Rebellion’s next take on virtual reality is here, after Battlezone offered an early glimpse of what Playstation VR could deliver. Arca’s Path was developed by a team of people who previously worked on Playstation VR Worlds and the wonderful but underappreciated Wonderbook series for the PS4. Arca’s Path is also out on Steam, but we only played the PS4 version.
If there’s one word that describes my experience with Arca’s Path, it’s quite possibly “subtle”. That needs some explaining, and it’s best to start with the control system. While many VR titles are a bit “experimental” in how they approach controls in VR titles, Arca’s Path dials things down to the basics – using a system that relies solely on head tracking. In true Marble Madness/Super Monkey Ball style, you control a little sphere by looking directly in front of it to make it move in that direction. Looking further away from it speeds it up, looking right at it slows it down to the point of sitting still.
It’s the kind of intuitive experience that brings back memories of Ubisoft’s Eagle Flight, another title that did away with the gamepad and Move controllers. That one could get intense though, with tricky courses requiring pretty intense rapid head movements. Arca’s Path, as mentioned, is much more subtle.
Arca’s Path is a game that walks a thin line between a game and a way to relax and unwind. There are puzzle mechanics, though most challenges are fairly straightforward and include pushing over elements of the scenery in order to progress – nothing too elaborate or brain-bending. This fits well with the game’s overall tone (both visually and in its music), which feels a bit dream-like at times. There’s a narrative as well, but this too is delivered in the most subtle of ways.
One downside about all this, at least for me, is that sometimes I felt like I was drifting off a bit. Not out of boredom, but to look around at the scenery around me. Of course, because this generation of VR does not yet include eye tracking, this meant that I moved my head in the direction I wanted to look – causing my little ball to plummet off the ledge I was traveling along just moments before.
There is a collection aspect to Arca’s Path where you pick up as many crystals as possible. This creates some potential for replayability, although there is little reason not to just go for these crystals on your first playthrough. That approach would limit your playtime with Arca’s Path to just under three hours, though it has a budget price point to match that length.
Once you’re done with the story Arca’s Path is one of those titles you can easily use to demo your hardware to VR newcomers, or you could roll back in and attempt a few speed runs using the included time trial mode. It feels a bit removed from the mostly relaxed pace of the game itself, but once you feel comfortable it quickly gets hard to ignore the allure of trying to best your (and others’) best scores.
Arca’s Path feels like a subtle experience in VR that engages (and disengages) the senses in ways few other titles do. It’s a game that, in the sense of pure gameplay, could have worked without VR as well – but its audiovisual delivery and dream-like quality makes it something that a TV screen can’t match.