For the first 15 minutes or so, Stormland feels like your standard, story-driven VR experience. Movement speed is slow, there are basic environmental puzzles to solve and your route through the game is linear and littered with points where you just have to stand around and listen to someone talk. Sounds more like Yawnland at the moment, am I right?
But then, something wonderful happens. After climbing aboard a transport platform your avatar, a voiceless robotic gardener named Vesper, is flown high up into the sky. Here, surrounded by a sea of undulating clouds are a series of floating islands, just ripe for exploration. It’s here that you first attach the Slipstream Thruster to your arm, a device that allows you to rocket across the top of the clouds like Superman on roller skates and it’s at this point that the game really opens up, giving you a sense of freedom that’s rare in most VR titles.
Surfing on the clouds isn’t the only way to get around though, the further you progress the more upgrades and enhancements you’ll find for Vesper. The most useful of which allows you to grab hold of surfaces from up to 5 feet away. Then with a flick of the wrist you can launch yourself skyward and scale huge structures in a matter of moments.
This fluidity of movement feels awesome and the fact that I felt no motion sickness whatsoever is a testament to the skills of the development team. VR locomotion is often played far too safe, but Insomniac’s risk has paid off and combining stick-controlled smooth locomotion with physical movements from the player seems to negate a lot of the potential discomfort.
That’s not to say newcomers won’t feel that dreaded VR stomach lurch at all. The sprawling levels contain a lot of verticality and that means movement around them can be quite extreme. Anyone with a bit of VR experience behind them should find the majority of their time in Stormland pretty comfortable though.
There’s a lot of depth to Vesper’s upgrades and you’ll learn how to buy and install them as you progress through the story mode. Coming in at about 5 hours in length, Stormland’s campaign sounds like slim pickings when compared to the grand-scale of the recent Oculus exclusive RPG, Asgard’s Wrath. But, as you’ll see if you watch my Let’s Play video above, after reaching the conclusion of the story mode, the game enters something called Cycling World.
Here players can experience Stormland’s combat and exploration for as long as they like and, to keep things fresh, once a week the Cycling World resets itself. This changes up the biomes, locations and missions, giving the game an almost infinite feel that should push your play time well past that initial 5 hour mark. This is especially true if you decide to meet up with a friend and play through the game in cooperative multiplayer.
While exploration takes up a large portion of the game, Stormland is a shooter at heart and I very much enjoyed the Far Cry feel to its action. With so much freedom to the traversal, you can approach every enemy encounter in any way you see fit. From sneaking through tall grass and shutting down an unsuspecting adversary by yoinking the powerpack from its back, through to sniping at distant targets from the safety of a clifftop, the choice is up to you.
It’s a shame then that the excitement of these confrontations is watered down somewhat by some spectacularly dull AI. Your enemies, the Tempest, will attack on sight but they’ll often stand completely still and soak up your bullets until they explode into spare parts. At other points, the motion controls can add an extra layer of frustration to the combat. It’s incredibly easy to accidentally pull your gun apart in the heat of battle as you reach to swap weapons or, and this happened to me a lot, accidentally grab hold of scenery rather than the item you were intending to pick up. None of these faults are enough to ruin the game but the immersion definitely takes a hit when theses things happen.
Stormland is yet another recent title that ticks a lot of the AAA boxes that long time VR fans have been asking for and it just goes to show how quickly these experiences are improving and evolving. If you’re after a VR action game with way more variety than your average wave shooters and a pretty good lifespan to boot, look no further!
If you enjoyed this episode of Ian’s VR Corner, you can catch up with my previous adventures over on YouTube in our VR playlist, where I’ve covered Asgard’s Wrath, Ghost Giant and Five Nights at Freddy’s VR. You can also read our list of best PSVR games.