Wireframe

Golem review: nauseating

By Alan Wen. Posted

Given Golem’s USP is the ability to take control of the titular stone giants and get involved in some epic melee action, it’s a surprise that you don’t unlock these toys straight away – at least, not a toy you were expecting.

The first inanimate object you take control of is a straw doll that can’t fend for itself. It’s genuinely horrifying when you’re shrunken down to the doll’s diminutive size and find yourself swarmed by bugs the size of cars – it’s uncomfortable enough to have players with entomophobia ripping their headset off.

Why Highwire Games thought it was a good idea to have you suffer this ordeal before you can become a golem is anyone’s guess. Unfortunately, it’s only the first of many other puzzling game design decisions.

The one that soon rears its ugly head is the baffling Incline Control System that requires you to lean forward while holding the Move controller’s trigger to walk. Taking you out of the default seated position is bad enough, but it also makes Golem the first VR title since PSVR’s launch to make me feel physically sick.

If you keep your free hand on a DualShock controller, the left stick can be used for movement, which just about makes things bearable. Oddly, this isn’t signposted as an option in-game, and there’s no way to play with just the DualShock.

Other surprise mechanics further drag down the experience, such as a rogue-lite structure that means losing any equipped gear and starting back at a fixed point when you die. You’re also forced to abandon your golem each time you want to equip new gear, including masks used for unlocking certain doors.

Combat in Golem isn’t without its positives, but it’s more often let down by the Move controller’s lack of precision.

Admittedly, there are Dark Souls-like shortcuts, but they don’t do enough to alleviate your golem’s sluggish pace, which no amount of neck-craning will speed up.

Combat should have been the saving grace here, as there’s a good sense of rhythm and skill in deflecting enemy melee hits from the correct angle, then striking their glowing weak points. It’s sound in principle, even if you’re taken out of the immersion when you realise that mega-weighty weapons can be waved around like a stick, or that even a light prod will register as a devastating strike.

There are other glitches on display in this area too: there are occasions where you’ll have held out your weapon to block and still get hit, while at other times you’ll find the duel frustratingly leaves you too far out of reach to strike your opponent. When it comes to precision, Sekiro this is not.

That Golem feels like such an uncomfortable chore to play is a crushing disappointment given the studio’s pedigree as ex-Bungie devs, though at least composer Marty O’Donnell’s wonderfully atmospheric score escapes untarnished.

One of the earliest PSVR games in development, Golem has been superseded by better uses of the tech, which only makes Highwire Games’ debut look more like a broken relic in comparison.

Highlight

Despite its myriad issues, Golem has a decent story to discover, involving family, romance, and tragedy, albeit told through the well-worn traditions of audio logs or what boils down to sequences of seated theatre. They’re nonetheless well done, thanks to strong performances and art design. It’s also refreshing to see your character’s body in a VR game instead of just another pair of disembodied hands.

Verdict: 40%

The most disappointing and uncomfortable VR experience for Sony’s headset to date.

Genre: First-person action / adventure Format: PSVR (tested) Developer: Highwire Games Publisher: Perp Games Price : £29.99 Release: Out now

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