Veterans of God Of War and Outer Wilds team up for a new PlayStation VR game that has you uncover the mystery of a doomed planet.
Although there’s only so much you can garner from studying the CVs of game developers, White Elk Studios, the makers and publishers of Eclipse: Edge Of Light have already unlocked some achievements. With a soundtrack from the composer of Outer Wilds’ music and developers who helped make God Of War, Eclipse is made by people with some serious pedigree. The question is whether that experience leads to comparable or better games.
Eclipse tells the story of an astronaut whose ship crashes on a mysterious planet. With only a jetpack and a sense of curiosity for company, a little exploration reveals a series of statues that you can scan with your spacesuit’s visor to uncover titbits of lore; the first few pieces of which suggest that the planet you’re on has been through some sort of schism from which it needs ‘healing’. Dragging down your ship was apparently the planet’s way of asking for help.
You soon also discover the Artifact, a softly glowing ball that you use to interact with the world. Lob it at certain objects and they shatter, letting you collect their dust, a currency used to unlock secrets that show you various acts of worship as the planet’s former inhabitants venerate someone they know as the Prophet, who wants to use an upcoming eclipse to change the world.
As you progress, scanning statues and ancient stone tablets, you begin to realise that this Prophet character may not actually have been all that nice, and that the absolute power conferred by the Artifact during a solar eclipse corrupted him and the planet he was meant to be looking after. You’ll also encounter the corpses and traumatically amputated limbs of astronauts that look suspiciously like you do.
The planet has a much lower gravity than Earth, so you descend slowly enough from heights that large drops cause you no injury, leaving you to scale the game’s monolithic buildings and cliffs with impunity. It’s a useful feature, because Eclipse comes with a real sense of scale, its massive levels reaching hundreds of metres into the sky, with a distinctly painted-on looking skybox above.
Despite the magnitude of its backdrops, the graphics are primitive, with basic textures and a blocky look familiar to players who grew up with PlayStation 2 and 3. It’s also incredibly linear, your exploration amounting to travelling down a long corridor, whether on foot or in an automatic boat that sets off whenever you land in it.
Even the final level’s ‘labyrinth’ is actually a single tunnel. The only section where you have a choice of directions goes as far as featuring glowing arrows scrawled on the walls showing you which way to go, and glowing Xs showing you which way not to – just for the avoidance of any possible doubt. Combined with a tiny scattering of very simple puzzles, it produces a walking simulator-grade experience, with little of the atmosphere or intrigue normally associated with that genre.
There is a final twist to your astronaut’s story, although anyone failing to spot it coming from several miles away must either be drunk or severely concussed, which leaves the game to stand on the entertainment supplied by your interactions. That translates to approximately three hours’ worth of walking, jetpacking, and statue scanning in large but empty-feeling environments.
There are glitches, and while most are small and graphics-related, there was one puzzle room that needed to be reloaded three times before its elements triggered as intended. It’s not catastrophic, especially in the context of such a short game, but it’s noticeable nonetheless, especially given the apparent straightforwardness of the levels.
Chucking the Artifact at things works well though, to the point that the makers of Superhot might like to take some notes on implementing throwing mechanics in VR, and it retains a grand sense of scale throughout.
But Eclipse feels underdeveloped, its basic-looking vistas, clunky puzzles, and telegraphed plot twist only made acceptable by the distraction of being in VR.
Eclipse: Edge Of Light review summary
In Short: Unravel the mysterious history of a dead planet in a brief, overly simplistic first person walking simulator.
Pros: A magnificent sense of scale in places, with huge canyons, giant statues, and multiple moons in the background.
Cons: Basic graphics and puzzles. Interaction that mostly amounts to walking down a corridor and a plot whose single twist is rather too obviously foreshadowed.
Formats: PlayStation VR (reviewed), Nintendo Switch, PC, and Android
Publisher: White Elk Studios
Developer: White Elk Studios
Release Date: 14th January 2020
Age Rating: 12
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