HIGH Throwing the ball with what always feels like perfect aim.
LOW Some clumsy platforming.
WTF Those giant armadillo things that chase after the ball.
Eclipse: Edge of Light is the sort of game that would probably feel wholly unremarkable in any medium other than VR. In fact, a Switch version exists, and I can only imagine it being an ugly and lifeless experience on a flat screen. That said, there is a real value to being genuinely enveloped in a world, and to physically perform actions that would be unsatisfying if relegated to a single button press.
Eclipse opens with the player’s ship crash-landing onto an alien planet. Though an intelligent civilization once reigned here, it’s now in ruins and occasional wildlife is all that remains. We get brief excerpts of this world’s history through a Metroid Prime-esque scanning system that allows us to extract alien logs through various artifacts. We ascertain that an eclipse and a “prophet” were in some way involved with this society’s downfall. There’s also evidence that other explorers came before us, leaving notes of caution for whoever followed.
Our primary means of navigating the ruins is through a peculiar spherical device simply referred to as the “artifact.” The player breaks objects and activates switches by throwing the ball with a physical pitching motion of one of the controllers. It’s the kind of action that’s infinitely more satisfying because we’re actually doing it, rather than pushing a button and watching it happen. Eclipse does a good job of figuring out what the player is trying to hit and homing in on it, and the effect is hidden so smoothly that it often felt like I just had incredible aim.
The artifact offers a couple of other abilities. It can be used to levitate objects, which can come in handy during simple puzzle sequences where the player needs to hold down a pressure plate with a nearby statue, for example. It can also detect environmental objects that are otherwise invisible, though that’s rarely required and often just provides more exposition. Finally, breakable objects yield glowing dust that the artifact can absorb and use to activate certain mechanisms, though it’s an odd mechanic, since there doesn’t seem to be any way of knowing exactly how much dust the player has at any given point.
Eclipse largely has the pace and tone of a walking sim. There isn’t any combat outside of a few security devices that need to be destroyed, and ‘death’ only tends to put the player back a few feet. The focus is on exploration as the player delves deeper into the ruins and uncovers the mystery of what happened to the planet’s inhabitants. The puzzles are also pretty simple in nature, since the player only has a few verbs and the environments tend to be sparse enough that it’s always clear exactly what we’re supposed to be interacting with.
Although throwing the artifact has a wonderfully tactile feel to it, actually navigating Eclipse isn’t as smooth. The player has a jetpack (always welcome) but platforming is nevertheless awkward due to both the one-speed movement of the Vive’s trackpads and the oddly-defined collision boxes surrounding both environments and the player. Again, the checkpoints are extremely generous, but some of these sections are a bit of a chore regardless.
What Eclipse does relatively well, however, is create an intriguing alien landscape that’s distinctive and stylized, but also simple enough to work within the VR medium’s limited graphical capabilities. Although rock formations and particles aren’t always pretty, both plants and animals have a deliberately rigid, metallic look that functions well in VR, and artificial structures are blocky and modular in a way that hints at technologies we don’t understand yet. A strong, ambient soundtrack sets a tone that’s both relaxing and ominous at once.
While the story’s climax is a little more focused on flashing lights than concrete answers, some of the setpieces in the last couple of chapters demonstrate a scale that’s both impressive at a glance and beneficial to a VR game, since the farther we are from the blurry textures, the better.
On a non-VR platform, Eclipse would likely come across as empty-feeling and slight, but between the smart implementation of motion controls and a visual style that’s conscious of its limits, Eclipse makes enough of the right decisions to be worth a look for anyone who owns a headset. I continue to root for this technology, and I savor opportunities that transport me to the sorts of bizarre worlds that games like Eclipse can.
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by White Elk LLC. It is currently available on PlayStation 4, PC and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC using Vive. Approximately three hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: As of press time, this game has been rated T by the ESRB and contains Blood and Violence. There’s no language and very little direct violence — the only noteworthy thing is that players will occasionally come across dead bodies with a bit of blood splattered about, but it’s neither realistic-looking nor upsetting.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: There is no spoken dialogue. The artifact emits a ringing noise whenever an invisible item is near, and while it also glows green, that effect doesn’t kick in until considerably closer. Still, that’s more of an annoyance than a game-breaker.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. There is no control diagram. When playing with Vive, the left trackpad is used to move, and the right is used to turn. Players hold the left trigger to jetpack, while the right trigger is used for various actions including throwing the artifact, scanning, and levitating objects.