Journey of the Gods is an exciting and beautiful example of what the Zelda series might look like if they were made for VR.
Even though it takes a lot of cues from other three-dimensional adventure games, Journey of the Gods really showcases a unique approach to the traditional format and delivers a fresh, awe-filled journey worth taking. You can transform to your god form to fight waves of enemies with ethereal powers at your fingertips and when you return to your human form, you can nail enemies in the face with your crossbow and slice them to pieces with your sword. There’s a great adventure out there worth exploring, and it’s up to you — with the help of some gods — to save the world.
Your sword and shield are bestowed to you by two unnamed villagers, who then show you how to use them with some short tutorial scenarios — attacking a poor, defenseless dummy with your blade and deflecting apples launched with a catapult with your shield — which help prepare you for future combat scenarios. Last but certainly not least, you are given access to your mechanical, lever-drawn crossbow and shown a course of pots on pedestals and rocks with crystals growing out of them to destroy. It feels perfectly designed as the lever clicks and the fire of your bolt gives a satisfying ‘thunk’ as it flies. It’s certainly the best feeling part of the game, and as you upgrade it during your adventure, you’ll quickly be able to headshot enemies — learning through play — and it’s a natural process that showcases how well Turtle Rock Studios designed their weaponry.
Blasting pots and crystals to smithereens is great and all, but the true purpose behind your ceramic and crystalline carnage is to show you how to collect ‘belief’ — the only currency available in the game. Belief is the key to unlocking your god-gifted powers, and fills a feather on your dominant hand — you can pick this each time you fire up the game — which allows you to transform into a hulking creature with neon claws. As this larger-than-life version of yourself, you can see enemies highlighted and can lift green saplings up from the ground to instantly grow a tree, thwarting their nefarious plans by blocking their marching path. Additionally, you can strike enemies with lightning bolts pulled from the sky and even slow down time significantly, amongst other powers. Each power gives you a supernatural advantage over the evil forces that severely outnumber you otherwise. Completing each area in the game offers you a visit from one of the other birdlike gods of the realm, who then bestow their power upon you with their appropriate colored feather, and grant you their gifts for the rest of the game.
There’s a lot of charm to love about Journey of the Gods. One of my favorite details is a golden owl who serves as your guide throughout your journey; it saves your game and you can even pet it if you get close enough to it. The low-poly style offers a simplistic representation of the land and its inhabitants, but the vibrant and bright color palette more than makes up for the lack of definition. In the hub land of the village, each one of the villagers are more than just a set piece, too.
During the course of the game, you’ll be able to find upgrades to your weapons and health hidden behind nooks and crannies in a relatively large land for you to explore. Give these upgrades to the appropriate villager, and they will gladly upgrade your tools — increasing ammo amounts for the crossbow, giving your shield new abilities and even allowing for a charged sword attack after enough sword parts are acquired. Keeping yourself eagle-eyed while playing is the best way to play as the upgrades you can acquire are certainly worth the effort. This also allows you to take in the beautiful landscapes that fill each area with towering terrain that really sets a sense of scale for how small you feel in comparison.
The bad guys you face in Journey of the Gods are menacing, and since you can only take a couple hits before you lose a life, you need to be on your guard at all times. Nearly all foes in the game can shoot a projectile at you, so your shield is something you’ll be using often — it is only available with your sword equipped, so you’ll have to switch quickly to avoid damage and then back again to fire off a few bolts. There are many different types of enemies, and some of the most unique forms are the most dangerous, as they can shoot beams from their faces. I found that my sword did little to calm their wrath as they approached me; I quickly came to the conclusion that the crossbow was going to be my primary weapon, regardless of what menace confronted me and how they were intended to be slayed.
Boss fights are not a terribly common occurrence, but when experienced are larger than life, just like any good boss fight should be. Monsters tower over you, flailing and attacking you with powerful blows, but once you equip your god form, it’s almost feels like cheating as you dwarf these beasts and can attack them with lightning blasts. Making sure you have enough belief to activate your powers if a good thing to pay attention to, as running out leaves you humble and small again, and it makes you realize how powerful you really are in comparison.
There are a few puzzling assignments that you must complete during your adventure and some of your powers are specifically dedicated to assisting you towards these tasks. Time manipulation, for example, can allow you to move across a quickly rotating platform; there is a power that allows you to move sand that can help create a ramp to access an otherwise inaccessible path. Playing around with these powers for the most part won’t do much in the way of combat, but it’s nice to have them, as I found the puzzles fun and engaging.
Those prone to motion sickness won’t be bummed out by the experience, as there are many options to choose from! Being able to play seated or standing, with a motion vignette or without, and even swapping primary weapon hands is a godsend, and I am so happy to see that they went out of their way to accommodate nearly everyone with their superb accessibility options and features.
Journey of the Gods is a wonderful testament to how a well-crafted VR action adventure game can be created when a team with strong dedication to brilliant design and artwork is given the reins. I fully enjoyed every second of combat, exploration and clever puzzle-solving that the game had to offer, and even though the story isn’t as engaging as I’d like, it made me fill in the blanks with my heroics instead. It was a beautiful experience that put me in the shoes of a hero and gave me the proper weapons to vanquish evil — I will certainly recall the memories of my journey fondly.
Journey of the Gods is available now on the Oculus Store.