The long-awaited sequel to The Climb is out now for the Oculus Quest platform, with a Rift version coming out later. Time to go back and scale some cliffs!
The original The Climb was a landmark achievement in VR back in the early days of the medium, alongside games such as Robinson: The Journey. Both were visually striking examples of what VR could deliver, powered by Crytek – the studio that was once at the cutting edge of visual fidelity with games like FarCry, Crysis and Ryse. The advent of VR proved to be another showcase moment for the studio, because few VR titles since then have been able to rise to the visual highs of those 2016 games.
But where Robinson was remarkable mainly for the opportunity to walk alongside giant dinosaurs, The Climb was a transformative experience in its own right. I first tried it at a trade show back in 2015 on an Oculus Rift, and to date it’s the only VR experience that made me wobbly on feet – the sensation of climbing up a sheer cliff, holding your breath as you reach for a handhold, looking down – as simple as the concept is, it’s incredibly intense.
The Climb 2 builds on the foundation of that experience, and doesn’t deviate much from it. There are fifteen different climbs to tackle, divided between five locations that each offer an easy, medium and difficult journey upward. You also further tweak the difficulty level by going with the standard mechanics of simplified ‘casual’ ones – which make it easier to manage things like your exertion levels as you go up. Once you master a route, you can also engage in speed runs to see how fast you can make it up there, but it ultimately all boils down to climbing, climbing and more climbing. The title is not a lie.
All the climbs have been very well designed – forcing you to stop for a second to orient yourself on your next move, making you retrace your steps when you hit a dead end and peeking around corners to search for different approaches you can try. There’s a degree of strategic thinking involved here, least of all because not all grips are the same. Some might crumble under the pressure of your weight, others are too painful to hang on to for a long time, while others give you an opportunity to add chalk to your hands.
A decent enough tutorial will teach you the basics, but ultimately The Climb 2 is a case of “practice makes perfect” – with plenty of heart-stopping falls as you slowly get better and learn the intricacies of the controls. For veterans of The Climb, the biggest is no doubt the fact that the sequel comes with brand new environments to explore – the novelty here being that you’re no longer just exploring places that put you out there in remote spots in nature but also scaling up the walls of skyscrapers inside the big city, which is a thrilling experience in and of itself.
The amount of visual fidelity in The Quest 2 is no surprise considering how gorgeous the Quest port of the first game looked, but the developers have amped up things a bit with subtle details and animations that weren’t in the first one, including some harrowing mid-level changes in the scenery I don’t want to spoil here.
Sure, it might be a bit low on traditional game content, but The Climb 2 is a VR experience that every Quest owner should have, even if it’s just to see what it does to newcomers so you can relive that 2015/2016 VR experience through different eyes.