There’s a hall at gamescom, a hall that seems to host more flags than there is on the outside of the United Nations building in New York. It’s a building full of diverse people and even more diverse games; the international hall. Here, you’ll find a pavilion representing almost every nation on the planet; from Canada and the UK, Spain and Poland, or even as far as Korea and Iran, and these pavilions play host to dozens of developers from that nation all showing off their latest game.
At this year’s gamescom I got a chance to explore the Italian Pavilion, seeing what those guys and girls up and down the famous boot have created for our enjoyment; and first on my list was Runes: The Forgotten Path.
Runes is a VR game where you take the role of a spell-casting, gruff voiced wizard; and it might just create a solution to VR’s movement conundrum. Stepping into the reality, free from hordes of people and blaring dance music, you find yourself standing, facing the entrance to a cave, a dark abyss that quickly becomes a tutorial screen.
Using the HTC Vice and provided controllers, you make basic hand gestures to assign spells to each hand; these involve circular motions from a particular starting point (ie the flame spell was a clockwise motion from 3 o’clock, the shield, anti-clockwise from 9 o’clock). It was at this point Giacomo, the game’s dev, told me for the purpose of the demo these were the only available spells, in the full game, there would be many more to mix and match to each hand creating dozens of combinations perfectly suited to each player, puzzle or combat situation.
At this point I was told to turn around, and there I was, stood on the edge of a cliff with nothing but reality stopping me from falling, look over floating rocks and inky portals to other worldly dimensions. On the platform I was stood was a hand shaped rune, one that would only activate when covered by a hand wielding a certain spell, and in doing so you start to move through the skies on your rock escalator.
The main complaint you often find from VR is the confusion your brain experiences in thinking you’re moving while you’re body is stood still. This method of controlling your own platform seems to solve it by giving you both the feeling of movement, but also the ability to stop; ideal when the inbound purple smoke enemies start attacking you. While stopped, you can attack and defend by holding the shield with one hand and attacking with the other. It becomes quite intense as you’re stopping inbound projectiles from hitting you, by not only holding up your shield, but also, embarrassingly ducking - the sign that any VR game has it’s hooks in you.
Runes somehow captures the holy trinity of VR; something good to look at, something to meaningful to do with your hands, and giving purpose to movement - all while maintaining, what I’m told, will be a narrative driven game of up between 6-10 hours, this is one you should definitely keep an eye out for.