Developer: White Elk Studios
Release Date: April 17, 2017
Game Modes: Single
Control: Daydream controller
Yes, the time has arrived. Probably the most anticipated Daydream title since the launch of the headset itself. The trailer wow-ed us back in March, but now it’s here and it’s time to take an in-depth look at Eclipse: Edge Of Light. It’s the first title from the newly formed White Elk Studios, which is composed of experienced video game industry professionals whose previous projects include the God Of War franchise. Fun fact: while Eclipse is now a Daydream exclusive, it was originally intended to be a PlayStation VR title. And we’re very happy it made that move.
In Eclipse: Edge Of Light, you wake up on a strange, seemingly abandoned alien world after surviving the mysterious crash of your ship. You start off equipped with a space suit which will let you scan objects for background information and, much more importantly, fly. You’re soon introduced to an artifact that you’ll use to interact with the remnants of this lost civilization, and using this and your jet-pack you’ll explore the world and ultimately uncover the mysteries of the planet.
The game plays a bit like Land’s End for the Gear VR, except in Eclipse you’re not confined to rails at all. From a first person perspective you’re completely free to explore the canyons, caves, labyrinths, and ruins of the planet, and “free” is the key word here. Your jet-pack gives you some additional vertical freedom and becomes absolutely instrumental for puzzle solving. And, in a nutshell, that’s the game. You explore the large and beautiful environments, solve puzzles to move through the areas, and dive deeper into the mystery of this planet. And it’s truly a wonderful experience.
As you progress, the artifact will gain additional abilities. At first it’s a key used to open doors, then it’s a blunt tool to smash pots. Further on it’s a temporary ledge to stand on, a weapon to destroy sentries, and a looking glass to uncover invisible items and clues. Most of these abilities will be called on repeatedly, so you have to get good at recognizing the opportunities. All of the puzzles are enjoyable and satisfying to solve, and I wouldn’t say any of them are particularly difficult. I did get stuck in a couple spots; it wasn’t because the puzzles were confusing, but rather because I either didn’t explore the area thoroughly or forgot about one of the artifact’s abilities.
The game really drives you to play on. In fact, I found this game so engaging that I played until my phone completely depleted the battery and shutdown. Twice. The sense of presence and exploration, as well as the story, really motivates the player to see just one more area. As for the story specifically, it’s told through short messages revealed by scanning statues, and ghostly holograms depicting past events. It is possible to ignore most of the story and just move through the environment, but I think anybody who enjoys the exploration aspect of the game will be curious enough to investigate the story as well, and it’s well worth it.
Eclipse is a perfect example of first-person controls executed perfectly using the Daydream motion controller. The touchpad provides W-A-S-D controls, that is movement forward and back, as well as left and right strafing, with turning controlled by looking. Clicking and holding the touchpad activates the jetpack while still allowing you to move. The app button is used to control the artifact; clicking, holding, and releasing with a throwing motion let’s you throw the artifact, while double-pressing the app button recalls it your hand. The throwing mechanic is handled well, with only occasional instances of the artifact not going exactly where you want it to. Aspiring Daydream developers should look to Eclipse as a standard in first-person control implementation, and I really hope we see more of this.
At first glance, the graphics are very reminiscent of Land’s End. The low-poly landscape, brownstone canyons and gray ruins with glowing blue light-trails definitely look similar between the two games. Not that that’s a bad thing, since Land’s End is still a gorgeous game to look at. However Eclipse raises the graphical bar with more detailed textures, more complex and larger scale environments, and a much more detailed skybox. Everything is beautiful and there were at least a few times, especially in the later acts, where I stopped walking and just took in the almost breathtaking level design. The smaller details also shine; finding abandoned homes, tools, altars, and temples give you the impression that this world was once full of life, even though the inhabitants aren’t around anymore.
The graphics are held back from perfection by two minor but noticeable issues. First, if you look at the skybox for a while, and believe me you will look at it, sometimes you’ll be able to point out where the sides and top come to together, which breaks the illusion of looking into infinite space. Second, in very rare occasions you can see textures that simply don’t render. It’s a rare problem, but when it happens you’ll see a door, or a single face of a wall appear as perfect black, with the texture blinking in as you get closer. Neither of these is a deal breaker, just a minor distraction in an otherwise gorgeous environment.
I also have to mention the occasional frame-rate stutter that happens whenever a new area of the game is loaded. There are thankfully no loading screens as you explore the world, but the consequence of this is that the game must load areas on the fly. And since the areas are so large, they tend to impact performance and manifest as a stuttering frame-rate. Again, definitely not a deal breaker, but you will notice it.
The ambient sounds of ECLIPSE are all perfectly befitting of an abandoned planet. Birds calling, rocks crumbling, footsteps, scanning and impacts are all good. But it’s the music that really stands out. Epic instrumental numbers rise as you come upon new vistas, and foreboding tracks accompany your descent through subterranean temples. The music complements the grand scale of the environments perfectly, and adds immensely to the atmosphere of exploration and discovery. Equally as atmospheric are the moments of silence as you wind your way through dark passages, or contemplate the solution to a new puzzle. Overall the sound design is simply fantastic.
Comfort & Immserion
Being a first person perspective game in VR, Eclipse has to address the very real issue of motion sickness. Minecraft, Quake, and even some space shooters and racing games are well known to create motion sickness after only a few minutes. But the developers have done a wonderful job in minimizing it by doing three things: First, the movement is relatively slow. Walking, flying, and falling all happens at a fairly slow and constant rate, and acceleration is kept to a minimum. Second, the game puts a space helmet on you to restrict your peripheral vision, which can be turned off if you prefer to see the world unobstructed. Third, and related to number two, an additional vision restriction is added in the form on an iris effect when you move or fly. All of these things definitely help keep the game comfortable. If you are especially sensitive to VR motion sickness you may want to approach this with caution, but most players should be completely fine.
Eclipse conveys a wonderful sense of presence via the scale and freedom of the environments. Except for the minor graphical glitches, the game is convincing and ranks among the most immersive mobile VR titles. I know it was introduced to increase comfort, but I really like the helmet around the edge of your vision; it reinforces the sensation that you’re an explorer on an alien world and that, despite it’s captivating appearance, without your space suit you will not survive. I especially like the models for your hands and arms; even though you can only control one of your arms with the Daydream controller, it really increases the sense of presence and agency when you can see an appendage you control in the game world.
In short, the game is pretty damn awesome. The world is epic, the music is grand, the puzzles are engaging, and the whole package draws you into the story so much that you won’t want to put this one down until it’s over. Or your battery dies. Playtime should be between 2 to 4 hours depending on how quickly you solve the puzzles and how much time you spend staring at the scenery.
This review is getting uploaded a couple days after launch, with several others already published. The reviews are universally positive, and rightly so, with a few calling Eclipse the best game on Daydream. Eclipse is absolutely fantastic, but it does have some stiff competition for best Daydream game, specifically Virtual Virtual Reality and Untethered. Eclipse’s strength is grand-scale exploration and freedom, while the other two have smaller but more interactive environments. So I think “best Daydream game” is going to depend on which aspect you value more.
But if you’re asking if you should buy it, the answer is an unequivocal yes. It’s a Daydream must-have, and you’ll love every step of this beautiful journey.
- A vast, breathtaking world to explore
- The soundtrack is as epic as the world
- The sense of freedom and immersion is unprecedented on Daydream
- Minor graphical glitches
- Occasionally hard to throw artifact
- Limited replay value