Downward Spiral: Horus Station is an indie first person shooter/puzzle game (with vr support) by developer and publisher 3rd Eye Studios. It’s their first major title to be published, so lets see how the game scores shall we?
Once in, the game will allow you to choose between two modes, engage or explore. They only have one difference, whether or not you will come into contact with enemies throughout. As most games often do, you have the difficulty settings: Standard, mild and oppressive. It was a surprise to see Coop feature in the game, which allows you to explore with a friend, if that’s not your cup of tea then you can play Solo.
It takes a minute to get used to the controls as you float around in zero-g, but that’s what makes it stand out from the rest. Once you get the hang of it you’ll be floating around like a butterfly. You press and hold W to grab an object with your right hand and then releasing to push yourself off it. Press Space Bar to use items in your left hand and E to interact.
Horus Station has eight acts with roughly 3 to 5 hours of gameplay depending your chosen mode. It’s relaxing as no word is spoken throughout the entire game, but can get boring very fast as it becomes repetitive, but more on that later.
Within the first 2 minutes of the game you’re dropped into this space station with no real idea as to why you are there, just that you need to get the station online again. Other than that there is no story, more of a show and tell with no telling which can be expected from a VR experience.
In space nobody can hear you scream, there is little to no sound at all and the sheer emptiness that you see and feel while you are out there is terrifying. As you explore you will find equipment and weaponry to assist in traversing the map and of course dealing with enemies. They aren’t that bad but, there are a lot of them and trying to balance your movements along with shooting and dodging takes some time.
I liked the variety of weapons, semi-automatic pistol, fully automatic machine gun, and a shotgun. Where it exceeds in choice of weapons it lacks in capability with aiming. There is no clear way to aim and most of the time your left to guess where to fire, hoping to hit something. I found myself using the shotgun most of the time as it’s bullet spread would hit almost everything anyway.
A grappling hook and an air booster help with manoeuvrability. These devices are going to be your main form of movement on the station. You can push off of objects yourself but your not really going to because moving with the devices isn’t only a better way to get from A-to-B, but it’s really the only consistent way to do so. Often I found myself colliding with objects and debris or not being push myself far enough by hand. It’s a nice option but it ended up being unused throughout my time playing.
The visuals are clean and cartoon esk, not entirely to my taste but appropriate. I often found myself gazing out at the wrecked planet below – for a few minutes a time – just to take everything in, either from the safety of a lounge room with a view or in the breathless expanse of space while crossing from one subsection to the next, the lighting is astounding, breath taking even, as you float around.
The music was composed by Ville Valo, the lead singer of HIM and utilises an 80’s sci-fi ambience that swells to crescendo, building a consuming intensity. That said most of the Blade Runner styled music only occurs when you’re in battle or when something big happens. Most of the time you’re just floating in zero-g with the sounds of your grappling hook or air being fired from your booster to keep you company.
Unfortunately, the game does have its problems. Such as a few missing textures, frame rate stuttering or freezing when opening a door to a new area. One particular glitch would cause one or both items (and arms) to disappear, only to reappear either after grabbing a wall or simply dying – this occurred when resuming a game after pausing. The grappling tool may also get stuck facing one direction, in which case the game may need to be reset.
I have to say I did force myself to continue the game after chapter 4 as it became tedious after a while. It was a clear struggle to motivate myself forward, but that being said the ending did feel like a little reward and very surprising to say the least, leaving you confused but you won’t read any spoilers here.
If you like your sci-fi or VR games I would say its worth the money, it is truly a unique experience. Sadly I cannot say it’s a game I enjoyed myself, due to the fact that the game didn’t work as well as it could have without VR but I do recognize the art and beauty of it. The enthralling aspect of The Horus Station is in the feelings of anxiety and apprehension as you navigate your surroundings in deep space.
OVERALL: 5.5/10 – Bargain Bin
Reviewed by Jack Moody
(Disclaimer: CONQUEST received a review copy of Downward Spiral: Horus Station, however this does not in any way affect the scoring of a game or our thoughts on the game itself. We believe in total honesty and being transparent with you.)