Fated: The Silent Oath, is a first person VR experience set in the mythical world of Vikings where you play a family man called Ulfer trying to survive and protect his family during the times of Ragnarok, an event the Vikings believed was the start of the end of the world. It’s the first original VR Game made by Canadian developer, Frima Studio and written by Assassins Creed III Liberation co-writer, Jill Murray.
The game begins with you lying immobile in a horse driven cart. The world around you is slowly passing you by. It’s drab with muted colours, and next to you is a woman begging you to show signs of life. You’re limited to head movement, paralysed from the neck down. You’re just as dazed and confused as the character whose body you currently inhabit. The woman, who turns out to be your wife, begs you to let her know that you are alright, that you understand what she is saying. The simple act of nodding your head not only comforts your wife but seals an otherworldly deal which promises to give life back to your otherwise inert body. Suddenly the drab hue which blanketed everything you see is lifted to show a world rich with colour and your wife’s initial joy of her husband coming back from the dead is dampened when she realises that you have lost your voice, the price for your reincarnation.
This short prologue sets a positive tone for the game ahead. A strong art style, both with the world you inhabit, and with the highly stylised characters you interact with. While the animations can feel a little stiff and slow, it doesn’t deter too much from the experience. Even the voice over’s do a great job of keeping you immersed in the story. The actress playing the part of your wife does a believable job convincing you her concern is real while her father clearly has concerns elsewhere which goes against the feelings of your wife. Later on in the game, there are a few lines which have questionable delivery, but overall the work is consistent enough that the few and far between drops in quality doesn’t really affect your immersion.
Fated isn’t positioned as a game that’s dominated by gameplay. This is first and foremost an interactive story, with gameplay elements secondary and supportive of the narrative. Yes, you can walk around the world and there are times where your interaction is the only way to push the story forward but you cannot fail at anything. Failing a task or falling to your doom will simply reset the story to just before you died. There is no ‘Game over’ or ‘you died’ here, just the figurative going back a few pages to make sure you read that last paragraph right.
Fated, thankfully does a great job at telling a good story. While the events that surround the game are briefly touched upon, such as the reason why you are dead at the beginning of the game and other such ‘big events’, the focus of the story is mainly about Ulfer and his desire to keep his family safe during some very uncertain times. This is also echoed by his wife whose sole focus is also the protection of her family and children. The slow and deliberate build up of the story helps cement the emotional connection all the characters have, helped in turn with the great voice acting mentioned above. Frima Studio’s goal with Fated was to explore what other emotions they can convey through games and VR other than Fear which many other games focus on entirely and I feel they achieved that goal here. It doesn’t really hit home how emotionally invested you are until the final scene of the game which left me aghast. Very few games manage to grab this level of emotional investment from their players. And very few of them actually reward them with such an impact as Fated did to me. This is not an experience I’ll forget any time soon.
But as good a story as it is, it is a short one. It took me around 2-3 hours in one sitting to get all the way through. If you have a weak constitution to VR, you might get more mileage from the game, but expect not much more than 3 hours in total from Fated.
The limitation on your mobility during the prologue is lifted when the first Act starts. And I was very happy to see that Frima Studio’s didn’t resort to using teleportation movement through the beautiful VR world they created. We have full twin stick support for moving backwards, forwards and strafing left and right – a rarity in first person VR experiences. While changing direction is restricted to very deliberate change in angles, rather than smooth rotations to the left or right you would traditionally expect. If you have ever played Resident Evil 7 in VR, Capcom also offered a similar movement method, but they also offered smoother rotation options if your stomach had the constitution to handle such realistic movements, the latter of which I wished the game would have offered as an option. Still, there is a range of comfort options the game does offer to assist with any discomfort a player may experience when trying to move. From increasing or decreasing the angles you rotate with, to placing grids and other visual aids to assist your movement and reduce any uneasiness you may experience.
Fated has some light puzzles that it throws into the mix at a few times in the story. They aren’t overly complex or difficult to solve, which is disappointing, but I do believe is by design to prevent them being an obstacle from letting the player experience the full story. But I couldn’t help but wish the puzzles had more depth to them as they do little more other than to serve as distractions in between all the walking you will do throughout the relatively short story.
The one thing I feel is missing from Fated: The Silent Oath is Move support. While there isn’t a great deal of interaction with many objects throughout the game, the few items you do use and hold feels as if the experience would be positively enhanced if we were to wield them with move controllers. One scene in the game has us hunting deer to feed members of my clan and I’m giving a hunting bow to kill my prey. Pressing the controller’s triggers and aiming with my head just doesn’t feel as natural as, perhaps, using my move controllers to mimic the act of firing a bow – something which would have only enriched the experience as a whole. Perhaps the limited opportunities to interact with objects were the driving reason why Frima Studio’s didn’t go for move support, and I can understand that decision. But I can’t help but feel that the experience as a whole would be lifted, even with simple move support.
As a VR experience, Fated starts with small baby steps and gradually starts to find its feet almost near the end of the relatively short journey, starting you off as a passenger on a ride before handing the reigns as you near the end of the game. It’s disappointing only in the fact that there is no more to experience, especially with the emotionally charged ending you are left with. However, Fated is positioned to be an episodic game, so we should expect to see more of Ulfer’s journey and hopefully how he and his family deal with the events that lead up to the ending of this episode in the very near future. I’m also looking forward to seeing how Frima Studio’s expand on the VR experiences utilised in this episode and how far they will push those going forward. Fated: The silent oath is a solid foundation to build upon for Frima Studio’s. With a great, engaging story and a slow expanding VR experience that really begins to show promise at the end. Frima Studio’s certainly has the basics locked. The graphics are crisp and colourful with impressive voiceovers that serve to make this a world you would want to visit again. With more deeper and engaging puzzles and more interactive environments, Fated could easily become a must have VR title. As it stands, it’s a VR experience that can still be recommended.