Google just released Age of Sail, its latest Spotlight Story for VR headsets. The company’s ability to assemble talent to deliver quick but meaningful storytelling seems to have paid off again, as Age of Sail hits a home run in nearly every department.
The short is story set in the early 1900s, and centers around William Avery (voiced by Ian McShane), an old sailor set adrift on the open sea. Avery comes upon Lara, a young girl who’s fallen overboard a luxury steamer.
The experience plays out aboard Avery’s small cutter sailboat, already a relic as the world adopts a new class of steamers and ocean liners. You sit beside the two as you experience a breathtaking tale of bygone memories and mounting danger on the North Atlantic.
Without spoiling it further, Age of Sail is an extremely polished experience that puts two believable characters front and center. While it could do with some anti-aliasing on PC VR headsets along with supersampling, the whole experience smacks of expertise in lighting, animation, writing, voice acting, and direction—the whole lot. After Google’s other high-performing Spotlight Story Pearl (2016) won an Emmy for Outstanding Innovation in Interactive Storytelling, we’d expect no less.
There’s some artificial locomotion here, but it’s fairly tame considering you’re sitting aboard a boat in stormy weather. It’s best experienced sitting down.
Google has published a 2D theatrical recording of the entire experience, but if you want the full impact, VR headset users can download the real-time rendered version via Steam (Vive, Rift), Viveport (Vive, Rift), and versions for both Android VR and Apple devices.
Age of Sail premiered at the Venice Film Festival in August, and was produced by Chromosphere and Evil Eye Pictures and directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker John Kahrs.