The Stranger VR Review – A Strange World
The Stranger VR
The most important thing to bring to your VR game is interaction. The reason we strap a screen to our face is to immerse ourselves into a new world, and with that comes interaction. A game where you just shoot things won’t cut it in this day and age when there are VR games like Boneworks, Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners, and Half Life: Alyx. To forgo interactions means you’ll need to bring something new to the table; an experience not yet felt in VR. This is how I feel coming into every VR game that I review. That includes The Stranger VR.
The Stranger VR is a VR shooter developed and published by RealityArts Studio. With it, they hoped to create a VR Doom game in open world, if going by their Steam page description.
Before we go into this, I will like to say one thing. The men working behind this are very nice, and helped me a lot with getting this to work on my system. I will give kudos to their fast response time and kindness. That being said, this will not affect my thoughts on their game.
I Am The Stranger
The story for The Stranger VR is rather simple. In an event known as The Rift War, humanity was pushed to live underground while the land above they called home was reduced to smolders. Only those with the genes of the “Lord Fathers,” people known as The Strangers, will be able to fight to reclaim what was once that of humanity’s.
That is really it. The writing is subpar for what there is of it, as the only actual writing you get is the introduction. There aren’t even notes or little bits of environmental storytelling to tell you more, besides the destroyed landscapes. However, the environmental design is pretty decent. You do traverse some interesting structures, though it will almost always be among a desert of some kind. I will at least give them kudos at trying to make interesting environments for a VR space.
Though I couldn’t appreciate them at their best, considering I couldn’t set the graphics to high, as the specifications for this game are pretty wild, which required a minimum of 16 GB of RAM, which I have (for comparison, Half Life: Alyx requires 12 GB). I was able to coast by on medium settings, and everything looked okay, though I did have problems with the VR headset losing track of where I was and having me reset my height and Guardian in the middle of a fight.
My biggest problem is the art direction though, not the graphics. The game can be pretty, sure, but it doesn’t exactly go anywhere with it. There’s these cool-looking statues, but it doesn’t enthrall me as much when it all just felt like a bland shooter from the seventh generation of consoles.
So, with both the art direction and the story lacking, how is the gameplay? Not great. The biggest problem with VR games is when they just make it a game, but don’t think about how they can enrich the VR part of it. Overall, this game feels like a shooter that had VR added to it. And not a very good one at that.
To start, the controls are a bit weird. I’m playing on an Oculus, so I have two analog sticks for turning, but instead, the right analog stick is used for nothing; there is one turn button, and it only turns you ninety degrees to the right. This made this especially annoying when I was trying to turn. I don’t like having to rely on turning my real body to move as I don’t want to tangle my wires or accidentally hit something in my room. (UPDATE: As of this review, they have made it possible to turn smoothly with the right analog stick.)
Now, onto the actual gameplay. There are about seven weapons, two of which can’t really be changed, which are the grenades and arm blade. Among the other five, there are 25 modes of customization that require currency to purchase, from burst firing pistols to flame rocket launchers. Some of these are cool, but I lose interest in using them pretty quickly when the gameplay keeps getting more stale by the second.
The gameplay doesn’t go much farther than this loop: wander among ruins, enemies appear, you kill them, more enemies appear, you kill them, wander among ruins. No interacting with the environment, and set pieces to spice things up a little. The gameplay recycles itself more than America does and it gets old after a while, especially when shooting doesn’t feel all that great. So old that I actually had more fun speedrunning past the enemies than actually fighting them.
And the difficulty can be rather hardcore at times. During one of the times where The Stranger VR actually forces you to engage it, I encountered three gigantic enemies that shot lasers that explode on impact. I don’t even have to be near one to be hit, and they do a lot of damage. If you die, expect to be respawned right next to them with barely any health, getting yourself stuck in an endless loop of death.
The best I could do was get their AI stuck on the geometry while I pelted them with rockets. I used about 260 rockets to take all three of them down. Oh yeah, and this was the first time they introduced this enemy, as far as I’m aware. When enemies are shown, they just appear from nowhere like this is some kind of wave shooter. No introduction, no music, no grandeur, just, plop, enemies.
Speaking of music, what music there is is actually pretty good. While I was speedrunning past enemies, I did engross myself within the high paced tunes and dance while dodging all the laser blasts hurled in my direction. In addition, sound design is fine; not much to talk about.
However, it’s not the music that makes the game.
Less Than Strange
As a VR game, The Stranger VR fails in trying to immerse me within this world by delivering a bland environment to explore and literally no interactions with it. All you can do is aim and shoot, hoping the enemy will die. Pulling out the arm blade is cool for a little bit, but killing enemies with it is not. As a game, The Stranger VR fails to entice me with its gameplay. If I wanted to shoot things until they die, I could pick a multitude of better first person shooters that will scratch that itch.
Overall, The Stranger VR is a disappointment. Although the people behind it obviously have a passion, I think they should really think about what they are going to do for their next game. If you’re going to make a game in virtual reality, just making a bland shooter and slapping an arm blade on it isn’t going to cut it. The three people working at RealityArts Studio are very kind and care about the players’ experience, so I hope that their next game is a bigger step up from this one.
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Reviewed by Freelance7 on Switch. Game provided by RealityArts Studios.