It’s nothing short of amazing when you can take a tour of a town that doesn’t exist anymore, and Arnswalde VR takes you back to the once-West Pomeranian city to see just what it was like before the turbidity of WW2.
Arnswalde, once a German-speaking city in West Pomerania, now holds a distinctly Polish name – Choszczno. Historically, these sorts of quick changes that bring about new city names, new people, and a newly recognized official language, are a real bummer from a preservation standpoint. They tend to wipe away so much of history – but hey, that’s war for you.
Arnswalde VR reconstructs the town circa 1920 from gathered photographs, and gives you a guided tour in a way that you never could from visiting the modern city, as 80 percent of Arnswalde’s infrastructure was destroyed during a heavy siege in January 1945.
You visit the historical buildings around St. Mary’s Chruch, a Gothic construction from the 14th century which still stands today, and tour the side streets to see the ironworks, the once-grand hotel of the city center, pubs, shops, everything else that made the quaint city go.
“We have already shown the project to townsfolk, and we were overwhelmed with response – nearly 1000 people turned out (w expected max 400), so we had to schedule [a] second demo session [the] next day,” said Odyssey, the developer team behind Arnswalde VR.
The beautifully rendered Unreal 4 demo teleports you in front of each building, giving you a quick lesson on what the building is and how it was reconstructed. The demo does however suffer from optimization issues that may slow down performance on some lower spec GPUs. The commitment to realism however (of everything but a single villager doing the ‘Gangnam Style’ dance) is clear in the project – from the cars, period music, to the lazy hot air balloons in the sky that serve as observation points.
The developer team likely meant for the demo to run on their own rig for the sake of showing it to the town, and not necessarily be distributed to others—so there’s a wide berth for forgiveness on some high poly counts that are borking frame rate. The demo is best if viewed in a VR headset, but it also supports traditional monitors.