At this point, VR has been around long enough that it can be a bit daunting to hop in. Not every game is newbie friendly, requiring free movement and smooth turning that just isn't natural for a new player's first attempts. Thankfully, there are a few games willing to provide that. Arca's Path seeks to be another, giving new VR players a solid entry point by requiring little other than moving their head to control a ball. Does the game manage to be a path worth following, or should you stray elsewhere?
You play as a young girl who lives in a dystopian future. While rummaging through trash she comes across a mysterious headset that, when she puts it on, lets her see visions of a strange and beautiful world called Arca. However, all is not as it seems. The world begins to darken with corruption and glitches as she explores it. It's a simple tale, told with no words or voice acting and just through the use of graphic novel style cutscenes. There's nothing particularly deep, but it's stylish and impressive how well the graphic novel scenes work in VR.
The basics of Arca's Path see you playing as a ball. You can move a cursor around by looking, and the ball will always move to this cursor. The further away the ball is from the cursor, then faster the ball moves. You don't use a controller at all, with the exception of pausing the game or activating a "free look" mode that lets you look around without moving the ball. Outside of this, there are no other controls. You can set the controller aside and never pick it up again for the two to three hours it takes to finish Arca's Path.
At first, I worried this lack of options would make Arca's Path too simple. Thankfully, any player will quickly discover that there's more to this mechanic than meets the eye. Early levels are easy enough, just tasking you with moving to the ending. Soon, bumpers disappear from the levels, forcing you to watch where you're rolling so you don't fling yourself over an edge. As you keep advancing, there's more and more for you to keep track of. Switches to hit, walls to destroy, bridges to knock over, and more.
All of this slowly builds up at a steady pace. Each new mechanic gets an ingrained tutorial in a safe environment followed by a slow ramp of complexity. Simply pushing blocks to serve as platforms soon becomes pushing several blocks a specific way to escape a maze. It's impressive how in-depth these mechanics can become by the end, especially with the player not doing much other than rolling around.
While most of these new elements are fun, there's a couple that I found to be problematic. These a moving platforms and elevators. The idea behind them is sound: get on them before they move away. However, if you miss that window, all momentum comes to a halt. You just have to wait in place for the platform to come back. It would have been nice if there was a way to control these platforms yourself since at the current time, they add little to Arca's Path.
Besides your general goal of getting to the end of each level, you can collect crystals that are scattered about. Gather all of the crystals in each level and you gain the ability to play that level in a time attack mode. Here your goal is to try and speed through the levels as quickly as possible so you can beat them under a time limit. It's a fun change of pace from carefully navigating threats and taking in the environment, and fans of speed running should get something out of it.
If you want to just take in the environment, Arca's Path has a pretty one to take in. While early levels look like lush forests, things begin to become more twisted and wrong the longer you play. Trees look off, flowers spawn split in two, and barrels replace rocks. Later levels even see intentional pop-in, to help drive home that feeling that the world is glitching out. All this is accompanied by a fitting soundtrack. It starts out quiet and coherent but eventually ends up as a strangely distorted mess.
I came away from Arca's Path rather impressed. I didn't originally think such a simple concept could become a full game. However, Arca's Path does exactly what it needs to do with the concept then gets out. It's a fantastic entry point for those looking to dip their toes into a VR headset. It's also being a solid game for veterans looking for something new to play. This is a path well worth following.
TechRaptor reviewed Arca's Path on PlayStation VR using a copy provided by the developer. The game is also available on Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
Arca's Path is simple enough for VR newbies to enjoy, but also complicated enough to be a satisfying game for anyone.
- Neat Graphic Novel Style
- Gameplay is Easy to Pick Up
- Surprising Complexity
- Good Art and Soundtrack
- Some Mechanics Kill Momentum