A short demo with more credits than content. There isn't even a sandbox where you can idle. The demo is just, showpiece, a sample button pressing puzzle and then some deflecting shots with a lightsaber. You can tell those credits had to rattle this out in record time before jumping back onto a real project. It's a mere taster of what can be done in VR. But that lightsaber...
Let me tell you about that lightsaber. It doesn't feel like much, because you're just holding a plastic controller in reality. It doesn't look like much, because it's just a shaft of light tied to the controllers movements. It sounds like everything. From the low hum when its still to the loud vmmm when its swung. And the VR makes it real. You move your hand and the lightsaber moves. You swing it overhead and it purrs above you. You twirl the controller awkwardly, because the controller has a big round top that isn't built for twirling, and the lightsaber forms a web of protection before your eyes, blaster bolts reversing direction as they bounce off.
Don't be afraid to admit it. The screenshots look terrible. All those jagged edges and the tiny resolution. But again this isn't what the player sees, this is just the output to the flat screen.
I'm not afraid to say ILM have done a fantastic job with the visuals. There's all sorts of particle effects and photorealistic deserts you won't see in any other VR product. It really is a visual stunner. The gameplay is the weakest portion of this game. It's a cinematic event rather than a gameplay bonanza. It is one of the demos though, the kind you want to show to friends so they can experience VR. It's earned a recommendation from me on those merits.
Vanishing Realms has an interesting enough premise. Basic, but evocative. You're something like Gordon Freeman, a voiceless troubleshooter summoned by unknown powers to deal with a situation. What follows from there is a simple dungeon crawl. It's a launch title, showing the power of the technology more than anything. It also showcases why trying to take screenshots is annoying. These are the result of screenshotting while in-game. It's capturing the output to the flat screen rather than the two monitors that compose the headset. Not that a screenshot of those would be any better. They'd simply be two flat images instead of one. You'll just have to imagine the 3 Ds.
There's two aspects to Vanishing Realms. First is the "Whoah, they added that". Like how they have mining and archery. Well why shouldn't they? Other games have those features. So let's dispense with that. Yes Vanishing Realms has an inventory system so what. How do all these reinvented wheels work? Competently enough. Sometimes the inventory jumps around and it can be awkward trying to change weapons. Mining is just swinging a pick at things and collecting what drops out.
So what's good about it? The fact that it's VR. Combat is the most viscereal but just walking(teleporting) around is the wow factor. You start out underground with fleeting glimpses of the sky, so when you finally emerge into a quiet night it's breathtaking. The monsters are cartoonish but vicious. The fights are rough, though I probably wasn't in any real danger I spent most of my time cowering behind a shield and swinging wildly. There's also enough variation in the monsters to keep you busy and when multiple types show up together it becomes an exercise in tactics. Traps are not quite as great. There's some swinging blades in certain areas but it can be a bit hit or miss on whether you're in their arc. Other stuff like rockfalls are just decorative.
There isn't all that much to Vanishing Realms. I clocked in about two hours on both the first complete realm and the second, arena fighting one. Like most VR programs its really just a demo. A preview of what is to come. There's a lot of figuring out to do, will we be able to implement walking without motion sickness? Is there a fluid way to handle inventory? Will it be possible to do more environmental hazards? Well, Vanishing Realms is a good start.