We recently had a chance to try out the Oculus Quest version of The Climb, one of the early Oculus exclusives for the Rift. How does the experience translate to the Rift’s less-powerful little brother?
Although these days we mostly cover Playstation VR titles, I had quite a few Oculus Rift experiences at trade shows – including my very first time playing VR on a pre-release version of the devkit. Two years after that, one of my more memorable experiences with the headset came in the shape of The Climb, and I was eager to play it again now that the Quest version is available.
Most VR followers will be very aware of what The Climb is – a VR approximation of mountain climbing where you try to reach the top of a series of challenging climbs in three distinct yet remote locations. You keep an eye on your stamina, make sure you chalk up your hands whenever you get a chance, and tether yourself to hooks that act as checkpoints as you progress up the mountain.
But for me, The Climb is one of the extremely rare cases of VR where I felt so immersed in the experience that I almost lost my footing while playing it. This is a big part of why the game stuck with me for all those years, and I was wondering if I could create that sensation with the new Quest version. To a degree, I can.
Part of why The Climb is such a good VR showcase are the graphics – alongside Robinson: The Journey it was one of the early showcases for the technology. While Robinson was more of a traditional game, The Climb also relied heavily on motion controls for something unique, and combined with the realistic graphics the sensation of height was palpable. Your limited stamina when climbing adds tension and suspense to your climb, and the moment you fall (to your virtual death) provides brief seconds of stressful agony. It is realistic? Probably not, since you can’t use your legs at all. This makes it feel like your entire body is just hanging by your fingertips for large stretches of time. Is it immersive? You bet, and it’s a lot of fun too, because doing things like this isn’t in the realm of possibilities for most of us out there.
The Quest port still gets all the basics of the game right and features the same content, but the environments are less detailed and realistic on account of the reduced amount of horsepower that the untethered headset can provide. Objects in the distance are less detailed, and some aspects of the environment aren’t animated anymore. It makes for a slightly less immersive experience, but still quite possible the best looking Quest title yet.
Is getting the Quest version a sacrifice and a step back? Yes and no – on the one hand you’re getting a less shiny version of the Rift game, but on the other hand you’re also getting a title that really pushes the boundaries of what the Quest can deliver in terms of its audiovisual capabilities. I’d say it’s one of the best ways to show off the Quest, and the fact that you get the original PC-based version for free makes the deal even better – especially now that you can play that one on the Quest as well, provided you’re all set up for Oculus Link.