It’s been a while since I’ve donned the PlayStation VR headset, but with the long-awaited Golem, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to put my hardware to use again. Golem was announced way back in 2015 at PlayStation Experience, and has experienced numerous delays since then. To be honest, I had forgotten about the title from ex Halo, Infamous, and Bungie developers. With such a pedigree of talent behind it, there’s no way it could be bad, right?
Well, yes and no. Golem suffers from a lot of the problems that most virtual reality games suffer from. However, the world is rife with personality and small details, and the combat is a lot of fun. Players take control of a young girl named Twine. Things move slowly at first, introducing her family before an accident leaves her bed-ridden. After becoming something known as a Dreamer, Twine discovers the ability to control large stone Golems in the ruins of a mostly unknown city.
As Twine explores the mysterious city through the eyes of these Golems, she begins to uncover the hidden secrets of not just the city, but the connections to her family. It’s a good narrative that manages to find its footing while players struggle with controls. Again, Golem suffers from a lot of the same issues that other VR titles do. Tracking can be off, controls can be clunky, and in my case, I experienced some severe nausea.
Most of the core gameplay takes place in first person inside a Golem. Players will move around by tilting your head forward and pressing a button on the Move controller. I’m glad Highwire Games included an option for players with only one Move controller to use a Dualshock as well, but using two rewards a much better experience.
The camera here is a bit finicky, which was what led to a lot of my nausea. It’s really easy to get turned around, which is only exacerbated by a lack of navigational markers. Players will spend a good amount of time spinning in circles just trying to figure out which way they’re headed. Combine this with how easy it is for the screen positioning to feel off, and the motion-sickness can quickly get out of control. I started putting a limit on myself to how much time I would put in during the day, so it wouldn’t completely ruin my experience. This was the same issue I had with Arizona Sunshine on PSVR, and it isn’t fun.
Of course, this was just my personal experience, and not everyone will have the same motion sickness issues I did. It’s frustrating though, because if we’re about 4 years in with this technology, why has nobody figured out a way to reduce the amount of motion sickness some players will experience. I fear that it may be due to the amount of time that Golem spent in development, since it was announced before the PlayStation VR even released.
Really the main draw in Golem is it’s combat system. As you explore you’ll take on other Golems using an interesting mechanic. The PlayStation Move controllers essentially serve as your Golem’s arms. Using these, you’ll block enemy attacks with swords until an opening appears, which is when you’ll counter.
As fun and interesting as the combat is, it often suffers from tracking issues, much like the actual movement. Blocks sometimes just won’t register, and you’ll often die because of it, resulting in a little bit of backtracking. It’s frustrating, but not a deal-breaker. If anything, the motion-sickness will be a deal-breaker for some, but honestly, Golem is worth persevering through, even with these issues.
Especially when the world you’re exploring is so rich and built so beautifully. The sandy city is brought to life with great textures, and I often found myself pretty engrossed in just taking the city in. Attacks and enemies are well animated, even if swinging your own sword doesn’t always look great.
It’s surprising actually how good Golem looks. I often feel like the PSVR is better at managing experiences than nailing the visuals, since it runs at a lower resolution than its PC big brothers. There have been a handful of PSVR games that have looked stellar, like Blood & Truth, Moss, and Raw Data, but the majority of them often look muddied with textures. Golem falls in the former category, and it’s a big draw for those looking for a new VR title.
Even with the motion tracking issues and the nausea, Golem is just plain fun. I wasn’t able to play it for more than an hour and a half or so at a time, but I found myself waking up looking forward to the time I’d get to spend with it for the day. It isn’t perfect, but I think the PSVR just hasn’t matured fully yet to work out all the kinks, even three years later. If you haven’t plugged in your PSVR in a while, Golem is a strong argument for why you should, even if it’s just for an hour a day.
Golem is available now for PlayStation VR. This review is based on a PS4 copy of the game provided by the publisher. Purchases are available here.