Released: 28th March 2017
Set in an icy and barren Nordic fantasy, focusing on the tale of Ulfr and his family, they set foot on an adventure that tests the foundations of their relationships in a linear Virtual Reality adventure with narrative and family values at its core.
“Stay with me, we can only do this together!”
Ulfr, a Viking, is brought back from death by a Valkyrie in exchange for your voice to protect your family (sound familiar, Disney fans? And not a talking crab in sight). Upon waking you find yourself rejuvenated in a wagon with your wife Freya and her Father who, despite his daughters joy, seem to hold indifference towards his new revival. With our abode in ruins we set off on an adventure to find a new home. Fated… is the story of that journey, a tale of family, of loss and of peril. And Ice Giants.
From the initial moments of putting on the PSVR you can see that a lot of care has gone into creating the delicate artistic style that has brought this Nordic world to life. Think of an interactive Pixar adventure meeting the landscapes of auld of Skyrim and that’s what Fated feels like.
The colours and sound stand out and create an interesting opening for the adventure that awaits. Past its aesthetics however, it’s a shallow affair. The mechanics are few and far between. You have hand movements mapped to L2/R2 and for the most part that’s it. Between the trailing narrative is a selection of mini games ranging from archery to puzzle solving. However, every time a new mechanic is introduced you can bet that’s the last time you will see it. One minute you are having fun with a well-designed head tracking function, finally finding AN ACTUAL GAMING ELEMENT TO SINK YOUR TEETH INTO and then after a sombre pat on the shoulder, you are shoved back into a plodding, soul-sucking narrative.
In order to validate itself as a VR title, FRIMA Studios have incorporated a head tracking system, used fleetingly in the aforementioned bow and arrow function. But also in the form of a yes or no response. You are a mute after all. And with a lack of parchment to scribe on, your only form of communication is to shake your head yes and no to certain questions. Yet, that is as far as you get – anything other than a close-ended question and poor Ulfric has to stand impotently and watch his wife and children make his decisions for him. Just like a real husband. If only mobile phones had been invented 1000 years sooner.
Speaking of the family, FRIMA studios really want you to like these guys. And perhaps these are the games strongest assets, They have been lovingly designed and crafted, and brought to life with superb voice acting that really does do its best to make you lose yourself in the story. The sound design is also delightful with some melodies and a score that really help bring the drama and set the tone for the stories different settings.
The main gambit of Fated: The Silent Oath is of course the family and as the game reaches its final chapter, the gut punch comes, and its a good one. You could argue the success of the game hinges on how hard it hits you but as cliffhangers go it takes risks for the narrative makes bold decisions that were tense and drew you in. Fated… has set itself up for another chapter, so controversies of the episodic gaming model aside, Is there enough in this chapter alone to warrant a purchase?
The experience lasts for about an hour and around 15% of that is gameplay and while these sections are exciting they are sadly are not enjoyable enough to warrant a second viewing. We say ‘viewing’ as opposed to ‘play through’ because this is where the problems lie, there isn’t enough content here to quantify it as a game. It is a virtual movie; a movie that stops every few minutes so an usher can shine a torch in your eyes and allow you to shake your head ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to see if you’re still paying attention. There is no form of competitive edge. No variation on the story depending on your choices. With Telltale setting the standard on fun yet mature, episodic gameplay there really is no excuse for Fated… to have such a lack of substance or moral complications.
There are a number of game that have managed to make us care about characters within literally minutes of opening gameplay (thanks a lot, The Last of Us) and where gameplay has been subsided for a focus on narrative (try any Telltale game). As Fated… ultimately does not deliver in making you care about Ulfr or his family or its narrative. It fails to be either intriguing or playable enough to really make itself stand out from the crowd.
As a VR game there is plenty to be in awe of in terms of the vistas and characters. Aesthetically it’s a great looking game. But beyond that it is a shallow experience lacking any real substance or reason for a first play through, let alone a second.