PlayStation VR Hidden Gem #1 – In Death

In Death is an addictive and surreal adventure through purgatory. It’s all about becoming Legolas with a bow and arrow to smite the lost souls infecting it. It also happens to be front and centre in the first of several articles, unearthing the PlayStation VR gems hiding in the depths of the digital marketplace. It can be hard work figuring out which games to buy when you’re a headset owner. So, getting to the point, In Death is rad! I’m here to tell you why.
PlayStation VR Hidden Gem #1 - In Death

PlayStation VR Hidden Gem #1 – In Death

I know, Blood and Truth has just released. But it’s five hours long and costs $60. The first winning point of In Death is that it doesn’t end if you don’t want it to. On top of that, it’ll only set you back $30.

In Death Has An Addictive Cyclical Nature

In Death offers player death as a kind of progress. Every time the game loads, the player will be tasked with getting as far as they can, slaying as many foes as they can before their inevitable death. A kind of moving wave survival, if you will. Wave survival as a concept is typically super fun and addictive on its own. But In Death will throw new enemy types your way as it detects your skill with the bow increasing.

In Death - Different enemy types like this angry red crusader will pop up out of nowhere to keep you on your toes

In Death – Different enemy types like this angry red crusader will pop up out of nowhere to keep you on your toes

What this means is that you may not see an enemy type until say, your 500th run – really. This was a clever move on developer Solfar Studios’ part. It means things never get stale, as every time you jump in for another run, something new may come at you. While keeping you on your toes, this kind of progression will unlock new abilities helping you to become stronger and deal out more damage. This could include reaching 666 headshots from afar, increasing your critical damage. It may involve a new arrow type to spawn as loot that could deal damage over time, or allow you to set traps. This is just a small part of what the player will unlock simply by playing. The best part is that the player will never become godlike and no matter how prepared you think you are, a few false moves could have you back at square one.

Even In Death’s Square One Is Never The Same

The main setting of In Death is Solfar’s rendition of purgatory. Here, we have a surreal sequence of floating gothic islands. Everything here is stony and medieval, which is pretty awesome in itself. However, every time you load into a run, the layout of pretty much everything will be different.

That’s right – In Death is procedurally generated. It’ll take a while to remember not to bother prepping for certain enemy positioning as it’ll all be different next time around. Whatever In Death throws at you, it’ll be sure to test your bow and arrow skills to the max. Players will have to get technical with shots above or below them. With a controller, that’s one thing. It’s another altogether to be in VR and pull the bow and fire accurately when you’re all bent out of shape on your couch trying to survive.

In Death - Gothic structures lace the environs of purgatory

In Death – Gothic structures lace the environs of purgatory

Another varying element is the optional chance to take a quick trip to hell. These areas are not procedurally generated but there’s around four of them (that I have discovered) offering a huge risk/reward option. Enemies in hell are tougher and smarter. Should you make it from one side of a hell level to the other, you’ll likely have plenty of awesome new arrows… But how much health will you have lost in the process? A question that needs asking with every run, as In Death is incredibly stingy with its health packs.

In Death Dares to Be Really Bloody Hard

In Death’s difficulty level has several layers to it. One is learning how to use the bow to really good effect. Teleport arrows can be used to gain sneaky angles on the enemy. Headshots from really far away are an incredibly satisfying fine art. Getting good at either of these will take stubbornness and patience combined.

Another is learning how to move well when dealing with the lost souls of purgatory. Imagine yourself in the limited moveset of a VR environment. Then imagine you’ve just realised two knights are rushing towards you, a handful of zombies are rushing up behind you and some bowmen on the roof to your left have started plinking away at you. Your immediate right is a sheer drop to oblivion. What do you do? These kind of moments have had me physically moving and responding with the most urgency ever in a VR game. It’s required me to think on my toes far more than Farpoint or Resident Evil 7 ever did.

In Death - Always think on your toes!

In Death – Always think on your toes!

Finally, possibly the hardest thing is planning your run. Do you risk a trip to hell? Are you well enough equipped with arrow types to handle it? Points convert to money so do you spend it now at a checkpoint to regain the health you foolishly lost earlier? Or save it up and try to make do until the next checkpoint? All of this makes for incredibly engaging gameplay once you get into the cyclical flow of In Death.

A vast majority of VR games are currently quite easy. It’s pretty hard to die in Rush of Blood unless you’ve decided not to point your arms in front of you. Which goes for a lot of VR games right now. If you’re paying attention and engaged, you’ll likely be fine. But In Death dares to ask more of you than just pay attention. It wants to understand it first and foremost, then plan and execute.

It’s All Surprisingly Functional

It’s basically common knowledge at this point that VR still has its teething issues. My number one gripe right now is whenever a VR game asks me to interact with something low to the virtual ground… Which happens to be lower than my actual floor. This crops up a lot in Rick and Morty. Perhaps you’ve had this too? You adjust the height calibration and, great, we pick the thing up. Maybe a few minutes later we realise all door handles are the height of our head and we start to feel a little tiny. Well none of that nonsense ever crops up with In Death.

In Death - Try not to faceplant the floor as you dodge these arrows!

In Death – Try not to faceplant the floor as you dodge these arrows!

Interactions like pulling the bow string or summoning a shield to block attacks all work like a charm as well. Pretty comforting then, that this relative unknown game, this hidden gem, is more functional than other high profile VR titles I’ve played. Honestly. That said, I have suffered the very occasional crash, booting me back to the OS screen. As far as the game itself is concerned, the only problem I’ve encountered is me sucking at it.

In Conclusion

In Death makes for a great first entry in PlayStation VR Hidden Gems. It’s fun and incredibly satisfying to play, lasts forever if you want it to and dares to really challenge you. In Death is great value for money as its cyclical nature means you can hop in and hop out at your leisure with no story to get back into. The drip feed of fresh environments, bosses and enemies are also pretty sweet. Ultimately, it’ll be just you, your bow, your head and a good sense of forward planning.

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