Theseus is a third-person action adventure game available from retail stores and for download from the PlayStation Store for PlayStation VR. Forge Reply has previously developed In Space We Brawl and Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf with both games releasing on multiple platforms including PS4, while Theseus is their first attempt at storytelling within virtual reality. Can Theseus rival God of War’s Kratos for quality gaming based upon Greek Mythology?
The story is set in Greek Mythology in which the lead character Theseus awakes in a world that he quickly learns is ruled with an iron fist by the Minotaur as he is told through his meeting with Ariadne who describes herself as being chained up by the Minotaur which is holding her against her will in the same nightmare as Theseus.
Character design is excellent as Theseus looks the part as an important figure in Greek Mythology, while Ariadne’s character is also intriguing as she looks akin to a lost spirit when Theseus meets her due to her being held captive by the Minotaur.
Encountering Minotaur’s offspring that are akin to giant spiders is especially horrifying in the first instance as the environment is in total darkness, although you can gradually see multiple glowing eyes stepping out from the shadows to attack Theseus. However, as scary as the Minotaur’s offspring are; the Minotaur itself is the most monstrously enormous enemy you will ever meet as it towers over you to such a height that players will have to crane their neck up to look at the Minotaur’s face.
Theseus initially has no weaponry, although eventually finds a torch that he can hold ahead of him to light darkly lit environments and swing in front of him to scare off some enemies such as Minotaur’s offspring that prefer to live in dark places. Prior to the first occasion of Theseus encountering the Minotaur; Ariadne guides his path to a sword that will help him in battle as it is made from the very essence of the Minotaur, although the sword also has further uses such as plunging it into a mechanism to become a lever that opens previously inaccessible doors which leads to exploration of new areas.
Environment design sets the tone of Greek Mythology as Theseus is surrounded by ancient ruins with crumbling floors and pillars, standing on a purposefully constructed stone to open large heavy doors within interior and exterior open spaces amongst stormy conditions such as rain and lightning. There are a variety of areas in which Theseus utilises aerial traversal such as jumping from ledge to ledge, lowering himself down or from side to side in a physical style reminiscent of the Uncharted series.
Virtual reality games are naturally assumed to be from a first-person perspective were the environments can be seen through the eyes of the lead character, although what is unique about Theseus is that it is actually one of the very first third-person perspective VR games in which the immersion is presented through amazing gameplay design choices such as the positioning of the camera from scene to scene. The player has to turn their head in the direction the character has walked into that specific scene’s environment and continuing to follow the character throughout every area; therefore the player decides when the cinematically angled camera is panned across the scene which also provides a layered depth to the environments in the entirety of the foreground and distance.
The controls are appropriately mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with the control scheme consisting of pressing square to use the sword; holding R2 or L2 to sprint; pressing triangle to use a torch; pressing R1 or L1 to put out the torch; pressing X to climb up or dodge roll; pressing O to climb down; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to move your character; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu. The major standout highlight of the control scheme is the VR head tracking that enables the player to pan the camera by naturally looking around. Vibration occurs when the environment has evolved in such a way as an ancient floor crumbling and braking apart or a heavy door opening. There is no touch pad implementation which could have perhaps been swiped across as an alternative to swinging your character’s sword.
Graphically, Theseus is superb as the character and enemy models are magnificent, environments depict ancient materials and possess significant depth that truly shines in virtual reality which is enhanced further by lighting and shadows that introduce genuine atmosphere when walking through a narrow passage that is dark in the distance but light in the nearby surroundings when Theseus finds a torch that produces sparks which fly back towards the camera as yet another subtle touch of depth.
Theseus’ presentation is immersive throughout the menus as each menu is layered in the sense of what you would anticipate from stereoscopic 3D. The highlight of the menus is the astonishing backdrop containing a sea of blood with crumbled ancient pillars on the ground and fragments of pillars floating in the sky amongst mist and lightning in which the camera can be panned by moving your head. Menus are navigated via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick and touch pad.
Voice-overs are reminiscent of how players would expect ancient Greek language to sound accompanied by subtitles, so you can follow the unfolding story through Ariadne’s narrative. Sound effects include Theseus walking, sprinting, crouching, pulling himself up or lowering himself down from platforms, growls from nearby enemies and ambience such as rainfall. Atmospheric music that ascends in tension as Theseus edges closer to an unseen enemy. There is no DualShock 4 speaker implementation which could have produced Ariadne’s dialogue or distant ambient sounds.
The trophy list includes 13 trophies with 9 bronze trophies, 3 silver trophies and 1 gold trophy. The easiest trophy is the Autophobia bronze trophy for meeting Ariadne as meeting her involves exploration instead of fighting enemies, while the harder trophies include the Arachnophobia bronze trophy for surviving the Minotaur’s offspring; the Megalophobia bronze trophy for surviving the Minotaur’s charge and more besides. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 5 to 10 hours to 100% the trophy list.
There are no difficulty levels, although there are some important gameplay elements which must be quickly learned by players in order to progress beyond certain areas. For instance when being confronted by numerous quantities of the Minotaur’s offspring; Theseus must wave his torch from side to side to ward them off yet there are multiple areas in which water is pouring in from above. Therefore, if the player moves Theseus a little too far to the left or right, then the water will extinguish the torch resulting in catastrophe for the lead character as Theseus would have nothing to fight back with in the moments during the dark environments.
For family and friends situated in the same room; the TV presents what the player is experiencing, albeit without the same quality of depth. There is no social screen multiplayer which can be forgiven due to the focus on storytelling, although it would have been even better if the social screen player could have surprised the VR player by taking control of Minotaur’s offspring and Minotaur during certain areas to introduce a form of story driven competitive multiplayer; given that the VR player would have to defeat or ward off those enemies before progressing beyond those areas. Meanwhile, there are no online leaderboards which could have produced further competitive gameplay by having an online leaderboard displaying the fastest times set by every player who had completed each respective area of the story and the entire story.
Theseus’ replayability originates from exploration of environments that opens up further as the player finds a torch and sword; resulting in new areas becoming available when backtracking, while the immersion of the experience will most certainly keep players returning for multiple playthroughs.
- Title: Theseus
- Developer: Forge Reply
- Publisher: Perp Games
- System: PlayStation VR
- Format: Retail/PSN Download
- Cross-Buy: No
- Cross-Play: No
- Players: 1
- Hard Drive Space Required: 1.24GB (Version 1.02)