Doctor Who: The Edge of Reality

Doctor Who: The Edge of Reality

Lock it in the TARDIS and send it to the end of the universe.

edge of reality

Taking a VR game and configuring it to run for normal “flat” displays isn’t something new, and whenever it happens it’s usually the interface and controls that get a tweak.  In the case of Doctor Who: The Edge of Reality, Maze Theory and Just Add Water have taken the previous VR exclusive, The Edge of Time, and expanded it to not only feel more like an FPS puzzle adventure, but to take the story further and pull in more villains, and even another Doctor.  It’s a great idea that allows them to stretch out the 3 hour runtime to something a little more substantial, and also gives returning players something new to see.  However, the original VR title was very much focused on maintaining the atmosphere from that viewpoint, so some compromises inevitably have to be made.  Do they make it a game worth playing if you’ve already romped across time and space in the first one?

The story in Doctor Who: The Edge of Reality largely follows the same as Edge of Time for the first two thirds of the game.  You are helping the Doctor battle a time virus that is threatening to destroy the whole of creation unless the Doctor has laid out some secret, convoluted and impractical plan that she’ll reveal at the 11th hour (just like every episode of the show!).  By travelling to several locations, avoiding the Daleks and Weeping Angels, and solving some mild puzzles, you’ll obtain time crystals that are critical to the final confrontation.  Only that isn’t where this game ends, it goes further and draws the Cybermen into the conflict as well as David Tennant’s incarnation of the Doctor.  With both him and Jodie Whittaker providing voices and likenesses, and show writer Gavin Collinson approving the script, it’s got all the credence to do justice to one of the BBC’s flagship programmes, though sadly it’s not exactly a quality videogame that you’d expect from the studios involved.

The Edge of Reality is very clearly a fairly straightforward port of the VR title, and unfortunately gives this away in the menu screen where there’s a disembodied arm floating around that’s a remnant of what would have been your limb holding a VR wand.  That’s off-putting, but at least once you load the game it’s into something more akin to a standard FPS game and things feel at home – it’s a decent conversion.  It’s main principle is either scour the environment for interactive objects to get clues from or store in the inventory, then solve a puzzle to open up the next section.  Do this in the opening laundrette section and as the door opens that would have led to another area to call the TARDIS from in the other game, you find yourself in the back alleys avoiding lights and hiding from Daleks.  This is where the team have stretched out the levels to suit the different gaming experience, and it’s a nice touch with additional puzzles in finding keys and using machinery to progress.  It’s a shame then that this feels like the extent of the effort, as beyond the opening level it’s just a longer path to follow through most of the sections with very little interactivity.

The completely new sections that involve the Cybermen are interesting enough to begin with and are built from scratch, though that feeling of padding remains as most of it turns into long corridors to stealth down on a spaceship with little character.  Even when it moves on from here and the environments really do become interesting as reality is twisted, you’re running away from a pursuing enemy so there’s no stopping and enjoying what’s been designed.  It’s disappointing that Doctor Who: The Edge of Reality takes this approach as it’s ditched some of the more interesting things that were done in VR, as well as it losing that level of immersion that comes from implanting yourself in the middle of the action.  Maybe making those elements work for non-headset players would have been time better spent that tacking on something that belittles the original story, and has the expectation that you’re just going to take the events on faith with no real clue on what’s going on or why.  It may link to the TV series in some way, but if you’ve not watched and absorbed every second it’s not clear what in the universe is actually happening.

The woes don’t stop at the gappy story.  Edge of Reality suffers from some glitches and stuttering performance issues which really shouldn’t exist in a game that’s been pared down for VR detail-wise.  In game view screens are blank when they should have images displayed or videos playing on them, and the narration at times doesn’t make sense as it’s not been changed from the VR version.  In this one you’ll have taken an entirely different route or performed a different action, yet the voiceover will talk about something else.  It’s also got a habit of berating you at times for not pressing buttons or triggering mechanisms, but the identification of interactive points and the detection window is so poor there’s too much trial and error involved.  This type of precise interaction works in virtual reality, but it needs some forgiveness when trying to use a pad.  Targeting issues in the late stage shooting sections may explain why this is as the reticule there is a good way off centre, and using it to track fast moving flying enemies is a real chore.  What is an empowering section of the game after a lot of stealth loses its impact dramatically.

Talking of stealth… it’s a bit of a joke.  I can’t be kind about it in any way.  Enemies spot you way too easily, don’t often fall for the distractions used, and it’s game over each time you’re spotted.  The checkpointing is relaxed enough to avoid massive frustrations, but that doesn’t make up for poor implementation.  It’s another example of where the VR system hasn’t been thought about fully.  With the Daleks there’s usually a lot of chest high walls to creep behind which worked well before, but might as well be invisible here.  For the Weeping Angel section, which has been completely reworked to take out the original puzzle, their ability to pop into view is great, yet you’re still just walking backwards down corridors until you find the end of the maze.  Edge of Reality has kept in one of the best Angel moments where a picture comes to life, though it’s lost its impact because it’s a VR trick; and it’s much the same with viewing the TARDIS from outside and seeing the space within.  It’s a tough impression to give in a flat view.  You’d expect the specific FPS sections near the end to be better because they’re custom created for this, though that’s not the case either when the camera decides to track your pursuer rather than you, leaving you with no option but to get caught.

It’s really tough to find the good parts in Doctor Who: The Edge of Reality, and that might be because I’m struggling to see the point of it – the extra sections don’t improve the game at all.  There’s a lot of creative talent at J.A.W. and Maze Theory, and this is well below their potential.  Surroundings and details in the environments can be really nice, but the character models need some work, and it really doesn’t show the last gen capabilities in the best light.  At least the cast are throwing themselves into it and their passion for the role comes through.  All this said, it’s not a difficult game and you’ll see it through in about 4 hours at the most.  There are collectibles to return for if you’re so inclined, though even those glitch out and keep popping back up in the TARDIS.  Dedicated Whovians will be interested in seeing an addition to the lore, but I’d struggle to see another audience for this.

A PS4 review copy of Doctor Who: The Edge of Reality was provided by Maze Theory’s PR team, and the game is out now on Switch, Xbox One, PS4 and PC for around £20 depending on platform.

The Verdict

4Poor

The Good: Enthusiasm of the show’s stars | Use of some of the original VR puzzles

The Bad: Pretty much everything else

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Matt

Co-founder & Editor at Codec Moments

Gamer, F1 fanatic, amateur DJ (out of practice), MGS obsessed, tech geek.

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