There are some games that come out of nowhere and leave us pleasantly surprised. Farlands is one of them, with good reason though, considering it’s a free, first-party developed launch title for a brand new platform. We thought we saw everything for the Oculus Rift in the GDC event, trying out the 30 launch titles, but it seems that Oculus Studios saved something special up their sleeve. And that trump card it’s called Farlands.
Farlands differ greatly from all other games on Oculus Store. Several of them are designed to be played in short bursts, almost like small mini-games in a way, while others are designed to be played for potentially several hours at a time. Farlands can be played on both ways, with an extra feature of constant daily updates and changes, even if you aren’t playing.
But the most prominent feature of Farlands is how lovely it looks. It reminds mostly on Animal Crossing if Animal Crossing included roaming across alien planets and having a talking robot sidekick. Maybe the best way to describe it is VR No Man’s Sky with Claptrap from Borderlands. You’re equipped with an analysis tool that does everything from identifying creatures and planets all the way to telling you what a creature wants for food. You have a very useful teleportation ability and a scanner that basically takes photos of everything. Leaning forward and backward in the headset lets you zoom – a nice and subtle integration of VR into the experience.
The game is utterly gorgeous, it’s one of the better-looking games out there and it utilizes 3D sound and spatial awareness better than most of the VR games. You’d actually feel the need to turn and inspect the source of the sound so investing in a good swivel chair is a must for Farlands. After you explore the surface of a planet, scanning flora and fauna and uncovering the secrets, you’ll get teleported to the ship and given a rating of your performance by your commander. Although the plot is silly and loose, the voice acting is very good and adds to the immersion.
Although we wanted to move around the environment, it’s hindered by the limitation of the system, and movement is done by teleports only. The upside to that is the inclusion of being able to play the entire game with the Oculus Remote, but the downside is an artificial limitation on interaction and immersive context.
Another interesting aspect of Farlands is how it updates and changes daily. It’s obviously done to this dynamic is an interesting way to stay relevant and interesting, but there’s also a heavy dose of skepticism, as we don’t know what the future content will be like.
It’s possible we’ll never talk about this game a year from now. Like many exploring and VR games, it might slip into oblivion as another wasted potential. However, in its current state, Farlands offer beautiful worlds to explore and ever-changing content with the great dose of immersion. And that’s enough for a decent gaming experience.