PlayStation VR is in a good place. Resident Evil 7 recently released, offering a full length AAA VR game that was received critically well. Over 900,000 units have been moved, and over 100 games are on tap for 2017. It’s a bit of success that’s even surprised Sony themselves. With great success and that many games in active development though, there are bound to be some duds.
DYING: Reborn first caught my interest when I heard it was a horror themed room escape game. VR is the perfect platform for room escapes, especially as real life escape rooms become increasingly popular around the world. I love puzzle games like I Expect You To Die, and of course the horror vibe of Resident Evil 7 is brilliant in full immersion. DYING: Reborn ought to be a cocktail mixer of the two, but its significant issue lies in the confusion over what the game actually is. Let me clarify.
The review you are currently reading is for DYING: Reborn VR, not DYING: Reborn. Yes, the two versions of the game are actually sold as different games altogether. If you buy DYING: Reborn, you will not have access to any VR functionality. On the other side of the coin, with the VR version, you miss out on half of the game’s levels, and most of the story. That’s right, the VR version of DYING: Reborn is being sold as a completely separate game; a pared down experience that hardly hides the fact it’s a mere part of a more full package.
Plucked From Something More
I have not played the normal PS4 version of DYING: Reborn. Nobody on the PSLS staff has played the full version of DYING: Reborn. In fact, as of the time that I am writing this, I cannot find any major critic reviews of either version of DYING: Reborn. Where the normal game consists of six sections, the VR experience plucks out sections one, two, and four, blocking off the other doorways in the level select area. As a room escape game, it’s a passable experience that I’ll get to in a moment, but it’s markedly obvious that this is something that’s been picked out of a larger package, and hastily wrapped up to be sold again.
If I want to find out more about the story in the game, I have to spend the $20 to buy the standard PS4 version. The VR version ends abruptly and fails to make up for the fact that it pulls parts out and tries to pass it off as a full game. It’s like taking a 500 page book and saying “here’s pages 1 through 78 and 167 through 230. You don’t get the rest, but hey, it’s an audio book!” and then selling it to you separately for half the price of the standard book. It’s a very bizarre move, particularly right after Resident Evil 7 shipped with both options available in a single game.
Again, please remember that I am only reviewing the VR version, so some of these things may not apply to the full DYING: Reborn. Graphically, it’s relatively impressive in virtual reality. Most surfaces and tectures hold up under scrutiny, and I’m constantly finding myself surprised with the increasing fidelity that developers are pulling from PlayStation VR. I don’t know how it compares to the main game that these puzzles are pulled from, but based on screenshots I’ve seen, it does look like some of the details and assets were removed for the VR version.
As good as it looks, sound design really damages the experience. The audio is imbalanced and some sounds come across as obnoxiously loud, whereas others can barely be heard. There’s hardly any ambient sound, the kind that one would expect from a creepy room escape game to help with the immersive ambiance in virtual reality. The whole package just seems hastily hobbled together, rather than built with legitimate respect and interest for the near million gamers that may want to play a room escape game in VR.
Rooms to Escape From
The room escape puzzles are the right balance between easy to navigate using head movements and the DualShock 4 (no Move support) and requiring a bit of deep thought. Though most puzzles made sense once I figured them out, it would have been nice if there was any kind of indicator which objects could be interacted with. In one case, I knew that I needed to get a bit of wire to power a radio, but the game would not allow me to interact with and pick up the wire. Instead I spent 20 or so extra minutes wandering around to find an alternate solution when it turns out something about my placement had been preventing me from picking up the piece of wire that I had found first.
Most of the puzzles are quite smart, and if you aren’t a fan of puzzle games, this may be one too avoid. There’s no hand holding at all, and DYING: Reborn VR never wants to be obvious in its solutions. One such puzzle in section three (technically the full game’s fourth section, and a room that looks eerily like a rip off of a certain recent Resident Evil kitchen) I actually only solved through brute force, and even after learning the solution of the puzzle, still never understood the logic behind how I was supposed to arrive at that conclusion. The logic is hidden well throughout, and even with trying to figure out puzzles, I finished it in about two hours, which amounted to only 90 minutes of actual gameplay time. Knowing the solutions, I could probably burn through it in about 15 minutes.
With a lot more polish and focus on making VR a primary component of the game, DYING: Reborn VR could have been a great room escape experience for the platform. Instead it feels like its a hasty cash grab intended to capitalize on VR hype by being sold as a separate, pared down experience and not adapting the full extent of DYING: Reborn. This is the epitome of cut content being (poorly) repackaged and sold as a separate product, a truly bad move that disrespects the very audience it is trying to impress.
DYING: Reborn VR review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on PSVR. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.