Reviewed on Sony PSVR
It has been years since Golem was first shown, it seems like a lifetime away since we first saw the intriguing reveal trailer. The Golems have been silent for too long and after a few delays, we finally have the game in our hands. Has the wait been worth it? Is this game the shining VR beacon fans hoped it would be? Let's get stuck in.
Golem tells the tale of a scavenger called Twine. After the loss of her mother and a tragic accident, she is left bedridden but with the surreal power to bridge her thoughts into Golems. You can then let your mind wander free encased by these stone behemoths. You live in a city surrounded by a dangerous barrier, luckily Golems can roam outside of the barrier, allowing you to scavenge to your heart's content and find out the truth behind these mystical giants.
The story, after the opening scenes, is told via collectable memories. These memories are scattered all over the ruined city and do a good job of filling in missing story details and explaining some of the game mechanics to you. The story is well presented, well written and a good distraction from all the hand to hand combat and exploration.
The control scheme in Golem is definitely something we should talk about. The default control scheme is something a lot of reviewers have brought up in their varying reviews. It requires the user to press the T button on the Move controller and lean forward, back and rotate your head to turn. It took a lot of getting used to but I did so over time. The issue I had was that I started to get backache and after a long session I was in some pain. I also felt a bit queasy and I have never had motion sickness and I have played a lot of VR games.
Luckily, after a recent patch, there are more movement and comfort options to tailor your experience accordingly. I settled in the end on using the Dual Shock 4 analog stick for movement and turning off the head based turning. My motion sickness was gone, my backache was no more and I was free to move around trapped inside my stone body. I would have loved support for the 3dRudder foot controller as it would be a perfect fit for this style of game. Hopefully, support for it can be patched in later.
Golem's biggest draw by far is its combat, when it works it is by far the best hand to hand combat system I have played in VR. Unfortunately, too often for my liking, the game would lose tracking of your Move controller and you would take critical hits. Golems combat is a block and counter-based system, Golems will attack you and you need to defend yourself by placing your weapon in the correct position. After a certain number of parries, you are free to hit the enemy on the glowing sections and eventually, turn him to rubble.
When it works it's fantastic, it's so immersive, addictive, tactical and tactile. The clanging of weaponry, the tug of war, the tides of the battle. It's all very well done. Like I said though, sometimes your weapon goes awry, from no fault of your own and you end up dying. What makes this worse is the way that Golem is structured. You lose all your equipment your Golem currently has and you have to start over from the centre of the city.
Before each venture into the city, you can choose your Golems loadout from collected loot and defeated Golem parts. Parts ranging from different stones that harbour slightly diverse abilities, many weapons of varying types and different masks. The masks act like keys that gate off parts of the city, approach a door wearing the correct mask to open it and it will stay open forever.
I liked the gameplay loop of Golem quite a bit, you risk losing your gear every time you enter the city but you normally, Move controller tracking permitting, unlock a new shortcut or door for future runs. You always seem to progress at a nice pace, exploring the nooks and crannies for new loot and weaponry. You can also bridge your mind into toy dolls scattered through the city, for light puzzle sections or exploring smaller areas.
Graphics-wise, Golem is a very attractive game. Even though the whole game is set in a very bland looking city, the lighting, the Golems and everything else really brings the world to life. It is the same with the audio design, from the stony growls of the Golems to the melodic soundtrack, everything sounds good, is believable and fits the theme of the game perfectly. The whole presentation of this title is done to a very high level.