Just because VR is more immersive doesn’t mean its only use is to get your adrenaline pumping. Aaron Lemke is one of only a few developers getting serious about relaxing and meditative virtual reality experiences. Eden River’s peaceful gameplay and hummable music provide a beautiful respite from not just the stressful real-world, but also from the usual conflict-driven gaming tropes. Lemke today is announcing that Eden River HD, an update to the original Eden River demo, will launch on August 8th. Road to VR has an exclusive early preview of this tranquil title.

From horror games to first person shooters (and even an Alien Makeout Simulator), there’s no shortage of Oculus Rift enabled content to get your heart pounding. But as effective as VR is for that purpose, it also promises to spirit you away to peaceful worlds, away from the troubles of everyday life. Unello Design, Aaron Lemke’s indie game studio, is responsible for a number of calming Oculus Rift experiences. Lemke’s latest experience, Eden River HD, is a complete revamp of the Eden River Oculus Rift demo which surfaced shortly after the Oculus Rift DK1 first reached developers in early 2013. I’m lucky enough to have been able to check out Eden River HD a bit early, before it’s launch on August 8th.

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While the original Eden River put you in a dynamic floating river with a static skybox, Eden River HD has a completely modeled environment around the river down which you’ll flow. In Adventure mode, sun beams cascading through trees shine down on huge flowers. Each time you collect a flower, an animal comes to join you on your river passage. After gathering your posse of animals (Hawkie is my favorite), you approach a massive waterfall at the end of the river. What happens next… I’ll leave you to discover for yourself.

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All of Lemke’s Rift demos have featured subtle but important musical elements. In Eden River HD’s Adventure mode, your trip is accompanied by positively beautiful music composed and performed by Lemke himself. His careful consideration of the audio component and tranquil composition pays dividends for the experience. Get an early preview of Lemke’s beautiful Eden River HD score in the trailer above.

Eden River HD is one of the most peaceful games I’ve ever played. It truly does feel like an escape from a busy world. On occasion while playing, I’ll take my focus off of the river and look at the pixels that make up the image in front of me. I find it amazing that those little dots and some vibrations from my headphones can inspire such peace and tranquility. Experiences like this are only going to become more powerful as resolution increases, and even more so with the advent of multiplayer capability in these types of games.

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Aside from Adventure mode, there’s also Endless mode, which runs you down a randomly generated riverscape with ambient river noise but no background music—perfect for pulling up your own peaceful playlist in the background. The original Eden River demo (Adventure and Endless mode) is also included with some graphical updates.

Eden River HD also offers a more polished user experience thanks to a new menu system which lets you select between the game’s various modes. The entire game is controlled with nothing but head movements. At the beginning of the game, you find yourself unmoving in the river. Tilting your head left or right moves the view correspondingly, and you use your position to select the desired game mode. There’s a glowing orb that you look at to confirm the selection. As you hold your gaze on the orb, flower pedals spawn around it sequentially. If you keep your eyes on it long enough to complete the flower, your selection is confirmed.

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eden river oculus rift preview

Lemke plans to add Oculus Rift DK2 support to all modes of the game; I absolutely can’t wait to try it with the DK2. We’re looking forward to the release of Eden River HD on August 8th and you should be too!

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."