You’ve got to love a good virtual reality (VR) horror. There’s just something about slowly wandering around dusty old houses with creaking windows and poorly lit rooms that just makes you wonder why you started in the first place…and then those eyes appear out the darkness. In 2021 Fast Travel Games (Apex Construct) will be adding to this genre with its first horror title Wraith: The Oblivion – Afterlife, a rather creepy, haunted house-style experience that’s just brimming with atmosphere.
It’s a heavily story-driven experience with a kind of murder-mystery whodunit feel to it all. But in this mystery you’re not solving someone else’s death you’re trying to work out what happened to your unfortunate soul. Because you play Ed Miller, a photographer invited to a séance with his girlfriend at the mansion of a major Hollywood producer. Naturally, something horrible goes awry and Miller ends up dead. Not happy in the afterlife dead with white fluffy clouds and harps playing but a grim in between, stuck as a wraith trapped in the Barclay Mansion unable to leave.
This gives Wraith: The Oblivion – Afterlife an excellent start, already offering a captivating narrative that draws you in and begs to be uncovered. Also nice is the fact that you’re a wraith rather than a helpless soul just trying to survive. As such you’re imbued with powers to aid your lonely wandering around the house, with two available in VRFocus’ preview, Wraith Grasp which lets you pick stuff up at a distance (quite common in VR videogames) and a sort of sixth sense to detect hidden items.
However, your wraith existence isn’t that lonely appearing occasionally and talking in your head is The Shadow, a dark manifestation of Miller’s subconscious who can be both helpful and problematic – although the hindering side didn’t really show during the 2-hour demo. What did appear were two of Wraith’s Spectres, malevolent beings who were once people yet now wander the mansion looking for you. And to say these creatures are quite terrifying is maybe an understatement, especially when they spot you, scream and run at you. There’s one called The Hanged Man who offers a jump moment in the library but it’s The Sad Cinematographer who wanders about which really makes hiding a priority.
And that’s primarily what’s required as Wraith: The Oblivion – Afterlife is about building tension and that sense of foreboding. There’s no way to attack these creatures or kill them. You can lob a bottle to distract them or use a flash to help give you a moment’s breather but that is it. This is a walking horror, so most of the time was spent exploring and the Barclay Mansion seems to be massive, never offering a moment of calm. From what was shown so far there weren’t really any jump scares, it’s all about that atmosphere and what could be around the corner.
You do have things to do, there’s some light puzzling involved, you can take photos to reveal a different part of the story, plus plenty of cupboards and other interactive objects to play with. As more of the narrative is revealed you can head to a save point – a rather old-school feature – and go to the mind palace where all those new memories are sorted. Wraith: The Oblivion – Afterlife doesn’t feature any HUD or a proper inventory, so this is a useful side area for taking a break.
With all the walking involved Wraith: The Oblivion – Afterlife features a nice, extensive list of comfort options that should meet most needs. Smooth locomotion is the default or there’s the avatar teleport option. Rather than an ugly teleport arc ruining the ambience, a marker runs across the floor which you’ll then teleport to when it stops, providing a neat alternative.
From what VRFocus has seen so far of Wraith: The Oblivion – Afterlife – which equates to around 15-20% of the videogame the studio claim – it is looking very promising. The scare factor feels spot-on, not too much, yet enough to keep you on edge, and the whole aesthetic of the mansion and the events that have taken place work tremendously. The only worry is the lack of things to do, which VRFocus expects to ramp up alongside the addition of more Spectres. So far so good, very much looking forward to seeing more.
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