The Foglands impressed on its debut on a PlayStation showcase back in February of last year with its mix of Western aesthetic and monsters in an atmospheric world that promised Roguelike progression and freeform shooting and punching fun. It’s nearly a year later, the game has been out a short while, though feels like its failed to make much of an impression since its release. In a period where the PSVR2 really needs to shine and this game was hyped by Sony, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it should be something special… and maybe it could have been if it was given more development time, extra QA support, and not splitting focus between flat and VR play modes. Unfortunately The Foglands just isn’t an engaging game which is a shame because the premise is a reasonably interesting one.
A fog has descended and it’s up to you as a Runner to move between the communities separated by this strange phenomenon. During one fateful run you encounter a creature that’s awakened that puts paid to your one person courier service, though that turns out not to be the end for you just yet. A mysterious stranger decides that you were taken too soon and grants you additional lives to keep on investigating the shrouded underground world and uncover the secrets required to defeat the beast. The only catch is that navigating the rooms and corridors is like making it through Daedalus’ Labyrinth and everything shifts around each time you make a mistake and need resurrecting. With a Roguelike mechanic and the ability to save and recover cash and items in the central hub, progress is steady (if slow) in finding a way to free everyone from the danger inherent in the Foglands, and you’ll rely on your wits, reflexes and many, many bullets to fend off the attacking evil that lurks everywhere.
The Foglands story pretty much sums up what you have to do, and playing is pretty familiar for FPS fans in VR or normal alike – which you get the choice of so not to worry if you don’t have a VR setup. Enter the maze, shoot some enemies, die, repeat. Along the way you’ll pick up runner keys which unlock cards; cash to buy items and weapons; and various powerups that will aid your quest. How long you survive tends to be determined by how much ammo you can lay your hands on, though at least melee combat is on hand in a pinch… though very much as a last resort because throwing a punch doesn’t mean it’ll actually connect with anything. Likewise with the shooting, there’s no point in aiming as the accuracy is atrocious and the bullets not exactly the most impactful. The only element that seems to work is throwing an object at a rampaging enemy, and that’s quite cool seeing a wrench bounce off for you to catch ready for reuse. Couple the light touch slightly ropey action mechanics with sparse, bland environment design and loading at every section linking rooms and there’s little that actually compels you to continue playing after a death. It’ll likely crash out to the desktop making up your mind up for you anyway.
It’s not often a game comes along where I don’t persevere and look past the technical problems, but in The Foglands it was almost a blessing as I couldn’t bring myself to keep going around the same loop. Take the instability out and there’s a functional game that starts with an interesting setup and a memorable character in the stranger that drags you back from death; yet beyond that I was just not grabbed by the gameplay, the design or the way the game worked in either flat or VR. Maybe it’s a case of Roguelike fatigue and that I just want a solid story that goes from point A to point B, or that the showcased trailers made it look like a different type of action game being released, or that I expected higher production values – I don’t know which for sure, and it may be all three. I do know, however, that it’s not made a good impression now I’ve had hands on, and that’s probably why all is quiet on the promo front elsewhere.
A PSVR2 review code was provided by Well Told Entertainment’s PR team, and the game is available now on PlayStation and MetaQuest in both flat and VR format for around £30.
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