Meeting Yoda in VR is the cherry atop this blaster-filled journey.
If you go into Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge, the latest VR co-production from Lucasfilm’s ILMxLab and Facebook’s Oculus, thinking you’ll be just fine handling blaster shoot-outs by your lonesome, you’ll quickly become acquainted with death. Tales is unrelenting in its combat — enemies come fast, often, and in numbers that should send you into a mild panic. This is when you learn that laser-shooting remote droids — disposable, spherical, floating AI combat assistants you’ll find littered about the world — are your best friends (and unwitting sacrifices).
Launching on Oculus’ Quest platform this Thursday, Nov. 19 for US$25, Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge delivers on the tantalizing promise that was ILMxLab’s earlier Vader Immortal series. Those three episodic, bite-sized VR adventures gave players a taste of what it could mean to fully inhabit the vast and feverishly cherished worlds that make up the Star Wars universe, and come face-to-face with its beloved characters. But whereas Vader Immortal provided for a tightly controlled and very linear experience, Tales branches out by immersing players in an open world, granting the sort of freedom of exploration many fans had lusted after.
And yes, Tales takes its world-setting cues from the recently launched Disney theme parks of the same name. The VR experience is set on the planet Batuu “on the outskirts of the Black Spire Outpost,” and, per the series’ chronological canon, the story falls somewhere between the events of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. In Tales, you play as a droid repair technician who crash lands on the planet after your cargo freighter is attacked by Guavian Death Gang pirates, led by Tara Rashin (voiced by the sublime Debra Wilson), and must now recover “the ship’s mysterious cargo.”
If you’re a Star Wars diehard, this information is obviously crucial to the series’ ever-expanding lore. But for more casual fans, it’s somewhat easily dismissed. So much of your time within Tales will rightly be spent gawking at the impressively detailed locales and expressive character models — Cantina owner Seezelslak, voiced by Bobby Moynihan, is a particular standout with his six eyes — that you’ll kind of forget to pay attention to the narration. Instead, you’ll want to push past those quieter storytelling moments to jump back into the action. That is, once you learn to master Tales’ myriad and not-very-well-explained mechanics.
It is not an understatement to say that ILMxLab does not hold players by the hand as they blast their way through Tales. If you get lost or simply need assistance in finding your next waypoint, your wrist-worn Datagrip will float a holographic pointer indicating the required direction, or you can dip into your pause menu to glean some more mission information.
But much of how you interface with and learn to master your menu system, body-worn inventory pouch, remote droids, player navigation, blasters, and even lightsaber is a product of trial and (happy) error. Mechanics are often quickly introduced without providing for a safe and well-designed playspace to help you get acquainted. If Tales lacks any one thing, it’s a well-thought out and clearly explained tutorial level. The opening scene on the cargo freighter just doesn’t cut it. So be aware that you may encounter brief moments of frustration as you clumsily come to grips with its controls.
Case in point: During a heated moment of combat, I reached for my waist-mounted blaster and instead grabbed the puzzle-solving all-kit tool which happened to be on the “electric” setting — one of three, alongside a torque wrench and fusion cutter option. This sent a shockwave towards my malfunctioning remote droid… which had the totally unintended (and unexplained) effect of repairing it. At no point during Tales is this spelled out for the player.
Speaking of blasters, you’ll cycle through lots of them as you battle through the nearly six-hour campaign (that’s with side missions factored in, though your total playtime may vary). There are four blasters available in total and they all have limited use; some even require manual venting to prevent overheating. Thankfully, you can chuck them as the colored gauge nears red and pick up fully-charged blasters (with green indicators) dropped by fallen enemies. It’s clear ILMxLab designed the blasters in this way to add an element of tension and suspense to the gameplay, but I would’ve much preferred to retain an assortment of firepower and simply hunt for “ammo” instead. (I’m not quite sure how ammo would work with a blaster, but that’s not my job to figure out!)
Properly nailing a Guavian baddie with any one of your blasters, however, requires a bit of patience as it’s somewhat hard to precisely aim. Even when closing one eye and attempting to land a shot through the sight, you’ll still need to make slight height adjustments. This is one area where a lock-on option or upgrade would’ve been clutch (and another reason why you’ll be hurtling remote droids out into the open battlefield).
Tales also provides players with a hoverpack, the introduction of which immediately floods you with delight and fanciful notions of skyborne free-roaming. But, let me pop that excitement balloon for you right now. The hoverpack serves to do one thing only: It boosts your player height by one or two levels so you can teleport to a higher ledge or platform; you will not be flying around the map. This to me stands out as a huge oversight on ILMxLab’s part. Yes, giving the player the ability to fly, albeit temporarily, around the map would reduce the combat difficulty, giving you an unfair advantage. But that’s where enemy seeker and viper droids come in to level the playing field — or so you’d think.
Force grabbing or pulling — the ability to highlight a distant object or weapon with your outstretched hand and “magically” draw it towards you by pressing the Touch controllers’ triggers — is another mechanic that’s missing from the experience but has become something of a standard in other AAA VR titles like Valve’s Half Life: Alyx (hello “grabbity gloves”!). I smashed my hands into my rug more than a few times in a desperate and panicked attempt to pick up a nearby blaster “normally.”
It’s a design decision (or omission, rather) that I have to assume stems from the need to distinguish who can wield the “Force,” which is a Jedi trait and not something a lowly, anonymous droid repair technician would possess.
Interestingly, some of my more favorite moments in Tales involved scouring the environment using the hoverpack to find collectibles needed for side missions, as well as using the all-kit tool to unlock crates and their hidden stashes of weapons. I chalk this up to two things: the desire for exploration and the haptic feedback that’s triggered when using the all-kit tool, respectively. Yes, some of those all-kit “puzzles” are a bit lightweight (and obtuse), and I would’ve loved to use its fusion setting on some baddies, but frying away metal just never seemed to get old for me.
Graphically, the wizardry ILMxLab was able to pull off with Tales using the Quest platform’s constrained mobile chipset and not the brute force of a dedicated PC rig is indeed no small feat. Tales feels appropriately large for what it is and its characters come to life with striking detail and visual clarity. I spent more than a few minutes just marveling at Seezelslak’s animations and the metallic reflections on C-3PO’s body while reminding myself that this was possible on a standalone VR headset. While it is true that most enemy types and environments make use of a repeated number of textures and models, there is enough variation that the world doesn’t seem too same-y. But you’ll likely be too busy blasting away to really take notice. Graphics pop-in also occurs sporadically but, again, you’ll hardly be aware nor care all that much — it has no negative impact on the gameplay.
As Tales is a VR experience, it’s important to note that there are a variety of comfort settings for players of all types. You can choose to move about the world via teleport or smooth locomotion (though even that latter option still requires instances of teleport), and set your preferred turning movement. I opted for smooth movement as I’m no stranger to VR, so the associated sickness that comes with pulling a fast one on your vestibular system (i.e., your inner ear) is no longer an issue for me. If you also want to go that route, keep in mind that you may need to get your “VR legs” first, as they’re called — so play in short sessions and stop if you feel even the slightest bit queasy. You’ll quickly adjust in no time.
As a bonus for completing the main campaign and collecting various ingredients for a drink at Seezelslak’s Cantina, you’ll be transported to the “Tales” portion of the experience to play “Temple of Darkness” as Ady Sun’Zee, a Jedi Padawan. This is a short standalone, episodic adventure akin to Vader Immortal, and one for which there are planned expansions coming at some point in 2021. It’s here where you’ll get to wield the lightsaber, interact with Master Yoda (voiced by none other than the OG, Frank Oz), glean further tidbits of Stars Wars lore, and encounter the only instance of lag in the entire experience.
“Temple of Darkness” is a nice coda for Tales overall, though I do wish it were just a wee bit longer than its 15-minute playtime. There’s simply nothing quite like hurling a lightsaber around like a deadly, homing boomerang and slicing through corrupted demlins in the near dark.
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ที่มา : Mashable