E3 2019: Insomniac’s Stormland Looks, Feels, And Sounds Fantastic
Exotic locales, unique RPG elements, and a whole lot of robots.
Initially revealed during last years E3, Stormland, an upcoming open world VR game from veteran game developer Insomniac Games, has since gained a sizable following, attracting prospective users with an attractive combination of high-end visuals and unique locomotion mechanics; not to mention the promise of an emotional and engrossing narrative.
Long story short, a bunch of jerks who call themselves “The Tempest” smashed your Android body and bruised up your buddies. Now you’ll have to travel across a massive dystopian landscape to augment and upgrade your body, save your pals, and bestow the beating of a lifetime down on The Tempest.
We had a chance to check out a brief demonstration of the game while attending this years event, and sufficeth to say Stormland is shaping up to be one of the most polished VR games ever released on the Oculus Rift/Rift S.
Stepping off the show floor and into a private booth, I donned an Oculus Rift S and after a brief calibration process, I found myself in a cave-like structure staring back at a reflection of myself in a mirror. No doubt this moment serves to help players adjust to playing as an android. This is an important aspect to acknowledge, as you’ll soon be tearing off your own arms in a never-ending hunt for stronger upgrades.
From here, I exited the cave and made my way out into the world of Stormland, a cloud-covered jungle-esque landscape littered with abandoned technology and forgotten memories. While navigating my way through various clearings and canyons, damaged holograms of past memories recreate specific moments of life before the arrival of The Tempest, although it’s unclear if the thoughts are my characters or someone else’s. It’s during these moments that I come across small interactions with the world around me, such as collecting energy cells by breaking open specific canisters; a small interaction, but one that feels extremely satisfying using the Touch controllers. If an object is out of my reach, I can simply gesture in its direction to have the item fly into my hand. At one point I must upgrade my entire arm in order to proceed through a particular section of the map. To do so, I generate the appropriate device via a specialized crafting table and then rip-off my current arm and replace it with the upgrade.
These moments, while seemingly insignificant, add to the overall sense of physicality featured in Stormland. Every movement feels as though there’s actual weight behind it, resulting in significantly more satisfying interactions, no matter the scale or impact. In Stormland, you’re not just a floating head with arms; you’re an entire Android, and the game is keen on reminding you of that fact every chance it gets.
As I came to the close of my demo, I played around with a few more upgrades, including a wrist-mounted laser ala Buzz Lightyear, as well as an attachment that allowed me “water ski” over a cloud of white gas; an experience that was fun, if not a little clumsy. No matter where I went, there was always a sense of abandonment, a reminder that technology had succumbed to nature. Perhaps it’s the random assortment of advanced tech now covered in vines and foliage, or the wide array of sounds originating from nature itself.
At the end of the day, Stormland excited me most when I was allowed to explore the lush, complex environments that surrounded me. While only a sliver of the overall story has been revealed so far, 10-minutes inside the experience is enough to convince you of Insomniac’s commitment to world-building. Based on previous trailers, there appears to be no shortage of intense robot-on-robot combat on the way, which should pair nicely with the complex environments and unique locomotion teased so far.
Stormland arrives on Oculus Rift and Rift S later this year. If you happen to be attending E3 2019, visit the Oculus booth (#5222) located in the West Hall for a hands-on demo with the upcoming Oculus exclusive.