Life is about more than just surviving. But sometimes, escaping into a virtual survival horror is all you need for some relaxing downtime. I’m kidding of course. No one plays horror games to relax. However, it can still be quite the enjoyable experience if you are searching for an escape from some of the horrors of real life. Dealing with virtual zombies/demons/aliens/spiders are much easier than dealing with an existential crisis. So luckily the newly released Reficul VR features all of those things in bountiful numbers – and the great part is, you needn’t worry about dealing with erratic people in the seemingly normal North American town it takes place in because they’re all gone.
So, around last Halloween, we saw quite an influx of VR games that offer a splendidly horrific time in keeping with the holiday. One of these titles was Reficul VR from Mad About Games Studios which released in early access for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. When it first released on Steam, the game didn’t receive a lot of applause from players but it did get manage to leave an impression of promise. So the developers have been toiling away at this atmospheric survival horror, and the game has now been fully released. Which means I have the wonderful pleasure of taking a look at what this game has to offer. Please do not mistake my flowery language for excitement over the fact that I’m playing a horror.
Reficul VR is available now on Steam with a launch discount of 10%, putting it at $13.49 until May 16th. I played the game using a Vive and found the game to be just as thrillingly atmospheric as the developers promised, though a few dissapointing mechanics certainly put a dampener on the excitement.
Check out my gameplay video:
Reficul VR is an open-world survival horror game with roguelike elements, meaning perma-death and a constantly changing environment. The premise of the game is pretty simple – survive as long as you can by using the weapons and tools you find and try to stay alive as long as possible and complete the game, if you can.
Whenever you buy a horror game, there are certain expectations that come along with this transaction. The most prominent of which most probably is that you’re expecting some sort of eerie atmosphere created through a combination of visuals and sound to get you into the right state of mind. Meaning fear of course. Horrors can’t survive without the thrilling feelings of fear they invoke and once that element is lost, the game usually tends to lose it’s spark. One way developers try to combat this effect is to use mechanics like procedural generation to keep you on your toes. Because that element of the unknown is the easiest way to invoke visceral fear in people.
Reficul VR does succeed in this, to a degree. By changing up what weapons/tools you’ll find, amd where the enemies will appear, does elicit some sense of not being entirely grounded, which, along with the developer’s success in creating a constant sense of unease through the element of darkness and eerie music along with the occasional creepy titter or booming thunder helped to get my heart rate going throughout. But things don’t change so much that you can’t still get a bearing of what’s going on or what to do – especially since the game just leaves clues on what’s going on and doesn’t outright give you any set objectives to follow.
Home Sweet Home
Reficul VR starts out in the player’s house where a character called Neill has left some notes that basically say the world has gone to hell (literally, we later find out) and that I should find the pistol he left for me and be careful as I make my way out. Of course, he also tells me where he went and leaves a conveniently marked map, which obviously means that’s where I’m meant to go – if I want to at least because the option to just walk around the town and explore is always there.
Of course, it’s not just atmosphere that makes for a great horror. You need some action to get those heart palpitations really going and Reficul VR delivers in this regard to a degree as well. The enemies in the game are hard to spot because they’re basically shadows. Shadow demons, but shadows nonetheless. Which meant that after my first encounter, the fear factor was diminished quite a bit because the shadows just don’t pack enough of a visceral punch to really by seen as a viable threat even though they killed me very easily on most occasions. There are books of the bible scattered around in the game that do various things, including make them more corporeal which makes them easier to see and fight, but also a lot more intimidating. At least it did for me.
Fumbling In The Heat Of The Moment
Any time I had to fight the shadows in the game, however, was a struggle. Because the belt which doubled as my inventory moved when I did. So bending down while trying to reach the ridiculously low hanging tool belt just resulted in it slipping under the ground level. But I had to keep using it because I couldn’t keep holding my flashlight when fighting because most of the guns needed to be cocked before shooting every time, and then also reloaded. So it was an uncomfortable experience trying to holster my flashlight (which then made the light take on strange shadows for some reason and in turn made it harder for me to see) and then get prepared enough to use my weapons. Especially when I was not expecting anything to happen and so wasn’t prepared enough to quickly get into fight mode.
Also, don’t even get me started on reloading in the game. That was a nightmarish horror all on it’s own. Not only were the pistols hard to reload, but so were the shotguns, miniguns, and automatic rifles. Meaning this isn’t something you simply do during a fight in Reficul VR.
So at this point, you’re probably wondering if it’s all worth it – if I actually had a fun time while playing this game. The short answer would be yes. It has many flaws, and it’s not going to compete with more visually polished VR games but Reficul VR does offer something that virtual reality horror games need right now: some originality and more freedom of choice and movement.
If you think you’ll enjoy this game, then make sure to get yourself a copy through Steam.