Insomniac Games may be best known for its work on PlayStation exclusives like Ratchet & Clank, Resistance, and the critically-acclaimed Spider-Man on PS4. Despite its close relationship with Sony over the years, Insomniac was technically an independent studio until recently, giving it the opportunity to work on Sunset Overdrive for Xbox One, as well as several virtual reality projects for Oculus Rift. Insomniac has been with Oculus since the beginning, releasing games like Edge of Nowhere and Feral Rites. Sony’s acquisition of Insomniac may mean the company is done making Oculus Rift games, but if so, it at least managed to go out on a relatively high note with Stormland.
Stormland is a story-driven VR game with a focus on action and exploration. Unlike many other VR games, Stormland doesn’t waste players’ time by making them stand and listen to NPCs drone on endlessly. It gets to the point quickly, and after a few introductory missions, players will be zipping through open world environments, blasting through enemy robots, scaling cliffs, and hunting for upgrade items.
In Stormland, players take on the role of a robot itself, equipped with various gadgets that help them overcome the environment and deal with enemies. The game makes good use of Oculus Touch controllers to simulate robot hands and arms, allowing players to directly interact with the game world. Little things like being able to hold a gun in one hand and then rip it off with the other or having your own arm removed make it easier to immerse yourself in Stormland’s world. The game does a great job of making players feel like they are in the game, and it does this through things like players touching their elbow to remove their arm and by touching their forehead to activate a scanner. Stormland is really a full-body VR experience and it all works very well.
In Stormland, players have large, open areas to explore, consisting of islands separated by clouds. Players are able to zip through these landscapes at high speeds, which is something that may admittedly offend some people. In our own testing of the game, we didn’t have any problems with VR motion sickness in Stormland, but there were a few times when we had a strange sensation in our stomach that felt like we were falling because the in-game character was moving so fast. .
The worlds that players explore in Stormland are unfortunately one of the weaker aspects of the game. The game can be ugly at times, with bland, similar looking environments. It can be easy to get lost when playing Stormland in some of the later levels because of this, and players may find themselves running around aimlessly for long periods of time. These moments slow the game’s momentum to a crawl, and after a while, bouncing from one similar island to the next can become tiresome.
While exploring the worlds of Stormland isn’t all that compelling, at least the physical act of moving around is as fun as it gets. Players are given more freedom of movement than a typical virtual reality game, being able to zip around almost anywhere. Early in the story, players acquire a tool that lets them climb straight up mountains. Stormland’s freedom of movement goes a long way in ensuring that players don’t feel boxed in, which is something other virtual reality games often struggle with.
Threats in Stormland mainly come in the form of enemy robots, which players can avoid by stealth or fight directly. Combat in Stormland is definitely a highlight, with players able to easily use weapons, throw grenades, and more. The gunplay in Stormland feels natural and has some interesting weapon designs, though perhaps nothing as creative as the weapons in Insomniac’s Ratchet & Clank.
Speaking of Ratchet & Clank, that franchise’s influence can be seen in other areas of Stormland. Players travel to different planets in a way not unlike Ratchet & Clank, and the art style is also reminiscent of those platforming adventures, especially when it comes to the design of alien plants and objects. of that nature. What’s more, players are encouraged to smash objects to collect currency that floats to them with sound effects that sound like they’ve been ripped right out of Ratchet & Clank, so fans of Insomniac’s previous work should be comfortable in Stormland.
One thing Stormland does that hasn’t really been seen in previous Insomniac titles is the way it implements its menu and maps. Players can look behind their hands for a map, which is then blown up to a giant size that appears around them like something from an Iron Man movie. The menus are presented as holograms that appear in front of the player, and while this may seem like an unimportant feature, it’s actually one of the cooler and more immersive things about the game. Leave it to Insomniac to make map viewing fun.
The main downside to Stormland is that there really isn’t much after the main story, which can be beaten in five to eight hours. There are a few side quests to complete, but none of them are all that interesting and the mission objectives can get repetitive. Some fans may feel compelled to explore its end-game content, which updates once a week with new challenges and the like, but it’s more of the same. We also didn’t get into any multiplayer games when playing Stormland’s main story, so those looking for replay value may be missing out on that feature, unless they have Oculus Rift headset friends to join them.
Stormland is a short experience and its attempts to add replay value don’t really hit the mark. However, it’s still one of the more impressive virtual reality games on the market, and a clear step forward compared to the many VR titles that came before it in terms of controls and freedom of movement. Now that Sony owns Insomniac, hopefully it can continue its virtual reality work with PlayStation VR or maybe even the rumored PlayStation VR 2 on PS5.
Stormland is available now, exclusively for Oculus Rift. Today Technology was provided with a code for this review.