Fancy some third person Greek mythology on your Playstation VR headset? It might sound familiar to some and instantly get them excited, but this isn’t Kratos’ first foray into virtual reality. Instead, it’s Theseus – a re-telling of the ancient story of the titular hero’s battle against a deadly Minotaur. It’s a great little premise and one that could make for a potentially exciting video game, but unfortunately it’s a case of style over substance this time around.
Theseus tells the tale of a Greek warrior who heads through a deadly Labyrinth in order to kill a huge yet blind Minotaur. Countless other soldiers had been this way before, but all that remained were their mangled corpses. Whilst the original myth spoke of Ariadne as someone who helped Theseus find his way out of the Labyrinth by using thread, this time around she’s held prisoner in its deepest depths, almost flipping her role over by actually having her help guide Theseus through the Labyrinth instead of out of it. It’s a case of killing the beast, saving the girl, and then making your way home – simple, right?
The main gameplay of Theseus sees you switching between an over the shoulder third person view and fixed camera angles as you work through the ancient ruined Labyrinth. It actually reminded me a little of the old Resident Evil games in some way, with the fixed camera angles reminiscent of my treks through the Spencer Mansion and Raccoon City all those years ago. Whilst those viewpoints are often criticised as dated these days, I actually found they worked incredibly well in virtual reality; having this view down on everything looked great, whilst being able to move your head around to get a closer look or pick up on small details added to the cinematic elements of the game. It’s got me excited to see what else could be done with these kind of camera angles in future games, with Theseus proving that virtual reality isn’t only atmospheric in first person but third person too.
Unfortunately, the gameplay itself doesn’t really compliment the atmospheric set up offered by the game’s presentation. You simply lead Theseus through the ruined Labyrinth with very little to do in the ways of proper interaction; typically, you’re just left following a linear pathway at a slow speed whilst pressing button interactions when prompted. There are moments where you’ll get involved by climbing a wall, fighting some enemies, or solving a puzzle, but these instances are always so incredibly basic that it’s hard to feel particularly engaged by them – it’s just a case of thoughtlessly pressing a button and letting the game do the work for you. It’s almost as if Theseus is a one trick pony, with the incredibly atmospheric virtual reality elements not backed up by a particularly exciting game to go with it.
Even your encounters with the Minotaur are a bit of a mixed bag. You’d expect your showdowns with the hulking beast to be the highlight of the game, yet they typically boil down to a few stealth sections that felt a bit dull and predictable. There are the occasional set pieces that shine, such as when you’re escaping a deadly pursuit or when he smashes his face through a wall to give you a scare during exploration, but there’s simply not enough of them to leave a lasting impression on you.
At least the game is atmospheric though, with some of the dark hallways and use of virtual reality making for some pretty creepy moments. There’ll be times where you’re left on edge, watching the Minotaur’s gross spider-like creatures running around you, wondering when they’re going to strike. If this was done outside of virtual reality I don’t know if it would’ve been as daunting, but when using the headset I couldn’t help but to feel a bit twitchy every time I heard a noise. When you actually see the Minotaur himself it’s impressive too, with the 3D effects offered by Playstation VR making it feel like he’s literally right in front of you.
Theseus is an easy game to play through and it’s also pretty short, with the experience lasting around three hours or so in total. You won’t find any challenge in anything you’re doing though and the linearity of it doesn’t really deem itself worthy of a second playthrough; there is an extra ending to unlock, but unless you do it the first time around I can’t imagine anyone would be overly motivated to go through the whole thing again. In honesty, the easy difficulty and linearity made it feel like more of a virtual reality experience than a bona fide video game at times, so those looking for a gripping third person adventure on the Playstation VR might have a bit longer to wait…
Theseus isn’t necessarily a bad game, but it’s far from being an exciting one. It goes a long way in proving that third person adventures can work in virtual reality and it’s definitely got me excited to see what might come in the future, but the simple linear gameplay offered here just didn’t do enough to really engage me. There’s no denying it’s atmospheric and looks great, but unfortunately Theseus is a clear case of style over substance.
Developer: Forge Reply
Publisher: Forge Reply
Release Date: 26/07/2017
Format(s): Playstation VR