In Death: Unchained review (Quest)

In Death: Unchained is the Oculus Quest-exclusive version of In Death, which previously came out for PC-based headsets and PlayStation VR.

We reviewed Sólfar’s impressive In Death when it launched for the PlayStation VR headset back in 2018 and enjoyed its rogue-lite elements and addictive use of bows, arrows and crossbows. For In Death: Unchained, development duties passed to Superbright, a new team of developers whose members previously worked on titles like Dead Island, Dying Light and Cyberpunk 2077.

Impressive credentials, but of course the core of In Death: Unchained is still quite similar to the experience we got with Sólfar’s original game. The procedurally generated levels are still there, the weapon selection that grows as you progress is accounted for, and the roguelike elements that see you traverse between life and death with new abilities are obviously also present.

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The biggest change, however, is more freedom of movement. No longer restricted by the cables that come with a wired headset. Compared to the PSVR, this makes for a liberating experience as you literally move yourself in and out of the line of fire and fire off arrows without any tracking issues or wires tugging at you. This is especially true because enemies can come from a variety of directions, and not having to only pivot left and right greatly enhances the sense of immersion. That also makes Unchained a more intense physical experience this time around – one you can really lose yourself in until the Quest tells you you’re getting close to the border of your playing area.

Not surprisingly, the switch to the Quest headset also comes at a price – mostly in the audiovisual sense. All the visual content is there, which is impressive, but levels and character models look slightly less detailed and vibrant than they did in the PC-based original. Everything performs smoothly though, and the team didn’t have to abandon the Unreal Engine to achieve this either, so the look and feel of the original game is still there. In a way, it’s like playing a PS3 version of a game after playing the PS4 version or remaster first. A step back, but still impressive and nothing that hurts the gameplay.

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But even though In Death: Unchained might look slightly worse than the PC original, the team at Superbright has included content that’s exclusive to the Quest version! There’s a completely new game world called The Abyss, new enemies to fight including a new boss and two brand new Pits to challenge yourself in.

Numerous quality of life improvements have also made it into Unchained, including more opportunities to save your game, making it a better suited option for the Quest’s shorter battery life and generally shorter experiences. While we were testing the game, the development team was also working hard on an option for smooth locomotion that was added as a launch update and which should be quite a game-changer compared to the teleportation mechanic that the game took with it from the PSVR version. Once you find a good spot the Quest version gives you the freedom to just walk around in the surrounding area and take out enemies in all directions, so the added immersion of full locomotion when navigating through a level will be welcome indeed.

The end result of Quest ports is often a scaled-down version of the original game. With In Death: Unchained that might be true in the visual sense, but the added content, improved controls and subtle gameplay tweaks make this feel like anything but an inferior version.

Score: 7.9/10

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