Worth the climb.
Using Guerrilla Games’ newer Horizon IP, Firesprite Games and Guerrilla have created a title to showcase Sony’s new PlayStation VR2 headset. While Call of the Mountain does its best to incorporate many of the elements of the main series, it’s a different adventure from those massive experiences provided by Guerrilla’s primary studio. Those expecting a huge open world may be disappointed, so go in with an open mind and enjoy the view.
And on that front, it mostly succeeds. The world is beautifully detailed, creating an engaging experience that frequently makes you pause to take in the views. It’s difficult to accurately paint a picture with the screenshots provided because this game is played in virtual reality, so every photo I took doesn't take into account my entire periphery. You may see a beautiful set of waterfalls in one of the pictures, but what you don’t see is that I’m hanging off the side of a mountain, or dangling hundreds of feet up in the air from a tree branch. All of these things work in tandem to ensure the player is constantly in the experience. Since the game needs to be rendered twice (once for each eye), and since each screen is close to the eye, it's easier to see the slight pixelation of the game leading to a bit of the classic VR screen door effect. Regardless, the game looks amazing and is lush and detailed. Every so often I would run into an imperfection in the geometry which seemed rather jarring. When in first person, these things stick out significantly, creating more of a hit to immersion than if in a regular video game. Thankfully these occurrences were few and didn’t hamper the entire experience.
The main gameplay mechanic—climbing—is implemented incredibly well and creates a sense of accomplishment when conquering a legendary climb. I found myself frequently hanging hundreds to thousands of feet in the air, or clutching to the side of a metal devil only to look over and glimpse out at the world beyond, then I’d look back and continue my climb to the top. It was a refreshing experience that only worked because the climbing felt good. Make no mistake, it's not perfect, but it works well. Occasionally I would reach for my pickaxe behind my shoulder, and my avatar’s hands would grab a ledge instead, or sometimes my character would grab something I had no intention of holding on to, and it would shift my view and slightly disorient me. When these things happened most of the time, I realized it was because I was being hasty, but sometimes it was simply the geometry and gameplay that worked against me. That said, I was never barred from progression, these were just simple hiccups that I would figure out quickly and move forward.
Though it has no bearing on actual gameplay or story elements, being able to pick up random elects in the environment like a pair of calipers, a sledgehammer, or an ale tankard is extremely satisfying. Something about the tactile feel of picking something up and being able to move it around in a three-dimensional space adds a bit more immersion to the game.
Horizon Call of the Mountain doesn’t quite live up to the main games, but it succeeds in the places where it needs to. The climbing is engaging, and at times, mesmerizing thanks to the gorgeous views. The combat is fun, and the tactile feel of the bow remains engaging throughout. Though the story and characters fall short of what I expect of a Horizon game the overall package is still worthwhile. And once you’ve finished the main quest, there is a fun challenge arena to complete that tests your ability with a bow and your ability to climb. If you buy a PSVR2, this game will complement your collection.
Objective Assessment: 7/10
Bonus: +1 for satisfying tactile gameplay. +1 for gorgeous vistas.
Penalties: -1 for bland story. -1 for some technical gameplay hiccups.
Nerd Coefficient: 7/10
Posted by: Joe DelFranco - Fiction writer and lover of most things video games. On most days you can find him writing at his favorite spot in the little state of Rhode Island.