Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
With the impending release of Skybound Entertainment and Skydance Interactive’s The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners’ Aftershocks for VR, we were treated to both the full game as well as a preview of what players could expect to find once they finished the base game. Before getting into the Aftershocks of your decisions however, I’m happy to share my time of surviving the Zombie apocalypse with a headset strapped to my face and nowhere to back up as the walkers close that distance faster than you would like.
So up front, this journey probably took me a bit longer than it would normal VR veterans as I had to work my way through a form of motion sickness that I’ve never experienced while playing rhythm simulators. It was never game breaking and there are several options which can help a player figure out what works for them after potentially making some other exterior adjustments through Steam VR if they had not already been done.
So available for adjustments in order to better survive the apocalypse are an actual motion sickness adjustment bar that can be adjusted anywhere from 0-100%. After clocking that setting to 100% I then experimented with other available settings such as being able to move the camera in chunks or having full manual control. Still feeling a bit queasy after twenty to thirty minute sessions, there was one last setting that once selected made it all the better which was disabling the vignette feature which would focus down on a point blocking the rest out while moving or looking. I found that by removing that and just having a full world view helped immensely and the rest because history and I could easily go for over an hour at a time.
Now, for the actual experience, it’s brilliant. Set in a post apocalyptic New Orleans, or NOLA for short, you’re here on a treasure hunt that will soon prove to potentially be more trouble than it’s worth. With two major factions fighting over what is known as The Reserve, a stockpile of military grade gear and rations from the National Guard to help with flooding right before the zombie apocalypse, you’re going to have some tough decisions to make. Do you sneak around everyone to get what you need? Do you reach out a hand to those willing to take it? Or do you hack, slash and shoot your way through everything in your way? As far as I know? I don’t think there’s a right decision other than what your own conscience tells you.
Visually, I had to stop a few times on this adventure to just take it all in. Sure, it’s the apocalypse, and sure, everything is run down, broken, or destroyed with the undead running around trying to eat anything that’s still alive, but damn does it look good. Set to a scale that makes you think that you’re actually moving through this world as a real sized person, there’s plenty to poke and prod at, hide behind or sneak through as you either explore for materials in order to upgrade your gear or blast your way through the people who would easily shoot you dead for not passing over whatever they happen to be demanding at that point in time. This is what will either make you a sinner, or a saint.
Unfortunately for this world I was a sinner as Steam even told me so as I ended the lives of many people who just were too much of a pain in the ass to sneak around. I mean all they had to do was leave their post, but did they? No. So, to not get killed myself, I had to strike first. To do so though requires a bit of adaptation of the controller and this is where I got to see the real glory of motion controllers that Nintendo with the Wii could only ever hope to achieve.
To maneuver this world, there are two things you’re going to have to get very comfortable with, very fast. These are your left and right hands as they each both hold a controller which like in real life can handle a multitude of tasks. Moving around can be done with the left thumbstick as you can either walk, run or crouch for minimum noise and maximum stealth. From there, you can either look around with your right thumbstick or move your actual head around to guide yourself. Both can be done and the settings can be adjusted for what works best for you.
After that, everything else is quite literally hands on with the pressure pads that let you pick up, hold, or throw distractions to help sneak around. On your person, you have a left, right and shoulder holster for weapons. Two small arms and one large that requires both hands to use properly. Small to medium knives and pistols can be easily stored left and right while your shoulder is reserved for large guns like rifles and shotguns or battle axes and baseball bats. Need more than this? Over time if you reach over your left shoulder you can bring out your backpack that can store other smaller gear as well as be adapted to carry more than one extra large weapon. Otherwise it can be used to keep medical supplies on hand and carry a variety of items that you’ll use to break down for materials in order to craft better gear to help keep yourself alive once you make it home.
The best part about these features is that because you’re reaching for where they should be on your body, they’ll be right where you expect them to be. This was just as much while sitting down as standing up with the only real issue being if you decided to sit in a chair with armrests. Otherwise? Just make sure to hold on to your stuff because you may lose it by accidentally dropping it which REALLY sucks in a fight. This can also be adjusted in the settings but I always felt it better to be able to quickly grab, throw and store things by simply letting go.
Where this is a little less of an issue is for both your flashlight in your journal which can be found by reaching out to either the left or right sides of your chest. Flashlight on the left can be turned on and then let go to strap in leaving your hands free for zombies or other humans. The journal on the other hand can be used to track quests, hand over letters or check out an area’s map while walking around. To do this the journal has to stay open otherwise it closes and is also automatically put away.
With all of these tools on hand, you’re more or less free to tackle your quest at your own pace. Split between tasks of a woman named Mai who operates out of the shadows and a man named Cassey at the other end of a radio, you’ll be hearing them or reading notes passed over by them more than you’ll be seeing them face to face. This is ok as it gives you the time to really think about the things that they say and gives you time to make up your own mind as to whether or not you trust them for when the time comes that you can get into The Reserve itself.
In the meantime, you are free to explore the various areas of NOLA but as time goes on the overall amount of supplies will drop and the amount of undead will increase. Now there are several benefits to this. The first, is that you can explore each area and know what you’re in for in regards to the layout of each part of town without really having to worry about either faction trying to gun you down. The second is that you can collect a ton of resources to break down in order to better your gear which steadily increases your chances of survival as crafted gear is much more durable and reliable than the crap you pick up on the streets.
Otherwise, once you really get started and things start to pick up, it’s really hard to put it down. Interesting characters, fun gameplay, maybe the only issue that I had other than figuring out how to aim ranged weapons in VR were the darker areas. Atmospherically terrifying with nothing more than a crappy flashlight, it gets really hard on the eyes within the forced darkness. But that’s it. Short of that one issue, I loved every minute of it as once I managed to walk my way to the ending credits? I was ready to see the Aftershocks of the decisions that I had made to get there.
Edit: Or I was ready to see the aftershocks of my decisions however apparently what I really got to see was the current end game which is in its own right fun. The Aftershocks are yet to come sometime next month when it releases on September 23.
So overall, The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners is an incredible VR experience through a world ravaged by both a flood and the undead. With more to come next week with the launch of Aftershocks, we’ll be back shortly next with a preview of what can be expected as the adventure continues!Score: 9 / 10