RPGs are underrepresented in the VR area, so I was happy to hear about Journey of the Gods. While there are a few great indie examples such as Vengeful Rites, seeing an RPG made for virtual reality by a studio with the budget for it is exciting.
You are the chosen one who needs to save the world. Gain the powers you need to do this by traveling through several stages on this RPG made for the Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift. You’ll find yourself exploring, fighting, and solving puzzles.
This is classed as an RPG, but to get preconceptions out of the way, it’s not a typical one. This is more of an Action RPG. That bit of story above? There’s not much more to it. You’re the chosen one. Gain power. That’s pretty much it. Most characters don’t talk either. It’s quite short for an RPG as well – a single completion could be done within five hours.
This is mostly a case of making your way through levels to get the powers. That said, while you need to reach the end of a level, there are various quests along the way. Help a villager by defending his field from a monster attack in one instance. Use your new powers to move a villager stuck in a high place in another. As the chosen one, you’re a good samaritan. You don’t really get to hear why the villagers are having these problems though. They mostly communicate with you by miming their distress and pictures. It’s a nice way to get concepts across in virtual reality, where reading can be an issue.
Gaining Those Stats
One of the big themes in Journey of the Gods is gaining power. As you finish levels, you’ll be given access to new abilities. You can use these to complete the quests or in battle. An early example of this is calling down lightning to remove a blockage or just to fry some enemies. There are also upgrades to get throughout. These are hidden around levels, sometimes in trees, out of the way ledges, or similar. It encourages you to explore.
After collecting upgrades, you can take them back to your home village. Collect enough and you can trade it for a wider shield, or a crossbow with more shots, or a number of other things. There are some more unique ones too. Find a bird egg and it can hatch into a bird. This flies an item to you at the start of each level.
I liked how there was a constant improvement in my abilities. It always felt like there was some new aspect to play with. From playing with time to exploding shields, it kept me interested. Plus it gave me a reason to look around, rather than go from A to B without stopping to wander.
Power. Power. Unlimited Power.
Those abilities you’ve gained? For the most part, they’re used in ‘God Mode’. Channel your energy and jump into this mode for short periods of time to get an overview of the area. This is where you can do things like raise trees from the ground, rain down lightning, or slow time. You can then go back to your normal view.
These were used to good effect I felt. The puzzles they were used in were quite basic. Trees needed to be lowered to open a route or a crystal smashed by lightning. Things like that were common for both the required route and some optional slightly hidden ones.
What really impressed me was how they were used tactically. I was raising trees to block enemies in a level where I needed to defend a point. When they were grouped together I smashed them with lightning. I used time magic to take aim better and get past enemies. This mixed things up a lot more than just stabbing and shooting.
Of course, you can’t always use your godly powers to rain down death from above. You come equipped with a sword and shield set and a crossbow for more mundane murder.
The sword lets you slash through enemies with a few swipes in most instances, while you block incoming projectiles with your shield. Some stronger attacks can temporarily knock out your shield though, so I like to dodge around while playing. I do this with smooth locomotion, though physical dodging can work too.
The crossbow is a fire three (or more later) and then manually pull to reload mechanic. You can pick up special ammo with effects like fire, homing, or piercing but they never last too long. You can’t choose when to use them either.
I wasn’t really too impressed with either of these. The sword uses ‘wiggle physics’. Wiggling it around quickly will harm enemies, rather than needing to properly swing. The crossbow is better, but more than once I’ve seen an arrow blocked by the air near a wall or a fence. Collisions need some work.
There are some fun extras though. You can occasionally use pads to raise a golem and control the fists to smash everything around you. There are some flight or sailing sections too, where you can shoot down enemies while you’re on the rails.
I found the combat pretty easy overall, but there are a few difficulty modes to adjust.
Graphics and Sound
I’m not a huge fan of the low-poly style they use, but it does seem to work well for virtual reality. There are no issues with the finer details not coming through if there aren’t any.
They do use animation quite well in Journey of the Gods. NPCs primarily communicate by gesture as mentioned before. The world also comes to life through little touches like the blacksmith hammering away at your shield or the chief placing a candle on the altar after handing over what he needs.
Pop-in and what I’ll call ‘fade-in’ are both common issues with the environments themselves. With grass, this actually looks fairly nice as it slowly grows as you get closer. It looks quite bad in other places though. You can see half of a tree or bush slowly fading in as you get closer. It does break immersion at times.
Music and sound are fairly basic. Speech is mostly done via text or nonsensical speaking sounds.
Journey of the Gods had some very enjoyable moments. Taking a ride on the back of a flying golem, hatching an item bird and some of the boss fights were particularly enjoyable. The constant upgrades and gains in ability were praiseworthy too. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite make up for the poor combat, minimal story, and occasional technical issues. There’s certainly fun to be had with this virtual reality game, but it’s not a must-buy.
WAIT FOR SALE ON JOURNEY OF THE GODS
Many thanks go to the PR company on behalf of Oculus/Turtle Rock Studios for a review copy. This was played on Oculus Quest 2.
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A gamer since the days of Amstrad and DOS and someone who has dabbled in a variety of professions. He enjoys a wide variety of genres, but has been focusing on visual novels and virtual reality in recent years. Head Editor of NookGaming. Follow him and the website on @NookSite.