Insomniac Games may be best known for its work on PlayStation-exclusives like Ratchet & Clank, Resistance, and the critically-acclaimed Spider-Man on PS4. Despite its close relationship with Sony over the years, Insomniac was technically an independent studio until just recently, giving it the opportunity to work on Sunset Overdrive for Xbox One, as well as a number of virtual reality projects for the Oculus Rift. Insomniac has been with Oculus since the start, releasing games like Edge of Nowhere and Feral Rites. Sony's acquisition of Insomniac may mean that the company is done making Oculus Rift games, but if so, it was at least able to go out on a relatively high note with Stormland.
Stormland is a story-driven VR game with a focus on action and exploration. Unlike many other VR games, Stormland doesn't waste players' time by having them stand around and listen to NPCs drone on forever. It gets to the point quick, and after some introductory missions, players will be zipping around open world environments, blasting enemy robots, scaling cliffs, and hunting down upgrade items.
In Stormland, players take on the role of a robot themselves, who is equipped with a variety of gadgets that can help them traverse the environment and take on enemies. The game makes brilliant use of the Oculus Touch controllers to mimic the robot's hands and arms, allowing players to interact with the game world directly. Little things like being able to hold a gun in one hand and then rip it apart with the other or being able to detach one's own arm makes it easy to become immersed in Stormland's world. The game does a great job of making players feel like they're in the game, and it does this through things like having players touch their elbow to detach their arm and by having them touch their forehead to activate a scanner. Stormland is really a full-body VR experience and it all works very well.
In Stormland, players have large, open areas to explore, consisting of islands separated by clouds. Players are able to zip across these landscapes at high speeds, which is something that may admittedly make some people sick. In our own testing with the game, we had no problems with VR motion sickness in Stormland, but there were a few times where we had a weird sensation in our stomach like we were falling because the movement of the in-game character is so quick.
The worlds players explore in Stormland are unfortunately one of the weaker aspects of the game. The game can be quite ugly a lot of the times, with bland, similar-looking environments. It can be easy to get lost when playing Stormland in some of the later levels because of this, and players may find themselves aimlessly running around for long periods of time. These moments slow the game's momentum down to a crawl, and after awhile bouncing from one same-looking island to the next can become tedious.
While exploring Stormland's worlds isn't all that compelling, at least the physical act of moving around is as fun as possible. Players are given much more freedom of movement than is typical of a virtual reality game, able to zip around pretty much anywhere. Early on in the story, players acquire a tool that even lets them climb straight up mountains. Stormland's freedom of movement goes a long way in making sure players don't feel boxed in, which is something that other virtual reality games tend to struggle with at times.
Threats in Stormland mainly come in the form of enemy robots, which players can avoid stealthily or fight head-on. The combat in Stormland is definitely a highlight, with players able to dual-wield weapons, throw grenades, and more with ease. The gunplay in Stormland feels natural and there are some interesting weapon designs, though perhaps nothing quite as creative as the weapons in Insomniac's Ratchet & Clank.
Speaking of Ratchet & Clank, that franchise's influence can be found in other areas of Stormland. Players travel to different planets in a manner not unlike Ratchet & Clank, and the art style is also reminiscent of those platforming adventures, especially when it comes to the design of alien plants and things of that nature. Furthermore, players are encouraged to smash objects to collect currency that float to them with sound effects that sound as though they were ripped straight from Ratchet & Clank, so fans of Insomniac's previous work should feel right at home with Stormland.
One thing that Stormland does that hasn't really been seen in past Insomniac titles is the way it implements its menu and maps. Players can look at the back of their hand for a map, which can then be blown up to a large size that appears all around them like something out of an Iron Man movie. The menus are presented as though they are holograms appearing in front of the player, and while this may seem like an unimportant feature, it's actually one of the cooler and more immersive things about the game. Leave it to Insomniac to make looking at a map fun.
The major downside to Stormland is that there really isn't much to it after the main story, which can be beaten in about five to eight hours. There are some side quests to complete, but none of them are all that interesting and the mission objectives can be quite repetitive. Some fans may feel compelled to explore its endgame content, which updates once a week with new challenges and the like, but it's just more of the same. We were also unable to get into any multiplayer games when playing Stormland's main story, so those looking for replay value from that feature may be lost, unless they have friends with Oculus Rift headsets that are able to join them.
Stormland is a short experience and its attempts to add replay value don't really hit the mark. However, it's still one of the more impressive virtual reality games on the market, and a clear step forward when compared to many VR titles that have come before it in terms of controls and freedom of movement. Now that Insomniac is owned by Sony, hopefully it can continue its virtual reality work with PlayStation VR or maybe even the rumored PlayStation VR 2 on the PS5.
Stormland is available now, exclusively for the Oculus Rift. Game Rant was provided a code for this review.