Witching Tower VR has arrived on Playstation VR almost a year after its initial release for the Vive and Rift. Here’s our look at Daily Magic Productions’ fantasy VR romp.
The fantasy genre certainly holds a lot of appeal to VR developers. We’ve seen excellent examples with The Mage’s Tale and The Wizards, and we just looked at a more casual approach with Waltz of the Wizard recently. Witching Towers veers more towards the action RPG side of things, with less of an emphasis on spellcasting and more on swordplay.
Witching Tower features a fairly traditional narrative set six years after a war shrouded the world in darkness. The source of all this is the evil Queen that lives in the Witching Tower and spreads chaos, sickness and death. You’re a young girl called Anna, taken prisoner by the Queen and locked in the tower. Afraid of what might await you, your job is to escape your prison cell and survive the dangers of the tower.
Gameplay is a mix of combat, puzzles and exploration. For the latter, it’s a real shame that the Playstation’s Move controllers don’t have a thumbstick to help guide you, making teleportation the best option for you even if there’s free locomotion available as well. Puzzles generally aren’t too taxing, and clues can often be gained by using a bit of magic (which enables ‘enhanced vision mode’). Combat’s the strongest aspect of the game, and it’s also the most prevalent one.
The bulk of the combat is of the melee variety, where you use swordplay to deal blows or parry incoming attacks, which obviously works great in VR. If you have more range between you and the enemy, you can also use the bow and arrow, which is of course always a great option if you happen to be standing on a higher platform as well.
Other uses of magic include being able to see enemies you can’t visually spot yet, and a magical lasso that you can use to grab or pull down objects from afar – which can result in some creative ways of taking down an enemy or two. You can use more traditional (but less fun) ways of taking them down as well, for instance by tossing a bomb in their direction.
Besides your options of movement (which are limited mostly on account of Sony’s hardware), the controls in Witching Tower work pretty well. Sword combat is intuitive, immersive and fun even though it can feel a bit basic, and the bow and arrow portions are quite familiar if you’re played VR games with a similar mechanic before – though the bow and arrow action gets frustrating due to overly fidgety controls. Adding a bit more variety are the item belt on your waist and the pouch on your arm, both of which allow access to more things without having to resort to a menu. Bombs and other weapons are kept on your belt (and returned there if you happen to drop them), whereas other items are kept in the pouch – these can include things you’ll need to carry around to help you solve a puzzle later.
Despite the control issues, Witching Tower VR is a visually impressive and engaging fantasy adventure. It’s not terribly long with a playthrough length of under three hours, but I enjoyed the narrative and diversity in the gameplay. There seems to be pricing issue with the game on the EU-based stores, so if you’re EU-based it could be smart to wait until that is fixed or pick it up in the US store, where it’s close to half the price you’d otherwise be paying. Is it worth the price? There are better games out there, including The Mage’s Tale, but if you enjoy fantasy VR like me then you’ll probably forgive the control issues that Witching Tower has. The dark fantasy tale that lies underneath is certainly worth experiencing.