Straight out of Early Access on May 18th, Detached (2017) promises to deliver that free-flying experience, complete with smooth-turning that only a section of the most hard-core first-person VR junkies crave. Offering a single-player mission based on navigation puzzles and an online capture-the-flag multiplayer, space pioneers hoping for a long-term solution to their need for exciting and comfortable zero-G fun may have to look elsewhere.


Detached Details:

Official Site

Developer: Anshar Studios
Available On: Home (Oculus Touch), Steam (HTC Vive, Oculus Touch, OSVR)
Reviewed On: Oculus Touch, HTC Vive
Release Date: May, 18 2017


Note: While Detaches is available today in Early Access, this is a review of the full version of the game which is due on Thursday, May 18th.

Gameplay

A deserted space station seems like a real treasure for two scavengers looking for loot. Another routine salvage. Everything is going according to plan. Suddenly, system alerts indicate a problem in the cargo area. It turns out that a group of scammers has infiltrated the station and will do anything to seize its precious cargo. The startup procedure has been initiated… There’s no time for retreat…

Primed with TV series like Firefly (2002), Cowboy Bebop (1998), and films like Event Horizon (1997) and the Aliens franchise, going on a real life space salvaging mission sounds like serious fun. Unfortunately, the text above is little more than flimsy pretext for zipping around a single level filled with a small collection of space hubs—indoor environments that ultimately deliver humdrum, navigation-based puzzle-mazes.

Interiors, while beautifully rendered, are strangely aseptic in Detached besides the odd fuel canister or oxygen tank. While both fuel and oxygen are finite, there was only a single moment when I almost ran out of air, and that was only because I began to ignore all of the tanks littered throughout the game. With no real need to survive, my interest generally fell on the puzzles ahead.

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the only task here is opening a single door, image courtesy Anshar Studios

Most puzzles are simple with the most difficult tending to be time trials which come down to how well you can maneuver in the zero-G environment. In the end, I felt like 3/4 of the hubs were overly consumed with tutorializing the various systems; boost, shield and rockets, than letting you genuinely explore.

Locomotion in Detached is achieved either through hand controllers or gamepad, the latter of which felt more natural despite the environmental suit (EV suit), flight stick theme the game is running with. The game is a forward-facing experience best piloted from the safety of a chair. I talk more about the game’s locomotion and some of its drawbacks in the ‘Comfort’ section.

get everything on-line and you’re done, image captured by Road to VR

The single-player mission took me about an hour to complete, and although the open space scenery promises some awe-inspiring vistas and a modicum of that ‘space pirate feel’ I was hoping for, I couldn’t help but feel like I was on rails going from hub to hub. Boost gates are placed tactically throughout the map, which promise convenience but also detract from the ‘found wreckage’ feeling the game professes in its description.

Finishing the single-player portion, I was then urged by the game to play the online multiplayer, a 1v1 capture-the-flag mode taking place on two maps. Only the original map made for Early Access was available to me though, so I can’t speak to the quality of the second. Using shields, boost and your EMP rockets, you’re tasked with out-flying and neutralizing your opponent so you can grab and return a randomly spawning flag.

If multiplayer is supposed to be the star of the show, there’s still much that studio needs to do to ensure ongoing interest for old and new players alike. Despite offering a few truly fun sessions of hide and seek as you hunt down your opponent and reclaim the flag, I have some concerns about the overall health of the multi-player mode. It’s pretty straight forward, and admittedly much more fun than the single-player game, but with only two maps currently available and only a capture-the-flag mode, replay value doesn’t look promising. Also, with no apparent ranking system in place, you’ll also be randomly matched with another person regardless of how much time either of you’ve been playing. And if you have mastered the game’s locomotion, the danger of your sole opponent rage quitting (ending the match) is a real barrier to creating a healthy player base.

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Immersion

Scenery alone can go a long way in terms of creating immersion, and lower budget, albeit competently-built productions like Detached definitely capitalize in this area with some good-looking environments. Yes, they’re too clean to be believed, and yes, they’re obviously contrived for the purpose of being a puzzle and nothing more, but they do look quite good.

Your shadow projected on a nearby wall or asteroid certainly does the trick too.

image captured by Road to VR

Wearing your trusty space helmet, you’re given a heads-up display (HUD) populated with oxygen/fuel indicators and mission objectives, all useful in their own right. These near-field elements are projected at an uncomfortably close distance though, making me less willing to pay attention to them. This is because current VR headsets don’t let you see near-field objects like you would outside of the headset. Without going into too much detail, it has to do with the fact that your eyeballs are converging correctly on a digital object, but you’re not focusing the way you normally would because the light from the display is focused at the incorrect distance. Check out this article on dynamic focus tech in AR for the full explanation.

A big hit to immersion comes when you try to reach out and touch something, like batting away a canister. You’ll soon find your hands are nothing more than ghostly controllers, and fiddly ones at that, that don’t interact physically with objects.

Comfort

Admittedly the studio offers forewarning when it calls Detached “an extreme VR experience that simulates sudden and dramatic acceleration, freefalling, twisting, and rolling,” but this advisory doesn’t excuse it entirely. While the game provides you with a helmet that offers the ‘anchored feeling’ of a cockpit, this isn’t a panacea to the zero-G locomotion scheme. Let’s talk about smacking into shit.

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image courtesy Anshar Studios

In most first-person VR games, when you slam into something or otherwise encounter an immutable barrier, you’re treated with some degree of respect, which could mean a fade to black, or a reduction of physics so you’re gently slowed to a halt. But slamming into a wall or a simple fuel canister in Detached—which happens constantly because of the close quartersinvariably sends you head-over-heels on a spinning, wild ride that doesn’t stop even when you’re dead, making you scramble for the ‘reload’ button on the screen as your virtual POV is tossed about willy-nilly.

Since the game makes heavy use of the boost function and is chock-full o’ low ceilings and random pipework, you’re bound to hit something on accident eventually. The last hub, to my anguish, was exactly this—a sort of proving ground for every game mechanic you learned along the way. Disorientation due to the repeated use of the same interiors and too many blunt force deaths forced me out of the headset and onto my couch for a few hours because I stupidly thought I had my “VR legs.” Reentry was a less attractive prospect.

To my surprise, there are actually two locomotion styles on offer, but neither seem to fix what was mentioned above.

It’s been a while since I’ve played a game like Detached, and although I personally think it has more in common with an Oculus Rift DK1-era PC port than a modern made-for-VR game, there is obviously still a group of people who prefer the front-facing, vestibular system-whirling wild rides it has on offer. I don’t think I’m wrong when I say most of us left those behind and never, ever want to look back.


This is a review of the full version of the game which is due on Thursday, May 18th. 

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Overall
5

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  • Raphael

    I hate when people think they have vr legs and then crap on about how violently ill this or that game made them. I purchased this game last year. Love the control scheme and love bouncing off walls. Great that the dev includes a warning for the nauseat clan to keep away but as we see from some negative feedback on steam… Even warning a nausea clan member the game includes violent motion still doesn’t stop clan members from buying and then complaining.

    How about this… How about we accept that some games are built not to hug and protect nausea clan players… If you can accept that… I will accept that some games are built to cater only to nausea players.

    In the scheme of things there has to be freedom of choice for a developer to make the kind of game they want. If i was a dev i personally would be making hardcore motion games. I have to accept that some devs will create comfort games like rec room or robo recall.

    • doctorhino

      Nausea in the first 2 months of owning a VR and after almost a year is like night and day. People need to take time to get acclimated and maybe even deal with a little bit of nausea to prepare themselves for more intense experiences.

      That said, if someone does not have a powerful enough computer and is getting low framerates that can cause nausea very quickly even to experienced players. If not nausea just a headache. I think it would be nice if companies could start putting out performance demos to see if you can handle the game at a constant and high frame rate before you buy.

      • Raphael

        That’s it exactly. People need the time to get used to it. I’ve read so many accounts from people who say they got used to VR after some time. I know there’s a small percentage of extreme cases that always have nausea but for the most part people get used to it.

        Yes, hardware deficiencies can be a problem and amazing how some users are oblivious to that.

  • Ed

    I like sim-focused things and the idea of realism at the expense of comfort, and I’m tempted to see how I go with this game, but this review kind of confirmed the feeling I have about the game which is keeping me from it… A suspicion that the environments are going to feel sterile and that the game will ultimately feel shallow. I want to be captivated by and have an emotional response to a virtual environment, and relate with it in a deeper way than just moving through it, collecting things and opening doors. Something needs to be happening that I have strong feelings about.

    I’d love to be wrong about the game, though. If someone shares a good reason to try it I may yet give it a go.

    After playing through A Chair in a Room I am inclined to think that these desolate zero-G space settings could make a hell of a backdrop for a VR horror experience.

  • Raphael

    “1

    Spazbo4
    775 products in account
    6 reviews

    Not Recommended
    1.1 hrs on record
    EARLY ACCESS REVIEW POSTED: 6 MAY
    Product received for free
    I got a code from somebody on youtube so I decided to give it a try, but the motion sickness is so terrible for me that I can’t play this anymore”

    ^^^^

    He’s posted 6 reviews on steam and half of them are negative including skyrim.

    This kind of idiocy is damaging vr game development. The developer of this game warns people it’s not suitable for motion sensitive gamers…