This review was originally created in October 2018 for HTC, targeted to their Vive/Vive Pro (VIVEPORT). It is reproduced here without alteration.
Dungeon crawlers are among the most durable video game genres, dating back to the earliest days of the industry and attempts to computerize a Dungeons & Dragons-style pen and paper role-playing experience. As with many other genres, virtual reality can take the dungeon crawling video game experience to the next level, with an incredible sense of immersion that simply isn’t possible any other way.
Gates of Nowhere is described as a fantasy horror adventure. You play as a Seeker, Lother, who is looking for the lost knowledge of the Alchemists in a deep, dark dungeon, filled with monsters. As is typical for the genre, you start out inside an empty prison within a dungeon and then must fight your way out to survive, solving puzzles, crafting potions, and making smart use of whatever weapons and other items you find along the way.
There are four levels: The Awakening, Through the Dark, Waterworks, and Inferno, with a total play time of around six hours or so. There’s also a tutorial room, which precedes The Awakening, and can also be started on its own. In the tutorial, you learn how to pick up and drop objects, use a sword, long bow, and crossbow, and craft a potion from various types of ingredients.
Since you need access to so much within the game environment, this is strictly a standing, room-scale experience, with the more space you have to maneuver in, the better. Designed for the Vive, Vive Pro, or Oculus Rift, the game makes quite a bit of use of all of the buttons and features of both of your Vive or Oculus Touch controllers. Even though the control layout is fairly logical, with so much to do, it definitely takes some time to become familiar with everything, including, for instance, the cadence required to double-click a side button on the Vive controller to drop what you’re holding in that hand.
In-game movement is a choice between real-time grid-based movement using the Vive controller’s trackpad, or teleportation. Both choices have their challenges. With the grid-based movement, there’s a big disconnect between your onscreen actions and what your body is doing in reality, so this can lead to motion sickness. With the teleportation-based movement, unlike the way it’s typically implemented in other games, there’s an extra step involved after selecting your destination. While the reality is is that for this type of game, grid-based movement really is a requirement to more precisely get to where you want to, or need to, go, unless you’re particularly resistant to motion sickness, you’ll be better off using some combination of the two methods.
Sword fighting and use of ranged weapons are a lot of fun, although I would have liked a bit more precision from both. This lack of precision can also manifest itself in frustration with some of the other actions, like trying to turn a key in a door. The requirement to mix various elements into potions by following recipes adds some much-needed depth to what would otherwise be a more straightforward dungeon crawling experience.
Visually, the game is quite striking, with particularly detailed environments. The dark motif provides a great excuse for creepy lighting effects and quite a few jump scares. I know my heart was racing even in the beginning of the game as various skeleton warriors descended upon my position. The sound design also does a good job of complementing the setting.
Gates of Nowhere proves a nice change of pace from the typical sci-fi-heavy or cartoon-like experiences found in many other virtual reality games. Despite some control issues, the game definitely comes together as a fun, deep, and ultimately satisfying, experience.
Score: 4 out of 5 stars.
Gates of Nowhere is available on Viveport or with a Viveport Subscription.