EGX 2015: P.O.L.L.E.N Preview

This preview forms part of our EGX 2015 coverage, from our reporter Alex Wolfe

Everyone I know who’s interested in gaming is excited for VR. It seems to be one of those things that’s predicted to be really big in a few years, once they’ve brought down the price of devices. I’d never personally tried VR, until I went to EGX and tried out the indie game P.O.L.L.E.N. And I loved every second of it.

P.O.L.L.E.N is a story-driven exploration game. The player takes on the role of a scientist sent to a mysterious space station, with the task of figuring out what’s gone on there (this sounds like the start of Doom). However, unlike Doom, there are no monsters, there’s no combat, there’s really no mechanics beside moving through the station. The story is all revealed through the player’s interaction with objects in the world. There are no voiceovers or narrators to help you along your way. However, don’t for a second think that it’s a bad game. Far from it.

The main focal point of the game for me was the graphics. Aside from the feeling of “Oh my god I’m actually here” that’s created with the help of both the VR and the sound design, the game is just so pretty. Everything feels like it’s on a space station. Everything feels like it’s meant to be there. Some objects contain vital clues to the mystery that’s surrounding this place, so it’s a good thing that within the first few minutes my “explore all the things!” instinct kicked in. Even when things weren’t vital to the story- for instance, the basketballs in the gym – they were still interactable, and after scoring a few baskets, I felt like I was genuinely a person on this space station.

The sound contributes massively to the realism that they’ve managed to capture. Unlike in some games, every sound comes from an object. There are no non-diegetic disembodied voices to be heard, no phantom sounds, everything that can make a noise does exactly that. If I’m facing an object, say a bouncing basketball, if I turn my head to the left, the sound will now exclusively play through the right headphone. Furthermore, if the ball is bouncing past my right side, it’ll gradually pan the sound of the bounces as it would in real life. From a design perspective, I’m incredibly impressed with this. In addition, the game is built with Unity, which I’ve heard is frequently touted as “the layman’s engine”, so for them to pull this off in it is something I’d have to commend.

Overall, if the Oculus wasn’t so expensive, I’d definitley be getting P.O.L.L.E.N when it came out. It’s a game I’m going to be keeping on my radar though, because in five years it might be one of the “retro classics” of the VR world.

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