Brandon Sanderson is one of the most well-respected names in fantasy fiction today. With the announcement of the first game based on his bestselling Stormlight Archive series coming to the HTC Vive, fans were understandably excited. Coming in at $10.99, we’re out to discover: is this the VR experience fans have been waiting for or just another tech demo in a game’s clothing? This is our review of The Way of Kings: Escape the Shattered Plains.
If you’re a fan of Sanderson’s series, there’s a good chance that you’ll find a lot to love in The Way of Kings. The experience is short, only about 30 minutes, but Arcturus has worked hard to bring the world of the books to life. Having never read them, much of this was lost on me, but there’s a clear attention to detail that’s sure to please fans. Speaking to other players who have read them, I’ve yet to come across someone who wasn’t impressed, which is a feat in itself.
The game is also gorgeously rendered. Where many VR titles opt for simple graphics and emphasize gameplay. Arcturus went the other direction, creating a game that is visually stunning but whose emphasis is storytelling. It does an acceptable job here, but again, with only half an hour of playtime, it feels thin. Fans of the books may have a different experience, carrying their background knowledge in with them, but for me, it didn’t check all of the boxes.
As you progress, you’ll find breaks in the narrative where the developer tries to find their footing with actual gameplay and, to their credit, they do a pretty good job. You get to try your hand at combat, teleport about, and fling a few spells. The final climactic boss fight is also quite intimidating, so they’ve done a good job using VR to their advantage. Like the narrative, however, the gameplay also feels unfinished; it’s as if they just know they’ve got some good ideas and desperately want to share them, even though the game isn’t done yet (or glitch free).
Except it is. The Steam page describes The Way of Kings as a “short… interactive narrative adaptation of Brandon Sanderson’s best selling fantasy novel.” If there’s more they’re not making that clear, which leads me to believe that this is it. And that’s too bad.
There’s clear potential in The Way of Kings: Escape the Shattered Plains, but even $10.99 feels too expensive. As it stands, we have a 30-minute “adaptation” of a 1200 page novel with limited, rough around the edges gameplay. It may be worth picking up on a Steam sale but otherwise, it’s just not worth the cost of entry.
- Beautiful environments
- Some good fan service
- Some fun sequences to experience in VR
- Storytelling is thin
- Combat is infrequent and feels unfinished
- Too short for the material being adapted
- Still quite glitchy