One of my favourite tales in Greek mythology is of Theseus winding his way through Minos’ underground labyrinth in order to slay a monstrous part man, part bull known as the Minotaur. Forge Reply’s re-imagining of the story once again pits the titular hero against the beast, with the developer making an unusual choice by portraying the action from the third-person perspective. I’ve said plenty of times in the past that VR lends itself well to first person perspective, so I was concerned with how immersive the experience would be compared to a more tried and tested formula.
My fears were allayed as soon as the game started, with my point of view following Theseus at a distance similar to that of a standard third person perspective games as I moved him ever closer to a far off set of gates. The best way to describe the sense of motion is to imagine one car being towed by another, albeit with the second car coming to a complete halt at the same time as the first. After Theseus reaches the gates, the view changes to a fixed camera, much like the original Resident Evil which works really well as you’re still able to take in a full 360° view of each new area Theseus enters.
From the moment Theseus enters the labyrinth, he’s met by an ethereal trail of light that leads him to a sacrificial altar room, whereupon he meets an entity named Ariadne. Ariadne tells Theseus that what he sees is an astral projection, her physical form held captive by the Minotaur at the centre of his subterranean lair. Theseus is charged with running the gauntlet of obstacles and the Minotaur’s offspring as he makes his way to the middle of the labyrinth in order to defeat the Minotaur and save Ariadne.
Theseus exists on two distinct plains, the first is a material world of crumbling stonework, cavernous chambers and darkened corridors. It’s obvious that no-one has set foot in the labyrinth in many, many years due to the state of decay and disorder. The second plain is a limbo-like dimension with a liquid substance underfoot and floating debris defying the laws of gravity. Over the course of the game, Theseus will visit both plains multiple times. VR helps to give both plains a sense of depth whilst in wide open spaces whilst inducing claustrophobia in tight, dank corridors.
Despite me having made mention of the word labyrinth thus far, there is very little in the way of exploration throughout the course of the game. The path is very linear, with an obvious entrance and exit to each chamber that Theseus encounters. Some paths are blocked by a black ooze, a type of corruption secreted by the Minotaur that needs to be cleared in order to advanced. The game follows some standard action adventure tropes, with Theseus needing to dip under, climb over and traverse various physical obstacles.
During his quest Theseus encounters the offspring of the Minotaur, hideous fleshy spider-like creatures that emerge from pools of the black ooze that their master excretes. These underlings lunge at Theseus, stabbing at him with their forelegs and bite with razor sharp teeth. As the offspring are adverse to fire, Theseus is able to keep gangs of them at bay by using a flaming torch and attack with a sword that he finds later on. There’s no real strategy required other than watching Theseus’ back to make sure he’s not blindsided. I found that I won almost every encounter by button bashing.
The Minotaur himself isn’t seen much until the final act (aside fleeting encounters that come out of nowhere) much like the shark in Jaws. Ariadne explains that the beast has been corrupted over time, loosing his sight which in turn has heightened his remaining senses. Despite not seeing the Minotaur much over the opening two third of the game, his guttural roars of anger can be heard echoing throughout the labyrinth, adding to a fear of an imminent attack. The majority of the Minotaur’s screen time comes during the climatic showdown with Theseus, including a short stealth sequence in the limbo dimension.
Theseus’ adventure shouldn’t take you any longer than 4-5 hours to complete. The game does have a certain amount of replay value as there is an alternate ending based on locating certain items, and due to its overall length it doesn’t feel like a chore to work your way back through the game. Personally, I loved the cinematic feel of the game, as it really does feel as though you’re in the middle of a Ray Harryhausen movie. On the other hand, the lack of enemy variety hampers the game, especially between the middle of the game and the final encounter with the Minotaur. If you’re a fan of third-person action adventure give Theseus a whirl, just don’t expect a sprawling multi-sitting epic.