Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
XING: The Land Beyond is an above average experience that is visually very impressive, even if its Myst-like inspiration does not bring a ton of originality to the table. Still, despite some controls that take a little getting used to, this is a beautiful game that helps you to really appreciate just how visually immersive virtual reality can be.
I mean, first and foremost, let’s talk about the graphics. Most people who are investing in VR have pretty beefy systems at their disposal, and that is good because XING: The Land Beyond pushes the hardware whether you are using it in VR or just playing it on the screen. I vote the VR experience though, because it is really fantastic to look around the environment and soak in the detail and movement. Little things from the rippling, reflective water surfaces to the way the trees sway in the wind are nice touches that when combined with the ambient audio do a fantastic job of whisking you away to an all new world that is both soothing and interesting.
Now since I am touching on the visuals, I want to briefly talk about the audio presentation. The sound effects and ambient noises work well enough, but the music was just a bit off for me. It was not what I would call bad, but it never really ‘fit’ for me either. Definitely not one of those soundtracks that sticks with me in a good way once I take off the headset.
What is this world? Well, I won’t delve too far into the story except to say that this is labeled a spiritual journey, one where you have died and moved on from your physical form and find yourself in the afterlife. From there, you journey through these different lands, picking up items and uncovering secret stories locked behind a wide range of environmental puzzles. Now, most of these puzzles serve as only slight speed bumps. I don’t think I hit my first head scratcher until I was a couple of hours or so in. This combined with controls that took some serious getting used to (I’m not sure why exactly, but they just felt clumsy and awkward for about the first half of my time spent playing the game) were a bit of a letdown. Outside of the controls, there are some pretty beefy load times that come with all of these pretty pictures, and the end result did kick me out of the immersion during those times.
One other gameplay quirk worth bringing up is the movement. I personally use walking whenever possible in VR titles, but the lack of step or transportation as a means of locomotion means that some players who are sensitive to VR sickness will no doubt get bitten by this one here. It is so beautiful, and I was able to roll with it, but every now and then, just the corners of my eyes were picking up on the smooth moving environment and I would grow just a tad uneasy. In my experience, games where that happens to me are ones that can be far worse for others.
To its credit, XING: The Land Beyond has more content than a lot of other VR games I have covered. You can spend five or six hours with it pretty easily, which is far better than the ones you complete in under ninety minutes. It is a very slow, casual experience without death or fear of failure – you simply find and work through a variety of puzzles, most of which are not all that challenging. This is a beautiful game, no doubt about it, though the awkward controls and the music were concerns of mine throughout. Still, XING: The Land Beyond makes for better-than-average fare in the adventure / VR market and should appeal to fans of Myst and similar games.Score: 6.5 / 10