The ability to explore worlds and become immersed in them in virtual reality has always appealed to me, but the thought of actually managing one and looking after its inhabitants never drew me in. I mean, what could virtual reality bring to the god game genre? It would seem quite a lot if Tethered, developer Secret Sorcery’s Playstation VR god game, is anything to go by. Looking over these beautiful little worlds and seeing its inhabitants thrive and survive has been one of the most addictive and enjoyable experiences I’ve had in virtual reality so far.
Tethered’s world is a stunning one, offering bright vibrant environments that simply feel like they come to life in front of you. Perhaps it’s the camera angle from which you look at things, but the feeling of immersion that simply seeing this tiny living world in front of you offers is unreal. There’s no lack of detail either, with each Island full to the brim with flora and fauna that leave them feeling paradisiacal. Whilst admittedly the Islands don’t vary up too much as you progress through the game, they still manage to look incredible – a feat that’s all the more impressive when you consider some of the graphical limitations the Playstation VR headset carries.
The control scheme of Tethered is incredibly accessible too, allowing you to traverse each Island and see it from all angles by simply focusing your attention on one of the many clouds hanging over it. In fact, Tethered is one of the easiest virtual reality titles to simply pick up and play with all actions in the game performed with a little bit of head movement. It’s easy-going for newcomers, but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s any less immersive because of it.
Each level of Tethered is inhabited by a strange race of creatures known as ‘Peeps’. You’re tasked with looking after these Peeps and giving them jobs and tasks to perform to give them a sense of purpose – and to keep them alive of course. They’re an adorable little bunch who come from eggs that need to nurtured in order to hatch. This is easily performed by using sunlight or by having one of your other Peeps sit on it, so it won’t take you long before you’ve got a mini-civilisation of Peeps taking over the place.
You’ll task your Peeps with jobs like collecting resources, constructing buildings, and completing objectives that produce the spirit energy you need to progress. As in most RTS/god games you’ll need a different variety of resources before you’re able to build anything, so you’ll have to meet a few pre-requisites before you’re able to start expanding upon your colony. Having each building brings a variety of different bonuses, offers new tasks for your Peeps to perform, and also offers new specialised roles for your Peeps to take on – something that’s incredibly important when it comes to night time in the game.
It’s not always peaceful in the world of Tethered – at night time evil creatures attack, each one trying to dismantle your peaceful land and bring an end to your Peeps. It’s up to you fight them off before it’s too late. Luckily you can build barracks that allow you to train your Peeps in the art of combat and become ‘Heroes’. It’s in situations like this where proper Peep management comes into play. It’s up to you to balance out your Peeps so you have some that can gather resources for you, but also enough to protect you when night falls. Improper Peep management can leave you outnumbered and in a sticky situation – it doesn’t take long for your resource count to tumble when under attack. Don’t worry too much since your standard Peeps will fight back too, but they’re simply not as effective as your trained and ready-to-kill Heroes.
It’s during the night time attacks where Tethered can feel a little too hectic. Whilst it’s typically easy to navigate around the world, the view points are often a little restricted. You can never see everything in front of you so you’ve got to switch around a lot, a task that is particularly difficult when you’re constantly looking out for the nasty slug creatures and making sure your Peeps are safe. You’re left shaking your head like a mad man, anxiously trying to ensure your Peeps are looked after or still doing what they’re told (a Peep with no instruction in life can become suicidal, you know). It’s the only time in the game when controlling things with your head can be a little overbearing, though thankfully it’s something you can begin to adjust to with time.
Tethered might sound a little simplistic and in honesty a lot of the gameplay mechanics are, especially when compared to other titles in the genre. There is certainly a sense of depth to be found though, with each level of the game (which last between thirty minutes and an hour) offering new challenges for you to complete. I never got bored as I was playing the game and there was a real sense of progression to be found, both with the Peeps and game world as well as with the objectives you’re tasked with completing.
A lot of this is thanks to the immersion offered in virtual reality. There’s no doubting that Tethered could work on other platforms, but seeing and doing everything in virtual reality really added a new dimension to the game. It made it feel like I was really looking after this little world and the ability to get so up-close and personal with it was simply fascinating. You start to form a bond with the world and its inhabitants which isn’t always there in a typical god game – it’s a strange feeling, but something that I could really appreciate about the game.
Whilst Tethered offers a decent amount of levels to play through, it’s severely lacking any kind of free-play mode. Games like this thrive when you’re given the freedom to develop some civilization and watch it grow; instead you’re limited to levels where you can’t necessarily do what you please, but rather what you need to. I’d have loved the chance to have built a world that I could develop freely and not see it simply reset after finishing a level. That’s not to say that progressing through the campaign isn’t satisfying though – it just would’ve been nice to have been able to simply play around a little more.
Tethered offers an experience that’s not only incredibly fun and pretty, but also unique – especially when you consider the Playstation VR catalogue is still in its infancy at the moment. I had a lot of fun playing through it and whilst I’d have certainly appreciated a free-play mode, the main campaign offered plenty of hours of enjoyment as I nurtured my Peeps and gave them a happy life.
It’s incredibly accessible for just about anyone to pick up and play, plus the simplistic controls and navigation mean it won’t give anyone with little experience with virtual reality any headaches. Tethered really is a charming title and one I’d recommend to any Playstation VR owner.
Developer: Secret Sorcery
Publisher: Secret Sorcery
Release Date: 25/10/2016
Format(s): Playstation VR