This review was originally created in July 2018 for HTC, targeted to their original Vive/Vive Pro (VIVEPORT). It is reproduced here without alteration.
Astral Domine, roughly translated as “Star Lady,” even though you’re referred to as “Star Lord,” and apparently in reference to the 1967 song Astronomy Domine by legendary English rock band, Pink Floyd, casts you in the titular role. Awakened from hypersleep after 4,383 “cycles,” you soon find yourself crash-landed on a mysterious planet. Here you must explore the ruins of an ancient alien kingdom to retrieve an energy sphere that can restore power to your spaceship. Indigenous lifeforms impede your progress as you explore the ancient civilization on this strange alien world.
The game plays like a mix of adventure game and first-person shooter as you try to make your way to the top of the alien castle and recover the required energy sphere. The adventure elements involve copious amounts of exploration and puzzle solving, while the first-person shooter elements involve the usual targeting and blasting with your energy gun. In fact, several of the puzzles work as a hybrid themselves, requiring precision shots from your energy gun as part of their solution. Fortunately, for those a bit less adept at handling their weapon, you can also slow down time to make targeting a bit easier. The puzzles themselves are well-implemented, if not especially challenging, particularly when compared to typical adventure games.
Play can be seated or standing in a room-scale environment of even modest size. Both Vive controllers are used for various in-game actions, including movement and jumping. Instead of the usual virtual reality staple of warping from place-to-place, Astral Domine utilizes smooth real-time motion where you move like you would in a regular first-person shooter. While this may be a bit jarring for sensitive stomachs, this type of movement system does help with the immersion and sense of exploration, in addition to providing for a refreshing change of pace for a virtual reality game.
The visuals are impressive with a great sense of scale, evoking design sensibilities from classic science fiction space operas with a dash of classic videogames. You really feel like you’re in a large, open – and alien – world, which is only let down by the occasional low-resolution texture. Audio is similarly top-notch, with an immersive soundtrack, suitable sound effects, and a cheeky talking spaceship computer companion. The latter in particular helps combat some of the all-too-typical feeling of isolation a game of this type typically engenders and adds some welcome humor.
While there’s no save system, there is a chapter selection menu. While not as good as a true stop-anywhere-and-save type of system, at least you don’t have to constantly replay earlier scenarios as you work your way to the end game. In fact, each of the eight chapters, and ninth credit sequence, is accessible out of order, even if you haven’t completed one of the prior.
If you’re looking for an out-of-the-ordinary virtual reality game, Astral Domine delivers, at least as long as its roughly two-hour overall play time lasts. It’s safe to say, however, that when it comes to a virtual reality game of this type, or an adventure game in general, leaving you wanting more is always a good thing.
Score: 4 out of 5 stars.
Astral Domine is available on Viveport or with a Viveport Subscription.