Chillin’ by the sakura, plucking out falling hens with your bow and arrow, and slicing up tatami poles: all in a day’s life of a samurai.
Take a stroll in a peaceful VR sanctuary high in the clouds. Empty your mind, focus and unleash your combat skills. With your robot companion, explore the archipelago to reveal its secrets and become a true samurai. (Glitchr Studio)
In a world of short attention spans, Sky Sanctuary stands solid in its focus on mastery and progression with its training simulator for those who dreamed of becoming a samurai (and I may or may not be one of those kids growing up with the likes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.) The environment is absolutely gorgeous and achieves the virtual reality experience of zen. For those who feel somewhat isolated in VR, you are accompanied by an adorable robot named Delios-sensei, who encourages you to be your best (gambatte!~).
Note: Sky Sanctuary is currently in early access, and will be developed and refined further by the 3-person team with the aid of community feedback.
So what’s Sky Sanctuary all about?
Extremely friendly for VR beginners, you’re welcome to a calm and peaceful landscape by a floating robot, similar to the aesthetics of Portal (nothing can go wrong here, right?). Controls for teleporting, grabbing objects, and mechanics for menus and pocket storage are easy to follow and gentle for VR users from all experience ranges.
Still in its early development, the Sanctuary that’s placed above the clouds in the sky, there’s three main areas:
- The temple, where you can view leaderboards
- Kyudo: Bow and arrow training
- Tameshigiri: Katana training
- (There’s also a small area for tutorial training)
As you wander around, there’s a handful of interactables such as smoke bombs to toss and the ability to light up some fireworks in the air.
What do you know about that bow and arrow?
Possibly my worst skill yet across all of virtual reality would be the bow and arrow (I wished my Green Arrow cosplay good-bye at this point) and unfortunately Sky Sanctuary was no different but it didn’t take away from the fun and upper arm work you can get.
There’s four modes, all unique:
- Precision: Stationary targets
- Dynamic: Moving targets
- Skeet: Hens that are shot from cannons
- Triathlon: A mix of all modes, one after another
I could definitely feel my upper arm get sore after half an hour of play time. For those who want to utilize the game for a work out and want more of a challenge, I would suggest even adding some glove weights.
Time to slice and dice boys
The katana exercise is not for the faint of heart – you must be precise, quick and attentive. Big moves are encouraged, and small flicks won’t get you far. Be sure to keep your distance as you will be swinging your arms!
Mind the angle of your blade with your controller and be sure you slice within the guided angle of the hitbox. It can be pretty tricky, but although a simple game, it has a high replay value and I found that time flew by as I pushed myself to do better. Delios-sensei, I’ll do it for you!
You can check out a preview of the gameplay here:
What does Sky Sanctuary get right for virtual reality?
Glitchr Studio kept VR users from all experience backgrounds in mind with a top notch simple and easy-to-follow tutorial, and could very well be in the list for introducing new users into VR. Virtual reality allows you to be in the presence of the unreal, and being in a well-designed Japanese-inspired zen temple in the sky takes full advantage of being immersed into the fictional realms.
Smaller details like weapons not being affected by gravity make it easier to switch weapons, as well as not having to hold down grip buttons, or any additional controls. Very user-friendly and holding both the katana and bow and arrow feels natural. Physics are important in VR, and having it feel good makes it easier for the exercises to come naturally.
I’m hoping to see more sandbox objects (it’s in the plan) as anyone knows that throwing objects and lighting things on fire is oddly so entertaining. There’s a little bit of our inner child in all of us!
The final verdict
While I would have liked to see some “quality of life” changes such as an unlimited practise mode, I also think that perhaps it would effectively ruin the main theme of the game which is progression and growth. When visiting the temple, you’re presented with a graph of how you’ve performed in all the areas. It’s interesting to note that multiple users for a Steam Account may affect the graph.
For those looking for a deep narrative experience, Sky Sanctuary may not fulfil that desire, but for those who are looking for another game to add to their VR winter work out regime, and enjoys improving upon their skills, Sky Sanctuary is a step in the right direction.
As someone who enjoys mastering a game (former Tetris champion here), I really enjoyed what I saw of Sky Sanctuary and I’m looking forward to seeing what the devs have in store as they come to finalizing the game.
You can check out the environments you can be a part of in the teaser trailer here:
Sky Sanctuary launches on February 15th, 2017 (tomorrow) for early access.
Official Sky Sanctuary website: www.sky-sanctuary.com
Sky Sanctuary on Steam (early access): store.steampowered.com/app/526130
Glitchr Studio on Twitter: twitter.com/glitchrstudio
Photos provided by the Sky Sanctuary press kit
Full disclosure: This press key was provided for an unbiased review.