FATED: The Silent Oath’s abrupt ending and unsatisfying puzzles break the promise of grand viking adventure.
FATED: The Silent Oath has traveled a long and winding path to find its way to the PlayStation VR. Released last year for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, developer Frima Studios’ emotional viking adventure was originally slated to launch alongside Sony’s VR headset on October 13, 2016. However, a last minute delay managed to keep the game out of PSVR owners’ reach for the better part of six months. Now that the game is finally here, I’m not entirely sure it was worth the wait.
Don’t get me wrong, FATED: The Silent Oath is a lovely game that really manages to drag you by the heartstrings through the wilds of a strange Nordic land that’s brought to life by a cast of colorful, likable characters. It starts to spin an engaging yarn as well, touching on some rather heavy and personal themes that will make the parents out there want to keep the Kleenex close. Sadly, after a slow first half, the game really starts to lay the groundwork for an epic that feels like it’s going to be something really special. And then the credits begin to roll, leaving players hanging just as the experience begins to shine its brightest – a whole whopping hour after stepping into the shoes of your voiceless hero.
Voiceless, you say? Well, that titular oath is silent for a reason. In FATED: The Silent Oath, players take on the role of Ulfer, a mortally wounded viking with hands the size of canned hams who finds himself aboard a rickety wagon on what appears to be a one-way trip to Valhalla. But before he’s reading to visit that great big mead hall in the sky, Ulfer is visited by a mysterious Valkyrie who offers him another chance at life so that he can save his family. “At what cost?”, you ask? Just Ulfer’s voice. It may seem like an interesting premise for a story, but all this really serves as is an excuse for the player to use the PSVR’s head tracking features to nod or shake their head at certain key points in the story where your input in the dialog is necessary. While the immersion gained from making binary choices with a crane of your neck is debatable, it’s a serviceable enough way of getting things done. And thankfully, these moments are infrequent enough that it never feels like too much of a gimmick. Not once did I feel I needed to relive my awkward teenage years by headbanging wildly in order to get my choices to register in some sad pantomime of a Cannibal Corpse concert.
While FATED: The Silent Oath may look like an adventure game on the surface, it actually has much more in common with the numerous VR experience titles that have become popular in recent years. As you explore the wooded wilds, dreary catacombs, and winding paths of the game’s rugged world you’ll largely play the role of the spectator. Be it watching dialog unfold between your comrades as you gather around a fire under a starlit sky, or ride your rickety caravan along a wooded path, you’ll spend more time during the hour-long tale bonding with your comrades than exploring ancient ruins or discerning puzzles. And when you do come across one of the game’s infrequent puzzles, they’re nothing more than simple pattern-matching puzzles that can be completed without losing a step’s worth of progress. It’s a shame, too. Because the simplicity of the puzzles makes what could have been a grand adventure feel utterly toothless, where failure is all but impossible for anyone with a working set of thumbs and eyes.
Still, the point of FATED: The Silent Oath isn’t to present a challenge, it’s to immerse the player in a vibrant fantasy world as it tells a story of love, revenge, and the iron-clad bonds of parenthood. That’s why it’s so disappointing that just as things start to get really exciting and begin to evolve into the foundation of what seems like something really special, Ulfer’s tale comes to an abrupt, grinding halt, leaving all of your hopes for closure smoldering like a viking funeral that’s gone into overtime.
As short as the ride is, at least it’s a comfortable one. Players control their burly avatar using the DualShock 4. Locomotion is handled by allowing the player to walk freely with the left analog stick, while the right stick is used to turn incrementally. Tapping up or down on the digital pad allows you to change the turn ratio, though I have to admit it’s pretty disappointing that the developer decided against giving players the option to choose smooth turning. Additionally, tapping left or right on the digital pad adds different visual markers such as symbols, cubes, and other overlays to give players visual anchor points to focus on, which should definitely help any players who’re prone to VR sickness. So kudos to Frima Studios for that. Though again, the addition of smooth turning would have been very welcome, as the jerkiness of incremental rotation is something that always kills the immersion for me. And immersion is what VR is all about, isn’t it?
FATED: The Silent Oath is by no means a bad game, but it also doesn’t feel like a finished one, either. Frankly, it’d be a lot easier to recommend the game if it happened to be the first part in an episodic series. Sadly, this isn’t the case. When all is said and done, FATED‘s thoughtful and poignant narrative often shows flashes of promise, but the game’s sudden and unsatisfying climax to an almost criminally short adventure just left me wanting more.
Final Verdict: 3/5
Available on: PSVR (reviewed), Oculus Rift, HTC Vive ; Publisher: Frima Studios ; Developer: Frima Studios ; Players: 1 ; Released: March 28, 2017; ESRB: T for Teen; MSRP: $9.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of FATED: The Silent Oath given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.