From Frima Studios, FATED: The Silent Oath promises a look at the future of storytelling games. Previous titles in this genre have often been a mixed bag, often met with criticism for lazy design or lackluster player engagement, but just as often with acclaim for their fantastic stories. FATED shows us that this style of game might have just been waiting around for VR to truly shine.
Instead of controlling a passive avatar, you truly become the main character of this story. This feels like wearing a costume more than controlling a character. The NPCs are cartoony, they even lack quite a bit of substance, but you cannot help but want to engage when they look you directly in the eyes to ask a question and wait longingly for your nod or disapproval. While I know it doesn’t matter how I respond, I feel as though these characters are asking things of me personally, and that I will have more fun if I just play along. This feels like a glimpse into the future of role play, and I can’t wait for more like it.
However, as promised, a look is all we get. While I really enjoyed this experience, it shares faults common with many early VR games and falls just short of expectation. It’s clear that the team had vision and passion, however it’s clearer that this title was rushed out for the launch of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive (a mark it missed by a couple of weeks incidentally). It really could’ve oozed polish and been a real standout, but that would’ve taken several more months in the oven to bake.
Foremost, it was simply far too short. I clocked in at just around 1.5 hours each time on two casual playthroughs (using both the Vive and the Rift). When it quite abruptly ended, I actually thought I was still in the introduction phase of the game. Just barely beginning to unravel a seemingly dense tapestry of lore, I was left with nothing in particular and no questions answered. The story is left wide open, so perhaps Frima plans a follow up, however there’s no indication yet that FATED isn’t just a one-off experiment.
To quickly touch on the differences between the Vive and Rift version, they are extremely minimal. The simplistic art style combined with gamepad-only interaction equalizes the experience between the platforms. Stick-to-turn can be gut wrenching with either HMD, but there is a toggle-able quick turn comfort mode, and a personal tip – play standing and face the direction you want to walk, then hit “recenter”. By avoiding the yaw rotation you’ll mitigate the motion sickness, and your avatar will stay aligned with your head.
Next, Frima is obviously capable of decent character animation, even utilizing natural facial and body language cues in conversations with success. So, a little nuance for the rigid background characters would have gone a long, long way. It’s lack also makes progression triggers way too obvious; characters walk away and become completely motionless, or suddenly spring to life when you enter their action radius. This is honestly hard to gripe about since as long as NPCs have been used in games they’ve behaved this way. However, it’s particularly jarring to witness in VR; a character standing in front of you has real substance and a physical presence, so it becomes extremely obvious when they’re otherwise lifeless.
Finally, most of the interactive elements of the game were simply boring mini-game tropes. Push some panels in a certain obvious order. Walk a maze in a certain obvious path. Avoid perhaps the most egregious giant axes swinging in your path I’ve seen yet.
Stunning in contrast was a scene in which you control the reigns of a horse drawn cart wildly racing along a dangerous cliffside path. A pull of the left or right gamepad triggers equates to a tug on the reigns in the applied direction, and it’s very slick and satisfying. This scene was also integral to the story, where the other elements felt shunted in specifically as time sinks. Frima, if you’re listening, much more of this kind of thing and less of the other tedium.
I’ve given FATED a lot of grief, but I did enjoy the experience and consider it to be a worthy addition to my growing VR library. It’s largest failing might simply be that it shows so much potential for this style of game in the future, it’s that much more disappointing when it falls just short of the vision.
Written by: Pat King