Insomniac games released its open world action brawling game for the Oculus Rift and with it a whole host of issues as you play as Kai the jungle warrior. With its human and beast form gameplay how well does it stack up for VR gaming. Is it worth a punt now that the price has been reduced from $49.99 to $29.99 ($9.99 in the sale). Take a look at our Feral Rites review for the full picture.
Feral Rites Review:
Today we’re taking a look at Insomniac Games’ VR fighting game Feral Rites which sees you play as either a male or female warrior called Kai who sets out to avenge the death of his or her father set within the backdrop of the hazardous jungle. It’s teeming with opposition from start to finish but it’s not all plain sailing as there are plenty of elements to throw you off course throughout the game.
To begin, the opening section acts as a tutorial where there’s quite a bit of unskippable dialogue which interjects itself at almost every turn. It can get a little frustrating but thankfully eases up as you progress, you have to kind of stick with it. If you last beyond the opening then you’ll begin to appreciate the complexities of the gameplay as you chain together weak and strong attack moves in your human or beast forms, swapping between them on the fly at the touch of button. The human form appears to be most versatile allowing for counterattacks and chained aerial combos, the beast form which changes your character into a hulking beast is slower but ultimately acts as a second health bar. So if your human character is taking a beating, swapping out is a valid tactic. Players can also transform into a Jaguar for extra speed which makes for a faster way of navigation and the optimal choice from breaking inanimate objects – of which doing so gives you items for upgrades and replenishes health.
The combat starts off pretty mundane with simple moves being available and enemies who don’t really put up much of a fight. You can probably button mash your way through the opening hours quite easily. However, as you would expect, progression allows of a greater arsenal of moves which opens up the possibilities a lot more where you’re rewarded for more flamboyant combos, the option to throw enemies into traps and even teleport attacks. If you gain 100 combo points you’re then able to execute enemies with a single button press mid combo which is pretty satisfying (complete with close up shot) when surrounded by six or more attackers. Sadly, the game takes too long to offer players the full combat options because once you reach the latter portion of the game it really opens up allowing for some excellent skirmishes. You’ll also come across a more varied roster of opposition including witches, demon bats, hulking pigs, ninja monkeys and apes – sticking with the jungle theme here – and a selection of bosses.
It’s not all fighting although that does make up a massive slice of what’s on offer here where you’re rewarded with more gold if you perform specific listed actions as you play. There are a few puzzle elements thrown in as well which aren’t taxing in the slightest and serve to break up the fighting. You’re also encouraged to explore and hunt down chests and upgrades by looking at the map and then rooting them out. Some of these offer a where’s Waldo type affair where you’re tasked with looking at a static scene to find the special marking.
Visually the game looks very pleasant in VR with an excellent sense of scale as you look across jungle scenes filled with flora and fauna. There are themed areas where each has its own visual style keeping the game fresh as you pour in the hours. However, it’s the visual element which begins to show cracks in the seams. The biggest issue is the fixed perspective camera and how each area is carved up into zones – represented by blue lines. When you cross the line the camera perspective changes to suit which often causes momentary confusion and in some instances you’ll not even be able to see your character, or worse be killed as a result of the change. A free camera option or follow cam with larger play areas would have gone a long way to make the transitions less jarring. It also highlights the poor design choice to have enemies not see you unless you enter their zone which really pulls you out of the game. This is partially resolved later on where enemy patrol routes cross into multiple zones but still, it’s one of the oddest gaming quirks you’ll ever see. That said, this is a comfortable game to play and won’t cause any motion sickness for those prone to it. You can quite comfortably play for hours at a time without any strain.
Audio is of a reasonable quality with some adequate performances from the cast of characters who are simply not very inspiring. There’s simply no depth which means you’re left uninterested in their plight and just want to get into the gameplay which is a shame. The music is pretty good and funnily enough opts for some “old school” jungle drum and bass beats when the action hots up which is a neat touch. The story is largely forgettable and predictable which unfortunately you’re forced to sit through and can’t skip.
In terms of length the game is a long slog with over 20 hours of gameplay on offer if you decide to snag all the collectibles, complete the more interesting side quests and finish the main story. The side quests offer more bang for your buck which are presented at your main base of operation and include elements which should have been more fleshed out in the main story such as being able to have AI jaguars or undead fight alongside you for mass brawling. At base you can practice fight moves and in the field as mentioned there’s more gold to grab for completing a shopping list of tasks. You’ll certainly get your monies worth here to the point where upping the difficulty for a replay might not be necessary but is an option all the same.
Feral Rites is an interesting game for VR and feels like it’s aimed at younger gamers due to a lack of depth and some simple hand-holding throughout. Unfortunately, it really does feel like an elongated game for the sake of it where ultimately you’ll be performing the same fighting actions over and over, breaking items, opening chests and then fighting some more for the entire duration. Perhaps a more condensed game would have worked better here. The story, characters and theme feel uninspired and one can’t help but think that with the core gameplay template here being pretty good for an action brawler, it could have been so much better set within more interesting lore such as Marvel’s Hulk character in a City environment or something similar. As it stands the game is good if you can learn the combos, get past the opening section and endure until later on in the story where more attack moves are available. That said, the negatives will test your patience early on to the point of possibly turning you off resulting in missing out on what is a fun game to play. If you can overlook dodgy cameras, ill-placed traps, unskippable scenes and wall to wall fighting you’ll find a fun brawler that will eat up your time without taxing your wallet too much now the price has been reduced.