Karl Moon flings himself out of the airlock and into breathless zero G first person VR to take in the atmosphere of Downward Spiral: Horus Station.
Loneliness and isolation, the hallmarks of much great science fiction are front and centre to the storytelling of Downward Spiral: Horus Station. Fans of the genre will be hard pressed not to notice nods to Alien, Moon, 2001: A Space Odyssey and a host of others during their time with the game, but that’s no bad thing.
If you’re trying to set a tone then it would be foolish to ignore those that have stood the test of time, and it’s clear to see that Finnish developer, 3rd Eye Studios, are huge fans of these source materials.
It feels almost a little unfair to call Downward Spiral: Horus Station a game at times, because at times it can actually feel like more than that. 3rd Eye Studios have crafted a title which allows it to be played in two distinct fashions, Engage and Explore.
The former sees yourself as the games sole protagonist, battle there way across Horus Station, utilising a range of ‘tools’ (the developers were very keen to make it clear that these weren’t just guns in the development diaries found within the game’s menus) that would have been utilised to maintain the upkeep of the station, to take down a range of mechanical foes.
The second method of play, ‘Explore’, is a bolder decision from the developers, and transforms the game from a rather underwhelming shooter into a slower paced experience, where you encounter all of the same puzzles and roadblocks, but without the need to combat tedious drones. Furthermore, both modes can be played cooperatively with one other person, online.
Explore isn’t the only bold decision 3rd Eye Studios made with Horus Station. The title features no voice work, no cut scenes and no written logs to tell its tale, instead relying on environmental narrative, telling a story in the details of the world around you. The game will never tell you what has happened, or what is happening, and instead leaves it to you, as the player, to discover, leaving a story that’s open to interpretation – something that will be as divisive is at is loved.
Movement isn’t something that’s unique in the way it’s implemented, but it may be the best example of it yet. The whole game takes place in zero gravity as you float your way from area to area. It’s slow, and at times a little tedious as you clamber towards the nearest ledge, wall or desk. Holding up on the left stick and releasing will propel you forward until you meet the next object.
However, within ten minutes of the game you collect a rope ascender which completely alters the flow of movement, definitely a positive for those put off by the initially restricted mobility of your character.
One area that Horus Station does shine is in its music. The score is composed by Ville Valo, front man of the iconic platinum selling Finnish group HIM, and it oozes with sci-fi appeal and is the perfect accompaniment to the experience.
For those put off by playing in VR, the game can be entirely played without it which doesn’t hurt the experience, though some sections really are breathtaking in VR, especially when combat is disabled.
Downward Spiral: Horus Station isn’t the most polished of titles, but it does offer a different type of gameplay and leaves a lot of the storytelling to the players discretion. It really is a title of brave moves and that’s to be commended.
It’s not a title for everyone, but it’s definitely worth checking out.