FATED: The Silence Oath, the latest release from Canadian developer Frima, is touted as an immersive, emotionally-charged storytelling VR experience; set in the mythical age of Vikings, during the era of Ragnarök – The End Times. FATED follows a Norseman and his family through a series of harrowing events.
FATED’s story begins with Norseman Ulthar being brought back to life following a recent tragedy by a guardian angel-like Valkyrie, who offers him a second chance at life to ensure his family’s safety during this dangerous time. As a by-product of this pact Ulthar is left mute, and is only able to communicate with his family and friends by either nodding or shaking his head. Ulthar is returned to his mortal body (which is being transported back to his village), much to the relief of his wife Freya and father-in-law Oswald, who is also the village’s chief.
The trio arrives at the village to find it in chaos, having been pillaged by a rival settlement, with its villagers seeking refuge in the surrounding mountains, whereupon Ulthar and Freya are reunited with their daughter Liv and nephew Sven. FATED follows the family’s onward journey to avenge the village’s destruction (accompanied by their friend Eda), leading them across sky-scraping mountains and into the bowels of ancient caverns and caves.
FATED is essentially a walking simulator, and as such relies on the Dualshock 4 rather than Move controllers as character movement is required. The left thumbstick controls directional movement – Ulthar’s walking pace is quite slow and although I tried a combination of buttons, I haven’t found a way to increase his speed; the right thumbstick controls rotational movement in increments of 30°. Control of Ulthar’s left and right hands are assigned to L2 and R2 respectively.
Frima have tried to counteract the sense of nausea that comes with moving in VR by giving the player an option to have semi-transparent markers on screen – whilst a great idea, I found them to be a bit of a distraction, so turned them off (this option, as well as increase the degree of rotation, can be accessed using the D-pad). Ulthar can respond to questions posed by other characters by physically nodding or shaking one’s head (a chime signals when a response is required by the player). On-screen text tutorials appear to explain how each work.
FATED’s plot is well scripted, led ably by the game’s voice work. Lines are delivered with a degree of believability and help to become invested in the events of the game. Those unacquainted with Norse mythology are brought up to speed through Eda providing backstories of gods and their legends. Frima have done a wonderful job of evoking the feel of numerous Hollywood fantasy films. The musical score accompanies the fantasy feel – soft and gentle in times of exploration, building in tempo during the few actions sequences scattered throughout the story.
Graphically, the characters and environments have a distinctly chunky, cartoon-like feel to them. Menfolk are broad-shouldered and lantern-jawed, with stereotypical long hair and full beards that Vikings are associated with, clad in furs and leather. Women wear their hair in braids, with long autumnal coloured dresses. The environments easily steal the show, with huge mountain ranges, crashing waterfalls and dim, torch-lit caves drawing one further and further into the story. Each new locale was distinctly different from the last, and I enjoyed looking around, absorbing all the little details that make it obvious that Frima has put a lot of work and effort into crafting FATED’s world.
Puzzles and action sequences come into play further into the plot, which helps to break up the monotony of walking from A to B. The puzzles are incredibly simple, don’t require much thought in order to progress, and certainly don’t bring anything new to the genre. The action sequences are too far and few between, but do convey a sense of urgency and danger – a mountaintop escape from a rampaging giant and avoiding sets of lethal pendulum-like axes whilst traversing a narrow walkway were a couple of my personal highlights.
FATED’s story takes about ninety minutes from start to finish, and can easily be completed in a single sitting. As the plot is heavily story driven, there’s little in the way of exploration and as a consequence very little replay value. There are trophies up for grabs, but these can be easily achieved by completing the game in full. FATED does what it sets out to do, providing an immersive experience, though I found the game ended abruptly; initially, I thought that I’d done something wrong, but I later found that the ending was supposed to have provoked a different response than my exclamation of “Was that it?!”, as the final act felt more like a cliffhanger than the game’s climax. Unfortunately, this snap ending and the overly simple puzzles take away from the wonderful story involving giants and Norse gods that had been told up until this point.