the item, the item is below the floor in the game making it impossible to grab.

“He got the main game up and running in 7 months!”

It’s hard to believe this game was created by one man, Kelly Bailey, in 7 months.  Let me rephrase that, he got the main game up and running in 7 months.  As of today, September 16th, he released an update that adds a ton of new content, a two-handed weapon (which I didn’t have enough gold to buy), and new areas with new puzzles that made me scratch my head until I figured out how to get through them.  Don’t get me wrong, the puzzles aren’t too hard, but they’re not too easy either, you do have to think in this game.

 

Intuitive Controls

When you first boot up Vanishing Realms on Steam it gives you a little tutorial about how to move in the game, how to pick up things, and how to store them in your backpack (of which, you have two). In short, it’s the teleportation version of movement that is popular in so many VR games today.

Everything about this game is done right in my opinion.  From the movement, to the combat (I’ll get to that in a minute), to the adventure. I felt right at home and it felt like I’ve known how to play the game for years by the way I was moving around and doing everything in the first five to ten minutes.

Since the tutorial is very brief, and the controls are pretty intuitive, the down side to this is that the developer doesn’t tell you a lot of little hints and tricks you can do with the interface.  For example, when you look down you can see your inventory where you hold your swords, shied, bow & arrow, etc. If you press the button on top of the track pad it will move the row of inventory objects to the left or right, depending on where you’re looking. This is a great feature since you can move it all the way to the right or left side of you if you don’t like having it centered right when you look at your feet. I think the developer could have done us some justice by telling us this great little feature he included.

Almost everything is breakable

One thing I love about this game is the fact that almost everything is breakable. I mean, for shits and giggles I tried lighting the curtains on fire and sure enough, they went up! Then I tried using my trusty torch to light the leaves on fire, and sure enough, they went up – along with me because I died in the fire.  Are you getting my point yet?  This game has everything I want in an RPG x Adventure game.

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The combat system

This is another thing I love about Vanishing Realms. Not only is it real-time combat, but it’s so freaking intuitive and easy to understand that Kelly didn’t need to put a tutorial in the game to show you how to fight with the bad guys. I take that back – there is a “dummy” warrior the game puts in front of you to make sure you know how to swing your blade, but it’s very elementary. Since you don’t get your shield until later on in the game, you need to use your sword to block attacks, and you need to angle it the right way or else they’ll stab you.  You can even move his sword away from blocking you multiple different ways, which I’ll leave up to you to find out how.  Suffice is to say, he did a really good job on the combat. Ok, one more example: when you’re using your bow & arrow to shoot at bad guys from far away, they’re smart, they won’t let you hit them the same way a second time. They’ll either block your arrow with their shield, duck for cover behind a tree, or just move to the side to evade your arrow.

Heck, the game play balance on the combat is even perfect!! I finished the game on regular mode (twice) and then played it on hard mode. I was definitely sweating when I finished the game on hard mode.  So many guys come at you at once near the end, that you have to either use your shield on your left hand with the sword in your right, or do what I did: use one sword in each hand. That way it gives you more of an opportunity to block and attack multiple enemies at the same time.

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The story & puzzles

Like I said earlier, I’m a huge adventure game fan, and maybe that’s why I haven’t been playing a lot of games over the years, because so many development teams concentrate on different aspects of the game, but just like a good book, you need a good story. Vanishing Realms does an excellent job combining puzzles with the story of the game. Unlike some games, which I won’t embarrass by naming here, there aren’t puzzles just for the sake of having puzzles in the game.  They’re a core part of the game mechanic and they’re there for a reason. I said earlier the controls are very intuitive, well, so are the puzzles.  While the game gives you cryptic clues to which you have no idea of the meaning, you eventually come upon the next area of the game and then all of a sudden the clue makes sense!

“Oftentimes I found my self on me knees trying to see inside a dead tree”

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Candles, gold coins, and dead bodies

I’m the type of anal retentive person that likes to light every candle, bust everything I can bust in the game, and search everywhere I can for clues….and I’m glad I did because there are so many hidden clues in that type of adventure that you’ll miss a lot of gold, food, and jewelry if you don’t do the digging around. Often times I found my self on me knees trying to see inside a dead tree, for example. Can you solve the game without all of that? Yes, but it makes it a lot easier to buy the weapons you need when you have enough money to pay for them.

“You’re going to go out of your mind for this game.”

Early Access

As much as I love this game, please take note it’s still in Early Access, meaning there are bugs and the game isn’t finished. Even though the developer released a major update, Chapters 1 & 2 are still not done, so be forewarned, the game is going to change after you purchase it, but probably for the better!

Conclusion:

If you ever enjoyed The Legend of Zelda games, Sierra games, or anything from Tim Schafer & Ron Gilbert for that matter, you’re going to go out of your mind for this game. I review games, and I hardly ever pay for them because the developers usually give me Steam codes so they can get a review, but since I couldn’t get hold of the developer and I wanted to play this game so bad, I paid for it out of my own pocket.

The cool thing is, Kelly, isn’t done with the game yet.  It’s still in Early Access, but I read his update today, and he’s almost done with Chapters 1 & 2 which I think is going to be the full game.

Treat yourself to one of the best games on Steam right now and buy this game like I did. Chances are you’re probably going to go back and replay the game to find the stuff you didn’t find the first time around. When I tell you I never, ever do that…it’s true.  This is the only game since Sierra’s games in the 80’s and 90’s that I went back to play: 3 times in a row now, with 7.5 hours logged.

Update: This article was updated on 9/17/16 to reflect some bugs, add the trailer, add a screenshots gallery, add links, and warn about the game being in Early Access on Steam.

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