[VR Game Review] The Unspoken: J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World Meets Dr. Strange

When the new wave of VR began to penetrate public consciousness, various ideas of what we’d like to do in VR games were bandied about. Stuff we thought would be possible with the last generation of motion controls, such as a light saber game, didn’t turn out to be feasible without 1 to 1 tracking.

Now that motion controls have finally come of age, albeit as a component of VR, those ideas are at last possible to realize. One of them I heard frequently was a wizard dueling game. Something straight out of Harry Potter, two magicians squaring off with all manner of offensive and defensive spells.

Does it live up to that promise? I contend it does. Your mileage may vary, but there’s nothing I can imagine such a game ought to include that isn’t in here, save for a single player campaign. Movement is teleportation based, but then a magic duel game was never going to be focused on locomotion.

No, it’s all about the spell casting. As you might expect there’s a dizzying variety of spells, most of which must be unlocked over time, and they vary meaningfully both in their effects and how they are executed. You may pound an anvil with a hammer to forge a magical lance, or hurl flaming skulls at your enemy.

All of this is done with elaborate gestures, completing the illusion that you’re mastering the arcane arts as your skills at the game improve. The settings, too, are like something out of Magical Beasts and Where to Find them, or any other J.K. Rowling book. There’s an element of vague noir to the city levels in particular.

Besides your basic offensive and defensive spells, there are also titans that can be unleashed by shattering their containment orbs before the other player. This causes them to turn on the opponent with devastating effect. If you see such an orb appear, be the first to cast a fireball at it or reap the consequences.

The story is slim but compelling. You’re a rogue magic user who has run afoul of some sort of league of magic users by casting spells in public. Again, much the same as the first twenty minutes of Magical Beasts and Where to Find Them. A witch comes to your aid, shrouding your apartment so they cannot find you, and introducing you to the world of underground magic duels.

Being PvP only hurts this game somewhat, but it makes up for it by not only being excellent fun, but more importantly a game which couldn’t have been done outside of VR. The whole crux of the game is gestural spell casting, which would be rendered a thousand times less compelling without the use of your hands.

This will appeal to a number of different audiences. Fans of J.K. Rowling’s work. Or Dr. Strange. Fantasy and magic in general. Also competitive PvP maniacs who strive to be the very best, like no one ever was. It’s a brilliant realization of a very old but clever idea for a VR title, and not to be missed if you have the requisite Touch controllers. I give The Unspoken a 9 out of 10.

All images courtesy of Oculus and Insomniac Games.

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