Up to this point, virtual reality has been a technology with few “must play” titles. But there are plenty of games out there to dig through. While Eagle Flight might not necessarily be one for every VR enthusiast, it’s certainly one that feels remarkably complete and not just a glorified tech demo. Meanwhile, Werewolves Within is a game that seems simple but is peppered with strategy and requires the ability to tell a good lie. Each round is short enough to provide bite-sized gameplay, but the premise of interrogating and weeding evil out of a town is addictive. Both games are fun, but for entirely different reasons. In this double-header Ubisoft VR review, I’ll critique Eagle Flight first.
The Post received physical copies of both Eagle Flight and Werewolves Within from publisher Ubisoft at no cost. Both games will be donated to Operation Supply Drop.
Eagle Flight allows the player to become an eagle flying high above a Paris overtaken by nature. The gameplay consists of dozens of challenges that the player can earn between one to three stars in. As players finish levels, more open until the final boss battle unlocks.
Eagle Flight combines several elements to create a unusual and fun experience. Some challenges require the player to fly through rings in the sky in time-trial fashion. Others task the player with maneuvering at high speeds through tight corridors. Possibly the best are the combat segments that pit the player against other birds like vultures and falcons.
During those segments, the game feels more like a flight combat simulator and less like a game about birds. Dive-bombing enemies and attacking with the screech of a powerful bird of prey is surprisingly fun. Dodging attacks from foes, firing back with rapid shots and trying to stay alive is an adrenaline rush.
The game manages to do several things right and makes a convincing case that VR can provide lengthy, fun experiences. First, the city of Paris is beautiful. While flying overhead, the player can gaze down at nature as it takes over architecture, wild animals that escaped from the zoo, abandoned cars, boats and more. The city is empty, save for other animals, yet it feels alive and thriving in its own way.
Eagle Flight also makes motion in VR bearable. Make no mistake, hooking into a sharp turn at high speeds will cause a little dizziness, and playing after eating half a pizza is nauseating (Take my word for it.) But all things considered, the motion is usually smooth and doesn’t invite too much head spinning. It does make flight feel thrilling, though. Diving down to Earth and pulling up against gravity at the last moment is like riding a rollercoaster. The player’s brain seems convinced that it belongs to a bird, and it is a great — if slightly terrifying — feeling.
In short, if you’ve ever wanted to know what it’s like to fly through the skies as a bird, Eagle Flight might be as close as you get at the moment. But the game isn’t without its flaws. A couple levels near the end of the game are devilishly tough because there aren’t sufficient defense mechanics for combat.
The problem is this: After the game’s final battle concludes, the player unlocks the ability to lock his or her flight straight ahead in autopilot while looking around. This way, the player can see what’s around without veering off course. During intense battles in the game’s story mode, that ability would have been incredible, but it doesn’t unlock until after the story concludes, at which point it’s not needed for much more than casual sightseeing.
The other flaw is in matchmaking. Online combat (3v3) is included in Eagle Flight, but even with PC/PS4 cross-platform play activated, it’s sometimes tough to find enough players to fill up a lobby. That’s a shame, because the online mode is pretty fun when there are enough players.
In the end, Eagle Flight provides a solid experience at its core but fails to perfect its online play and defensive abilities. On the other hand, it does showcase a beautiful rendition of Paris, non-sickening flight-based gameplay, and a lengthy, quality VR adventure that feels like a legitimate game worth its retail price of $40. It’s not just a short “VR experience” like so many titles available. It’s a full-fledged game with simple, fun, easy-to-grasp gameplay. It’s a great introductory VR title and I certainly recommend it.
Eagle Flight released Oct. 18 for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive and Nov. 8 for PlayStation VR.
Werewolves Within is a game familiar to anyone who has played the card game Mafia or the PC game Town of Salem (which is fun, addicting and free to play on a web browser, so you should check it out). In Werewolves Within, up to eight people are seated in a circle around a crystal ball. Everyone is assigned a secret role, and there are two factions: the werewolves and the townsfolk. The number of werewolves and townsfolk vary from match to match, but all the werewolves are made aware of the other werewolves in the match. The townsfolk, on the other hand, have no idea which players have which roles.
The goal is for the townsfolk to work together and figure out who the werewolves are. The werewolves must lie to convince the townsfolk to target one of their own. When the timer is up, everyone votes. The townsfolk win if they correctly vote to kill a werewolf. The werewolves win if they all escape death.
The townspeople have different abilities based on their roles. For example, the Houndsman can lean over and sniff the players directly to his or her right, detecting if they are werewolves based on their scent. The Watcher can stare at one player during the match and learn two roles about him or her, one true and one false, but without knowing which is which. The Watcher then must collaborate with other players’ info to determine which is likely true. A couple “lone wolf” roles play solely for their own purposes and add even more to the craziness.
Werewolves Within quickly gets hectic. Players lie and deceive one another in a bid to win, but if one side manages to play its cards just right, it can come out victorious. Sometimes, talkative players with a strong personalities can really control the round. Overcoming their assertiveness can be a challenge in itself.
The game benefits greatly from VR and the always-on voice chat. Rather than just typing away frantically with accusations from behind a keyboard, players can look one another in the eyes, gesture toward them, fight and argue verbally, and even stand up and point at one another to make a point. When a player talks, Werewolves Within automatically has the player’s avatar move his or her hands in a natural, conversational way. Specific gestures can also be triggered with specific button/key presses.
All the mechanics in Werewolves Within work together to make the game feel authentic. With a Middle Ages vibe, it really looks and feels as if a group of peasants is trying to weed out the heretics in their quaint little town.
But the game has some inherent issues. First of all, the player base is rather small, even with cross-platform play enabled. Depending on the day (and time of day), it can sometimes be impossible to fill a lobby. Other times, there are just enough people to play with the same dozen or so people over the course of one gaming session.
Other versions of the game are best played in large groups, so restricting Werewolves Within to only eight players and eleven roles chops down the number of possible round outcomes. There are relatively few ways in which a werewolf can lie and get away with it because there are few alternate roles he or she can claim to be. As a result, those who have played for a while are easily able to outsmart newer players and can see through bluffs easily. The game ends up feeling like Diet Mafia. The flavor is close to the real deal, and it’s nice enough if you like that sort of thing. But there’s just something a bit off about it. It lacks a little nuance and depth.
Nonetheless, the gameplay is still rather addictive. It’s not perfect, but it’s fun. With rounds coming in at about five minutes apiece, it’s easy to hop in for just a match or two (if enough players are online), but it’s just as easy to be hooked on the game for an hour, hoping to land a fun role at random. As a VR game, it’s great because it is immersive and doesn’t induce any motion sickness whatsoever. The experience works magnificently in VR and because it’s centered around voice chat and eye contact, it’s impossible to stall while trying to think of a good lie when you’re caught.
What Werewolves Within lacks in depth, it makes up for in immersion, ease of use, fast-paced action, and heavy reliance on voice. I can safely say I have never played a game in which my success depends on how well I can keep my voice calm and whip up a quick, believable lie. While Werewolves Within isn’t as complex as other versions of the classic game, it stands out as not only a video game but as a game that works very well in VR. There’s something to enjoy in the imperfect experience, and while it’s flawed, it’s still a fun time.
Werewolves Within released Dec. 6 for Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR.