Cinematic storytelling can be a powerful tool when developing a video game. However, it usually is not something that I would connect with virtual reality (VR). Developer Forge Reply has succeeded in taking the well-known Greek mythology of Theseus and the Minotaur, creating a unique experience and take on the legend. Although you awake in the mysterious and dark labyrinth without any pretext, it isn’t long before you realize that you’ve been stuck in a cycle of rebirth for as long as you can remember.
Theseus is one of the rare VR games played in a third-person perspective. Instead of giving direct camera control to players, the game uses fixed camera positions that provide a cinematic view of each room that you venture through. The nightmarish and eerie labyrinth holds creatures of unspeakable horror, with the massive Minotaur ever lurking in the shadows. Instead of direct combat, you’ll solve puzzles and avoid direct contact with the gigantic spike infested beast. Alone and unarmed, it isn’t long before you come across a torch and a sword. While you are searching for a way to end the cycle, as Theseus is caught in a never ending struggle against the Minotaur, you are constantly being hunted by horrific spider creatures. Using your torch, you can force them to retreat, as they are terrified of fire, but even that has its limits, especially if you accidentally step under a stream of water extinguishing your only source of light in the process. The sword can permanently put an end to the creatures; however, they are quite agile and can avoid your attacks. The best method involves lighting the spiders on fire with the torch before driving the sword directly through their skull when prompted.
Although it's entirely possible that the game would have worked as a non-virtual reality title, certain aspects can't translate onto a flat, two-dimensional screen. The camera angles for each area are top-notch, setting the atmosphere, but also giving you the freedom to look around. When I saw the Minotaur for the first time, I was shocked at how large the beast looked and felt in relation to Theseus and even the labyrinth. It’s something that has been increasingly hard to explain to those that haven’t played games in VR, as the scale of giant monsters, environments and even your own character are unmatched.
As the game uses the Unreal Engine 4, Theseus has some outstanding looking areas in the game, solid lighting effects, and a well-detailed main character. Theseus and the Minotaur are without a doubt the best character models I’ve experienced on the PSVR. There are some lower quality textures every so often, but Forge Reply has really pushed the outdated PlayStation 4 hardware. While you are not hunting spiders, you’ll be solving environmental puzzles, but your path through the labyrinth is quite linear. You are frequently guided to the next location, whether you need to open a door or jump across ledges to reach new areas.
Theseus is a cinematic VR experience for the PlayStation VR, but is over all too soon. The atmosphere inside the labyrinth and beyond is incredible, you really need to see it, but the puzzles and exploration feel quite linear. Combat isn’t overly complicated, but fighting multiple creatures at once can lead to frustrating deaths. There is a second ending in the game if you are able to locate all of the corpses scattered throughout.
Note: Theseus was reviewed based on a digital PlayStation VR copy of the game, provided by the publisher.