As I’ve said before (but will repeat here for redundancy), I’m just a sucker for RPG games. So when I first heard of The Soulkeeper VR, froth had almost started to form at the corners of my mouth. Now, The Soulkeeper VR is available on Early Access on Steam so I finally got the chance to have my way with it. Let me just light some candles and put on some smooth jazz, and we’ll get started.
So The Soulkeeper VR, from Helm Systems, actually released last month on Early Access for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. The reason I waited a while before checking it out was that there were quite a few game-breaking bugs at the start. But now we’re a few patches in and it seemed like the right time.
I tried the game using an HTC Vive and was immediately impressed with the visual fidelity as well as the character design and well-scripted narrative of the game. However, the gameplay and combat definitely need some work.
Check out the trailer below:
The Soulkeeper VR offers different campaigns that each follows the story of a unique character within the world of Gerindak, and eventually, all these stories will intertwine with each other. However, at the moment only one campaign is available, as well as an arena fight against a large troll. The campaign follows the path of a mage who is an agent for an ancient monastic brotherhood. This first foray into the world of Gerindak was beautifully crafted. With interesting characters and mysteries that lie waiting to be uncovered. I would say the storyline and character crafting are easily the strong points of this game.
Overall gameplay, however, seems to be the weak point. Which is a shame but the game has only been in Early Access for a month so there is hope! I very much disliked the object handling in The Soulkeeper VR. Certainly, VR does lend itself to a degree of clunkiness when it comes to handling objects, but this felt needlessly clunky to me. If I tried to pick things up that were near other things than those things would suddenly try to jump into my hand. So chaos would regularly break loose as things went flying in all directions.
To be honest, most of the environmental interactions in this game felt like it could have been better implemented. For example, keys would go into locks and turn themselves whenever I got near, and doors would automatically open if I brought my hand near.
There was no sense of actually interacting with the environment but rather just enacting simple motions. The interactions with NPCs in The Soulkeeper VR were also automatic for the most part, but there were times when I had my pick of dialogue options. Whatever option I chose usually had an effect on the story-progression going forward.
Some Minor Movement Blunders
The Soulkeeper VR has two movement options, smooth locomotion and teleportation. The movement worked well for the most part and I could control my speed by rolling my thumb nearer the middle of the trackpad or farther away. Though sometimes I got stuck on some object and then had to use teleport to get out. This happened very rarely, however, and for the most part, the collision detection was spot on. The teleportation was also mandatory at times when there was difficult terrain or big drops.
The key bindings on the Vive could use some work as well. Since there are so many controller options (which is great don’t get me wrong) it’s easy to get confused and fumble around. Plus sometimes I moved involuntarily because I accidentally brushed the trackpad while trying to access the inventory. Which is accessed via the menu button on the left controller. This usually saw me going through objects or NPCs that I was trying to interact with.
Swing. Slash. Fireball.
The fighting in The Soulkeeper VR was another headache. As a mage, there are three ways to engage with enemies in the game. Firstly, I could use my staff to shoot spells at enemies. These spells were determined by collectible gems found throughout the game that I then attached to the staff. Then there is also “hand magic” which involves spells that could be activated by drawing runes in the air. Sounds good so far, right? However, the problem is with the aiming. Even during the tutorial, I had trouble hitting stationary targets with my spells because the aiming is just entirely off. And I mean entirely.
Plus more than half of the time bupkis would happen when I drew the runes anyway. Which meant that for most of the game I just made use of my trusty old sword. Although that too had its downsides since the spellcaster enemies’ aim certainly wasn’t off.
Still, it’s not all negative and the game does show a lot of potential in this regard. For instance, the spell effects are beautiful and detailed. Plus the crystals offer a large variety of different spells. Which means I was always delighted when I got the chance to try them out. Still, while variety may be the spice of life, it can also make things a little difficult. Since there are around ten crystals in the game, and their spells aren’t all cast the same way, it resulted in a little frustration at first. A lot of the time I quickly pressed the trigger to cast a spell while pointing my staff at an enemy. While I actually had to point it to a spot on the ground. Though later on, I had started recognizing what each does and could cast them more accurately.
My final gripe with The Soulkeeper VR is that the checkpoints in the game felt much too far and few between. It would just start to feel like I’m getting somewhere then suddenly a trap or a bunch of enemies would get me. And then that sweet darkness would envelop me. Just kidding. There was nothing sweet about it. Because usually, I had to start from scratch. The gameplay consisted of defeating the same bunch of foes and avoiding the traps until I got a bit further each time. This feels like an unnecessary way to make the gameplay time seem longer than it really is.
Storywise and visually The Soulkeeper VR is a spectacular game, however, it still needs a lot of work in the gameplay department. Keep in mind though, that it’s only in Early Access right now. So hopefully there will be a lot of improvements along with the upcoming campaigns and goblin horde mode. For now, if you want to support the game in this EA phase, you can get it at a $24.99 price tag. Expect around 4 to 6 hours of gameplay.