Since the moment when Jurassic Park hit cinemas in the 90s, everybody craved to experience dinosaurs in a long forgotten world as if they were real. Only three weeks after the launch of the system, Crytek offers an immersive, prehistoric PlayStation VR experience with Robinson: The Journey. Will the game manage to become Sony’s new system seller?
The Land Before Time
If you assumed that Robinson: The Journey takes place many millions of years ago, you’re wrong. In this game you crash-landed on a planet called Tyson III, which happens to have a similar ecosystem to our Earth back when dinosaurs roamed the lands. Your mission as protagonist Robin is to explore the environment. You soon discover that not all of these reptiles are friendly. Stranded on this planet, your only companions are the hovering AI unit HIGS and your newly acquired pet Laika, which hatched from a T-Rex nest only seconds after your forced landing. These friendly characters provide the game with such a charming and friendly touch, allowing you to fully immerse yourself and feel weirdly at home in a world that holds so many dangerous creatures. Graphically, it’s one of the more impressive PlayStation VR titles that surely will benefit from PlayStation 4 Pro’s added GPU power.
Prehistoric Pokémon Snap
The thing that makes Robinson: The Journey great is not its story or visuals, but rather the exploring it allows. Even though having a clear objective at all times, you can explore so much more by literally lifting every stone in all corners of the map. When you find a new species, you can scan it to fill your database, which is incredibly enjoyable and reminded me of Pokémon Snap or Beyond: Good & Evil. Each time you want to scan an object, a short minigame will commence, which requires you to collect green dots within the body of it, without touching a few red ones. When scanning the bigger herbivores, this will take some precision and positioning, almost like playing a virtual version of hot wire. This feels absolutely great and authentic in VR, as you have to hold your breath and observe the movements of your target for a short amount of time, giving you this realistic feeling of being an explorer.
Dinosaurs make me sick
While I enjoyed scanning and gazing at the game’s beauty, its actually gameplay has it problems. The key element of the game is to solve environmental puzzles, which require you to shift some pieces of debris, climb back and forth – which feels kind of like a first-person Uncharted – or use commands of your T-Rex pet Laika. It’s common that the solutions aren’t too obvious, and sadly the developers didn’t implements a good hint system to prevent you from getting stuck. This is especially problematic since looking for a solution can be quite tedious when too much movement triggers motion sickness – and this is sadly the case with this game. If you choose to go with free camera navigation through the right stick instead of the stomach-friendly version, you are bound to get sick at some point. On top of that, there is only one speed for turning the camera, which is vomit-inducingly quick. I feel like such a tech-savvy company as Crytek could have managed this better, but at least this prevented me from rushing through the five to seven hours of Robinson‘s story too fast.
The first act of the future
Robinson: The Journey offers an amazing prehistoric environment paired with mechanics that invite to explore. It suffers from the growing pains of virtual reality, but provides enough reason to endure them. Crytek’s adventure feels like the first act of something big, and made me genuinely interested in what the future of VR holds. If you’re in love with either dinosaurs or immersive story-telling, there’s simply no way around this game.
What we liked:
- Amazing visuals
- Authentic environmental design
- Scanning minigame
What we didn’t like:
- Limited movement options
- Motion sickness
- Lack of hints
This review was written using a PlayStation 4 review code provided by Sony PlayStation. How do you like the idea of a prehistoric, explorable world in VR? What’s your favourite dinosaur game? Tell us in the comments, on Facebook, or on Twitter!