Indiecade 2015: Xing: The Land Beyond Hands-On Preview
It's Myst in virtual reality.
10.29.15 - 1:33 AM
Many developers, both indie and triple A, are rushing into the virtual reality space to capture the first-mover advantage in a burgeoning market. These efforts run the gamut from brilliant to inane, but their cumulative effect makes one thing clear: VR is the future of gaming. Where does Xing: The Land Beyond fall on this spectrum? Only time (and more development) will tell, but early results are intriguing.
Xing: The Land Beyond begins with the player's death, dropping them onto a mysterious tropical island with memory of their identity or knowledge why they are there. It is an atmospheric first-person adventure game where players solve puzzles and explore an esoteric world. The parallels to Myst are inevitable, and apt. The entire feeling of the game, down to the way you pick up items and interact with switches, feels reminiscent of the pioneering PC adventure game. This comparison is not a criticism—Myst did set the standard for this genre after all—but it should give players a clear idea of what is in store.
Like in Myst, Xing requires that players solve puzzles by placing items and hitting various switches. The puzzles in the demo were pretty rudimentary; the first required me to place coconuts on some pedestals and the second involved rotating platforms with switches. However, the game's promotional material promises that players will get to interact with spirits and gain power over the elements to make things more interesting.
I took issue with the movement system, though. Rather than giving full rotational control with the Xbox controller, the player can only rotate along eight axes. Using the controller bumpers will snap the player view 45 degrees in either direction. It is a jarring and disorienting control scheme that seems unnecessary when other studios have found ways to integrate the Xbox controller without problems. Hopefully the developers can address this before launch.
Xing is a brightly colored, beautiful game that looks great on the Oculus Rift VR headset. It is one of the best looking VR games I've seen from an indie studio. I did have a problem with visual lag or stutter when I rotated my head sometimes though, and I actually felt a slight VR sickness by the time I finished the demo. According to the developers, it was an issue with their particular set-up at Indiecade, but those prone to VR sickness may want to tread carefully.
I am willing to forgive these issues as growing pains on an emerging technology. The bottom line is that Xing: The Land Beyond is an important step toward bringing VR to a mass market. Whether it is this generation's Myst or simply a stepping stone to VR's true killer app will be up to the developers.