Theseus Reviews

AuthorReview
Slam-Shot-Sam
62,529 (41,055)
Slam-Shot-Sam
TT Score for this game: 226
Posted on 25 July 17 at 15:03, Edited on 25 July 17 at 15:03
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Theseus | PS VR | Review

A dark take on the Ancient Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, Theseus is one of the most engaging virtual reality games we’ve played, despite having its share of problems.

Awaking in the otherworldly Limbo (as in Greek mythology, not the game from the developers of INSIDE), an area flooded by bloody waters and crowded with floating debris, you assume the role of Theseus and venture forth into the Labyrinth. Drawn deep within by whispers and a travelling light, the ethereal Ariadne reveals herself and begs that you save her from Asterion, the fearsome Minotaur holding her captive at the centre of the maze. Here begins an understated narrative with loops, twists and turns befitting its setting, delivered through environmental subtitles that illustrate Ariadne’s foreign tongue.

While the story’s based on a classic, the striking visuals are modern as they come. Beautifully bleak level designs are complemented by sharp textures and impressive lighting that hold up to close scrutiny, really wrapping you in the moody atmosphere. Though environments are also enjoyable to navigate, their linearity does betray the images conjured when you consider charting a path through the Labyrinth.

Not just locales, but every single element of Theseus’ presentation is incredibly well considered. Played from a third-person perspective, you regularly switch between fixed viewpoints that perfectly place you to offer the best overview of the action in that moment. This can land you in some affecting places - like over a sheer drop, uncomfortably close to a corpse, or in a dank crevice - which can be unnerving even while you’re safe in the knowledge you’ll come to no harm as the disembodied camera operator.

Every single element of Theseus’ presentation is incredibly well considered.
Encounters with Asterion offer up more legitimate scares, the beast being a liberal interpretation of the fabled Minotaur. Conventionally a man with the head of a bull, you’ll instead meet a towering, skull-faced monster with a vertical maw of sharp teeth dominating its torso. The design is definitely Dark Souls inspired, which only serves to make him all the more an imposing physical presence, especially within the 3D realms of VR.

Initially the Labyrinth’s guardian, Asterion was consumed by a literal darkness and coerced into doing evil. Luckily for you, this corruption blinded the creature, making stealth the proverbial sword of Damocles hanging over his head. There’s no fighting him, so you’ll need to take the time to creep when his back is turned and freeze when fixed in his gaze to avoid getting insta-killed.

You can battle his eight-legged offspring, though combat is the game’s weak link. Arachnophobes will be disheartened to learn spiders are the solitary enemy type, but can hopefully find solace in the fact they’ll get to stab and burn plenty of the blighters. Theseus fluidly switches between targets as you push the analogue stick in their direction and launch attacks with either his sword or, provided you have one to hand, flaming torch. There’s no real call for finesse here, just mash your way to victory.

Whilst the combat system won’t win any awards, it’s nonetheless exciting to see the choreographed fights play out right in front of you. The same applies to the final encounter, which isn’t anything special in terms of gameplay, but is spectacle enough that you likely won’t mind.

With an incredibly cinematic presentation - one that we find reminiscent of Guillermo del Toro’s work, specifically in its flair for presenting an engrossingly dark fantasy that incorporates elements of both Hollywood and art house - it’s perhaps no surprise that Theseus clocks in at about feature length. It’ll likely take two to three hours to complete, though returning for a second run to gather all of the collectibles and unlock the true ending is an enticing prospect.

If it wasn’t already clear, we adore Theseus’ understated narrative and grim aesthetic. The game draws positive comparisons to a lot of properties we love, but also maintains a strong identity of its own, really hitting a sweet spot in the process. As a result, in spite of the weak combat and linear progression, Theseus is an easy recommendation for PlayStation VR owners.

Pros

+ Visually stunning
+ Filmic presentation
+ Understated story
+ Forge Reply's disturbing take on the Minotaur

Cons​​

- Perhaps the most linear Labyrinth you'll explore
- Weak combat system

8/10

Trophies

Getting 100% in Theseus isn't a particularly difficult prospect, with gathering all of the collectibles being the only area you might need the assistance of a guide. Following one from the start (or just exploring very thoroughly) will see you finished in one playthrough, otherwise you'll need to delve into the Labyrinth a second time, which isn't much of a hardship considering the game's high quality and short length.

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Originally written for Pass the Controller, a copy was provided for the purpose of this review.

You can check out my Xbox One reviews over at TrueAchievements.

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