Virtual reality puzzlers are a dime a dozen, but there was something about Separation that immediately caught my eye. Whilst the world itself looked intriguing in its screenshots, the fact that the developer based a lot of the experience on his own grief was what really got my attention, especially after struggling to deal with my own loss of loved ones in the past. It certainly encouraged me to play the game and I’m glad that I did; Separation is far from perfect, but it still offers a poignant experience that PlayStation VR gamers should certainly take the time to check out.
Separation can only be played with a DualShock controller, so no need to worry about charging up those Move controllers. It has free-movement which is always appreciated, especially when using the DualShock and taking advantage of the analogue sticks, but it’s also limited to snap-turning which is a bit of a shame. It feels comfortable throughout though so even newbies to PlayStation VR won’t find their stomachs flipping as they freely explore Separation’s desolate yet impressive world.
The best way to describe Separation would be as a puzzler that focuses heavily on subtle environmental storytelling. You’re not given a real introduction to the world and the story itself is left obtuse throughout, with the player expected to make their own mind up as to what is going on based upon the sights that they see. The majority of your time will be spent working across the game’s landscapes and solving puzzles that require you to interact with special light beams in order to connect them together across the world.
It’s a neat concept, but it’s one that’s held back a little by the game’s simple controls. All it takes is the pressing of a button to interact with the objects connected to each light beam, whether that’s when performing the likes of moving them or gathering any missing crystals that have scattered across the environment. It’s a bit of a shame that they felt so simple to interact with, especially since virtual reality titles pride themselves on the sense of immersion they typically offer through motion controls.
It’s also worth mentioning that the movement speed in the game is slow, which can make exploration feel like a bit of a drag. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to take in the game world and the sense of size that some of the structures and landscapes offer certainly feels impressive in virtual reality, but the fact that you’re moving so slow means that it can take a little bit too long to reach each destination ahead of you. On the flip-side, it will make the game more comfortable to those that don’t have their virtual reality bearings yet, so it does have some benefits.
It might sound like I’m knocking Separation a bit, but I actually had a good time with the game. The world itself feels beautifully haunting and is full of impressive sights, whilst the fact you get to explore it via boat and air-balloon as you progress doesn’t only open up the sense of exploration for the player but also bumps up your movement speed (which is appreciated). There’s a real sense of mystery to your surroundings too, especially with its blend of futuristic and medieval-looking sights, which help make the world all the more intriguing to explore.
I enjoyed solving the puzzles too – sure, they utilise a lot of simple mechanics and some of them are a bit too easy to figure out, but there’s a decent amount of variety to them so you’ll never find yourself bored by the enigmas that Separation sends your way. It’s worth noting that it also just so happens to be an easy-going game, with players able to progress at their own pace and appreciate the poignant world without the pressure of having any life-threatening enemies trying to hunt them down.
Visually, Separation doesn’t try to blow players away with incredibly detailed landscapes or a bustling world, but instead offers an impressive sense of scale that makes you feel as though you really are trapped in this large and sometimes vacant environment. I was certainly impressed with the draw distance of the game and looking across the world and seeing what was ahead of me almost felt endless at times, especially when travelling via the boat and gazing across the waters. It certainly makes good use of the immersion offered by virtual reality on a visual basis – Separation won’t be the prettiest game you’ve played in PlayStation VR, yet it’ll still keep you in awe at the sheer scale of everything around you.
One thing that stuck with me during my time playingwas the fact that the game was inspired by the developer’s own hurt following the passing of his father. A lot of Separation is obtuse in design, but as you explore the forlorn landscape and uncover more of its hidden secrets, it becomes much easier to understand the sense of grief that the experience is based upon. It made it hard not to feel touched by the game, and whilst it didn’t always blow me away from a gameplay perspective, the themes of it certainly resonated with me and helped me understand exactly what the developer was going through.
Separation isn’t perfect, but its intriguingly poignant world and enjoyable puzzles offered more than enough to keep me invested in the experience. The environmental design is impressive throughout too, whilst the sense of scale offered in the world will leave you in awe at times – especially when travelling through sea or air.
It’s certainly an adventure that’s worth being a part of, and whilst it doesn’t always take advantage of everything that virtual reality has to offer, Separation stands out a worthy addition to gamers’ PlayStation VR libraries.
Developer: Recluse Industries
Publisher: Recluse Industries
Platform(s): PlayStation VR