Space Rift Ep. 1 Review (PSVR)
In a world where NASA’s budget for climate change investigation is on the chopping block and more money is being pumped into its space exploration programs, a game about the nefarious deeds of megacorporations and space capitalism after the Earth has died might be an inadvertent glimpse of things to come. It is also a good excuse to fly around the vastness of space in VR in Space Rift Episode 1.
In the future, these megacorporations have colonised Mars after Earth has been reduced to a lifeless husk. Unfortunately for the masses, the oldest habits die hard and these corporations have reintroduced indentured servitude with the option of working for oxygen credits or suffocating. At the beginning of the game, the protagonist Casey Black is running perilously low on credits, so begs his computer for any job so that he can survive. Luckily for him, it finds him a low-level job as a miner. However, on his first day of mining asteroids, he finds himself forcibly allied with a rebel group after accidentally intercepting an illegal radio signal.
At the beginning of each mission in Space Rift, you will converse with the frosty and clinical leader of the rebels, Dr Aiken, and the antagonistic and distrustful Zaynab Asouad who works as the ship engineer. Generally, these dialogues often veer into cheesy buddy cop movie territory with Eiken playing the chief and scolding Asouad and Casey when they inevitably bicker.
You also have the option upgrading your ships, weapons and systems while in the base. While the upgrades are a nice addition, they are quite superfluous. I focused on weapons throughout my run and never really got into any situations where I felt I was any trouble for not upgrading my shields.
Navigating around the base can be quite awkward. You use your head to look at a point of interest and press x to navigate there. In particular, there are two locations where you look into space while Casey monologues to himself about his current predicament. However, to go back to the main part of the base from either of these positions requires a near 180-degree rotation. Which as you can imagine, can be quite uncomfortable while sat down.
Once you get your mission briefing, you warp out to space. The controls are quite simple to pick up and play. The analogue sticks turn and roll the ship. Thrusters and brakes are on the left shoulder buttons respectively while you fire weapons with R2. While flying around in space is very entertaining and quite intuitive, everything outside of exploring the main objective quickly hampered my enjoyment of the game.
The mining portions are not very fun at all. You approach an asteroid, scan it with a tap of R1. You then have to look at a screen to the right of your cockpit and use it to send out a probe which drills through the asteroid looking for materials. When you find a good spot, you detonate the probe and get credits based on the materials you retrieved. While the process is a good use of the PSVR’s head tracking, it quickly loses its lustre as you do the same task on every mission as a secondary objective. I quickly found myself wishing I could button mash through the procedure to get the credits and explore the main objectives.
Combat also failed to impress me as the enemies really lacked variety and did not really provide any challenge. Most of the enemies in Space Rift were drones that came in waves of three and zipped around doing very little damage to my ship, until I got them in my sights and took them out in one shot. Thankfully you use your head to aim your weapon so it is quite easy to hit enemies if they are in your line of sight.
The concept of the story, while not wholly original, was interesting enough to deal with the busywork of the main missions. The voice acting in Space Rift may be some of the worst I have heard in a while. While none of the main cast are fantastic Casey in particular sounds very flat, which coupled with the trite dialogue really made getting to the end of the episode a slog. Which is a sad thing to be saying about a game that is 2-3 hours long. Also, with Space Rift being of an episodic nature there is no excuse for how abrupt the ending is. There also seems to be an issue with the on-board computer’s dialogue, which appears distorted and highly compressed, resulting in some unfortunate clipping.
Visually the game is quite nice in places, yet really lacking in others. Graphically Space Rift is very simple and the textures can be quite rough. While the planets in the distance are a nice touch, they all have a very flat look. One mission in particular where you start quite close to a planet shows how disappointing the textures are up close. The character models are quite nicely detailed and cartoonish looking, although the weird scaling during dialogue sequences appears to make the other characters appear about four-foot tall. Also, the loading times between sections are very long, which is bad enough, except there are no loading screens, just a grey void where I contemplated whether to tap the PS button to see if the game was still operational.
The idea of a VR space exploration game with a strong focus on narrative is one that I would like explored further in the future. While the concept is interesting, the execution here left a large rift where my enjoyment should have been.
4 probes out of 10