I have played quite a few VR games, but most of them are first person games. There's nothing wrong with that of course, VR is a great way to feel immersed in a first person view, but I always thought it could provide an equally compelling experience with third person games as well. Theseus seeks to bring that experience by providing a dark labyrinth and a giant minotaur. Does it manage to win me over, or should you stay out of this maze?
You play as an unnamed man who awakens inside of a labyrinth. It isn't long before you come across Ariadne, a ghostly woman who reveals that you are both trapped in the labyrinth with a minotaur named Asterion. The three have a weird symbiotic relationship of constantly killing each other and coming back to life as they all desperately search for a way to be the one out of the maze. Thankfully, Ariadne has a plan and all you have to do is stay alive long enough to enact it. While the story of Theseus is rather sparse, I did enjoy what I saw and was interested in seeing how it would play out. Unfortunately, just as it feels like the story is starting to get good and begins moving along, the game abruptly ends without much resolution. The most engrossing plot points are saved for the final cutscene and seem to serve as little more than sequel bait for more expansion on an interesting plot.
In Theseus, you'll be exploring the environments and fighting off Asterion's spawn while doing some simple platforming. You'll get two major tools in your quest to free yourself. One is a torch, which has the obvious use of lighting up the dark passages of the maze. It can also be used to scare away Asterion's spawn or burn down the corruption that blocks doorways. The other is a sword that pulls a similar double duty. You can use it to kill enemies or as a lever that can be used to open doors. I will admit that I was hoping I'd be getting more tools as the game advanced, but those two work well enough for the three to five hour adventure.
Of course, you can't just get through a horrible and corrupt maze unharmed, and you'll find a horde of spider-like monsters within the maze. Before you get your sword, you can only scare them off by waving the torch at them. This leads to some surprisingly tense scenes where you see your character moving down dark hallways surrounded by the creatures while trying to avoid the water that would put his torch out. Eventually, this climaxes in what is probably my favorite scene in the game, which sees you stuck on a pressure pad opening a gate while surrounded by enemies. Without a way to fight them directly, you can only turn to face the approaching monsters and swing your torch to hold them off long enough until escape is possible.
Eventually, you'll get your sword and you can fight the monsters directly. Unfortunately, combat is a bit too simple. All you can really do is press one button to swing your sword or use a roll to dodge attacks. I often found myself just eating the hits because enemy attacks are so weak that not once did I actually die during combat. In fact, for a long time, I was convinced I couldn't die as I never even entered a low health state until very late into the game. While I may have had trouble dying, the enemies didn't. Get one low on health and you'll be able to perform a finisher on it to put it down for good. Unfortunately, the finishing moves lack variety, and I only ever saw one being reused for every kill which didn't quite make it the visual treat it should have been. It also doesn't help that the game lacks enemy types, as there's only a single enemy that you'll just keep battling over and over.
You'll spend most of the game just following Ariadne and going where she tells you. This leads to a few tense scenarios, usually involving avoiding the minotaur. Asterion is rather imposing in his presence, from the way his decaying and corrupted body hulks over the other characters to how his very presence causes the area around him to slowly rot. He's clearly not a threat you can face head on, but you do have the advantage that he's nearly blind. Move quietly and keep your torch unlit, and you have a chance to avoid his gaze. Later on, you'll need to activate pressure pads and bolt to gates as quickly as possible before Asterion as a chance to reach you, leading to some fun chase scenes. The same can't really be said about the game's platforming, which mostly just feels like it's there to be filler. On a base level it's similar to that of an Uncharted game, but without any of the dramatic moments or crazy jumps. Instead, it's mostly just another way to get from point A to B.
While you're usually just moving along a linear path, you do get one alluring point to break away about halfway through the game. Without spoiling too much, this side story helps provide a good extra chunk of stuff to do for those who want a little more out of the game. Even with this, Theseus clocks in at about five hours tops.
I did really get to enjoy the views during those five hours. The world of Theseus is appropriately creepy, and the VR does a great job in making me feel like I was right next to my character in those grimy dungeons. Smart use of camera angles and lighting really build the environment up, and I entered every new room by looking around to see what new dilapidated mess I had gotten myself into. I especially want to point out the game's smart use of having the character enter from the same camera angle he left from. This small feature makes it easy to figure out where your character is and prevented wasted time trying to locate him among the scenery. On the other hand, there is one hang up with Theseus' presentation and that comes in its insistence on using fade to white, something that is genuinely painful when done on a VR headset.
At the end of the day, I don't quite think that Theseus is the game that is going to convince everyone to stop their first person VR games and give third person another shot, but it is still a solid game that I can see being worth people's time. The game's simple combat and abrupt story ending does cause it some harm. Thankfully, the great environments, tense moments, and getting to run into the minotaur helps keep the game engaging for its full run time. Just don't get lost in the maze.
Our Theseus review was conducted on PlayStation VR using a copy provided by the developers.
Theseus' story ends before it starts, and the combat is a bit too simple, but it provides a fantastic environment worth exploring and moments that really stood out thanks to how intriguing they were.(Review Policy)
- Tense and Fun Monster Encounters
- The Minotaur is a Great Threat
- Fantastic Environments and Camera Angles
- Story Ends Abruptly
- Simplistic Combat
- Fade to White Should Never Happen in VR