While things seemed to be slowing down a few weeks ago, we’re now seeing a large number of Playstation VR releases again. Today we’re looking at Theseus, which we had been eagerly anticipating.
The main reasons we had been looking forward to Theseus so much were its subject matter (the ancient myth of Theseus and the minotaur inside its labyrinth) and the excellent trailer and screenshots we had seen. With its incredibly atmosphere and sense of dread, it looked like a horror version of the recent Tomb Raider titles – at least the parts where you’re inside poorly lit tombs finding your way using nothing but a torch.
To a degree, Theseus delivers upon its promise – but it really depends on what you were expecting to get out of it. It’s not actually like Tomb Raider in terms of gameplay at all, since your freedom of movement and exploration is quite limited – and the combat isn’t exactly deep or varied either. In fact, quite a bit of your movement (like getting around an obstacle) is handled by a single button press – kind of like a quick time event where an animation plays afterwards. So instead of freely moving around, you spend most of your time in the labyrinth trying to stay out of the way of the minotaur – whose presence is felt even when he’s not around.
About ninety per cent of the game takes place inside the famed labyrinth, with a few additional scenes taking place in a more dream/nightmare-like setting instead. In the labyrinth, sticking to the shadows is smart, despite the minotaur’s poor eyesight. As the labyrinth is so dark though, you’ll also need to rely on a torch’s fire to get around – but you might risk attracting unwanted attention this way as well. Besides the towering minotaur, this attention can also come from giant spiders – which is where the only combat in the game comes in seeing as how you can’t fight the minotaur itself. As mentioned, combat isn’t deep – you’re just slashing at these spiders until they go down or catch fire from your torch – and I ran into less than a dozen of these encounters over the course of the story.
Movement is at a relatively slow pace for most of the game – which of course fits with the theme of not wanting to attract too much attention. There’s a bit of climbing and ducking under obstacles involved, but it always feels rather linear and like you’re not being allowed to freely explore the labyrinth for ways to escape it and its horrible minotaur.
But while the gameplay is thin, Theseus makes up for it – at least in my eyes – with its atmosphere and its antagonist, the minotaur. Walking through the labyrinth is intimidating enough by itself, with its dark corridors and constant sense that danger is lurking in the shadows. This is partly created by some of the best graphics I’ve seen on Playstation VR so far, but also by its sound design and the eyes that occasionally peer at you from the shadows.
And that doesn’t even include the minotaur itself, whose sheer size immediately makes you realize you stand no chance of doing any damage in combat. Your only choice is to prevent a confrontation, which makes for a tense and scary experience. It’s not quite the mythological horror version of Tomb Raider that perhaps the trailer conveyed, at least not in its gameplay, but it’s definitely a mythological horror experience in virtual reality worth going through. It’s thin on gameplay and it’s short, but its sense of atmosphere is something I haven’t seen enough in VR so far.