E3 2018: Arca's Path Preview

You’ve probably heard it by now, but Sony’s E3 conference was... different. The most disappointing thing about the show - apart from running to different theaters as show organizers desperately pleaded with people not to run or push - was the lack of any information about upcoming titles for the PlayStation VR. For some reason, Sony decided to unload most of that info onto a series of Twitter posts and website announcements but I found it a little disconcerting that no VR games were visible during their media briefing. Thankfully, the show itself afforded a chance to try out virtual reality games coming out to the PlayStation platform. That is, if you don’t mind waiting in line for an hour or two.

I won’t lie, going to E3 as press is a blessing that I am constantly thankful to have. You get to avoid long lines, fewer chances to catch con crud, and the publisher meeting rooms are temperature controlled and apart from the masses of people this show typically draws. And best of all is the quietness. Walking along the show floor is fun because of the crazy elaborate booths and the chance to talk with like-minded people, but it sure is nice to escape the din and enjoy a free hot tea. As it happens, Rebellion’s meeting room was the best possible way to experience Arca’s Path, a VR game being developed for PC and the PlayStation 4 by Dream Reality Interactive.

Arca’s Path tells the story of a young woman living in what appears to be a post apocalyptic wasteland. The introductory cinematic, presented in a graphic novel-like format, shows how our heroine discovers a strange visor among the trash heaps that litter the ruins of her former civilization. When she puts on the visor, she is transported Narnia-style to the strange but beautifully vibrant world of Arca. In this abstract land, the player character is transformed into a polyhedral-like object and must navigate courses situated far, far above ground. The game was described to me as a “dark fairy tale”. However, any sort of antagonistic forces involved with the heroine’s discovery of the visor didn’t show up as I played through a series of levels that felt like introductory tutorial stages. It’s hinted that an evil witch might be involved, though, there was no telling what she was capable of in the 20 minutes I spent with the demo.

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What I liked most about Arca’s Path was how it feels designed to be a relaxing, comfortable gameplay experience. Instead of controlling the polyhedral with a DualShock controller, you’ll tilt your head in the direction you want the object to roll as you navigate through an obstacle course of twists, turns, pitfalls, and moving platforms. Generous checkpointing makes it relatively easy to pick up near where you left off should you accidentally oversteer and fall off the course. The levels I worked through were designed with bumpers along the sides of the track, giving me the chance to practice the headset controls. I had fun Super Monkey Ball-ing my way through several crystalline, abstract looking levels to the amazing chiptune soundtrack developed by Raffertie, an artist I’m not familiar with though the tracks I heard in game were fantastic. Combine the music with a nice, cushy chair, headphones, and hands sitting in your lap, and the result is near total relaxation. It looks to me that Arca’s Path could be a great cure to a stressful work day.

Arca’s Path shows a lot of promise and I’m really jazzed to play more of it when it comes out later this year. Dream Reality Interactive is made up of people from Sony’s London studio, which has done some really interesting projects in the past (Wonderbook, which I don’t mind being the only one who played AND enjoyed that product, PlayStation VR World, and The London Heist) and Arca’s Path looks like a really good game for the studio to hang its hat on. Beautiful level design, gorgeous coloring, awesome music, and a simple and effective control system makes for a great gaming experience that’s accessible to everyone. There’s a lot going on in the world that contributes to increasing levels of stress. When the work day gets too much to handle or the pressures of school work results in a few restless nights, a game like this is a nice way to find your center. Just sit back, put the controller away, and escape to an alien world designed around the simple concept of steering a ball through a maze.

Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.