Shadow Legend VR, quite possibly the Best VR game of 2019 (thus far)
I'm so glad that Shadow Legend VR has been finally made available, not just so you good people can start playing it for yourselves, but so that I could start officially ranting and raving about how amazing the game is. You see the game has technically been under embargo until it's release day, although many early impressions of the game have been floating around the internet for the last several weeks. The common consensus is that developer VitruviusVR absolutely knocked it out of the park with this one. At this point, I'd have to wholeheartedly agree.
However, before I start praising the game to the high-heavens, I should probably start off by explaining exactly what type of game Shadow Legend is. The problem is, it's not as easy to pin the game down to a specific genre. It's not really a Skyrim competitor, nor is it a dungeon crawler. It definitely features RPG elements, but you can't really consider it a full-blown role-playing game either. The game contains a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, and at the end of the day it turns into it's own, unique animal.
Exploration is definitely a huge aspect of Shadow Legend. If you're the type of gamer that rarely stops and smells the flowers, you might miss a lot of what makes the game special. There's a litany of little treats and goodies scattered around the castles and dungeons of Anaria. The developer's previous release was Mervils: A VR Adventure. A cutesy, platforming romp, with plenty of collectible goodies, and their followup release continues that trend. Everywhere you look there's gold coins and various chalices, gems and jewels. Collecting the loot is a simple pleasure to be sure, but you'll actually use your new found wealth to purchase upgraded weapons and items that could be crucial to your future success.
In addition to finding gold and other treasures, you'll also talk to various characters, which helps flesh out the background narrative. In fact, the game has a speech recognition feature, that you can enable before playing, which takes full advantage of the built-in microphone found in most PC-VR HMD's. You pick which dialogue choice best represents your inner thoughts and feelings, and speak it out loud. The system does a solid job of interpreting your speech and selecting the appropriate response. This actually made my interactions with shop keepers and other Anaria citizens more interesting and fun.
The opening area of the game, even features a number of animals that you can interact with. There's a rambunctious rottweiler, who follows you around wagging his tail and occasionally barking. He's a fun loving dog, but quite hungry, so find him a doggie treat or maybe sizzle him up a T-bone steak. Yep, you read that right. Shadow Legend VR features skillets and T-Bone steaks that you can grill on the barbie for a tasty treat. In my playthrough, I kept my dog well fed, and even played fetch with him for a little while. There's also some beautiful horses relaxing in their stables. Not too far from the horses are some carrots that you can use to feed the noble steeds. The horses animate and make noises exactly the way you'd expect them to, and it's these little touches that help bring added life to the outdoor areas.
While Shadow Legend is above average in just about every single category, I could see players leveling complaints about the combat system. It's not that the combat has any major flaw, it doesn't, it's just that sometimes you feel as though you're going through the motions, rather than engaged in an intense battle with a terrifying creature. You mostly just whack your trusty sword at your foes enough times, and before you know it, it's off with their limbs and heads. You'll need to time your swings, and parry your opponents strikes to be victorious, but it's pretty bare bones and basic.
Of course, this argument can be leveled at nearly all currently available RPG's and dungeon crawlers. We've yet to see the perfect melee combat system in VR. Part of the problem is the lack of resistance. You can swing your sword, and make contact with your opponents blade, but you don't really feel anything. There's nothing to prevent your arm from swinging right though. We'll probably be dealing with this problem for years to come, until some next-level haptic feedback is made available.
Minor complaints aside, the combat mostly works well. Ranged combat is also heavily emphasized. Bows and arrows, as well as magical staffs that can shoot out powerful blasts of energy are readily available. Along the way, you're encouraged to spend the spoils of your treasure hunting on improved blades, bows and staffs. For example, you can upgrade to an ice sword, that will freeze your enemy momentarily upon contact. This allows you to continue bashing them, before they have much opportunity to react.
Graphically speaking, the game's an absolute stunner. The world of Anaria has been brought to life in spectacular fashion. I often found myself stopping to simply admire the beautiful scenery and backdrops that VitruviusVR has painstakingly provided. Adaroth's castle, pictured above, is one of the most jaw-droppingly gorgeous scenes I've ever experienced in Virtual Reality. This game is going to rank in the upper echelon with the most striking VR games currently available. Outdoor scenes are particularly magnificent, but indoor areas are also handled impressively.
So, in conclusion, I can safely say that Shadow Legend VR is one of the best VR games I've played so far this year. In fact, not only is it one of the best, it's the best. It's my current front-runner for Game of the Year 2019, until something can come along and topple it. Is it perfect? Nope. But the key fact to consider, is that VitruviusVR set out with a very specific goal in mind, and I think they absolutely nailed what they were shooting for. The game won't fulfill every persons dreams and aspirations, but man, did they really deliver upon their original vision and scope.
Another complaint you'll get about the game is the length. Some say you can run through the game in a mere 3 or 4 hours. I'm about 85 percent of the way through the game at this point, and I've played at least 4 or 5 hours already. The only way somebody could get through Shadow Legend in a mere 3 or 4 hours, is if they never stopped to admire anything along the way. They would have to go from one objective to the next, never taking time out to appreciate all the little details littered everywhere throughout this game. I think the $25 price point is perfectly appropriate for this game. Sure, it's not a 10 or 12 hour game, by any measure, but it's still a spectacular romp that any self-respecting VR gamer should probably strongly consider!