Having your head in the clouds takes on a whole new meaning with Tethered, a PSVR game by Secret Sorcery coming out October 25th, where you take the role of a god overlooking the lands of cute creatures called peeps. We had the chance to get a glympse of the game prior to its official release date.
Your ultimate goal will be to free the Spirit Guardian of every island, 13 in total, by collecting the spirit energy that appears around the world. The more peeps you have, the more spirit energy you will be able to collect. Centered around a day/night cycle, you will have to continuously guide your peeps to either obtain resources or construct buildings during the day, and fight off monsters to protect your island during the night.
The engaging gameplay, the hand-painted worlds, the small details that make you care for your peeps, and the beautiful soundtrack create an immersive experience that is well worth the price of $29.99 and $23.99 for PS+ members.
Clouds as viewpoints
To eliminate any motion sickness, Secret Sorcery decided to use clouds as viewpoints. While you are fixed to a particular cloud, which only leaves you the possibility to look around, you will also be able to jump from cloud to cloud to get a complete picture of the island. It is an elegant solution, which feels natural the first time you use it.
While strategy players usually prefer mouse and keyboard, Secret Sorcery has done a great job to make the PSVR feel truly natural for that genre of game. Being thrown in the world gives you an entirely new perspective to enjoy the game and strategize. Many may even find it alot more comfortable than mouse or controller movement.
Immersion through details
To help with the immersion, Secret Sorcery really paid attention to details. Every single element is hand-painted, which gives Tethered a unique feeling and style.
The peeps themselves will react to your movements. They might turn their head when you turn yours or wave when you look at them. Those seemingly unimportant details add up, and in the end, create the illusion that the peeps are somehow real and truly need you.
If you let yourself be immersed, you will start to care about the fate of these little guys. I was surprised at how immersed I was. To give an example, the spirit energy you collect flies straight into your virtual mouth and – believe it or not – I’ve found myself opening my real mouth to catch it.
I’ve found myself opening my real mouth to catch it!
Another important immersive feature is that every single musical element of the game will change depending on the time. The sound you hear when tethering a cloud to a peep during the day is not the same during the night. All these details help you to simply forget that you’re a human with a PSVR headset and instead make you feel like the god of these cute little peeps.
Tethering and building
To guide your peeps, you will use the tethering mechanic. Acting upon the world is done by tethering, or linking, two items or creatures. A tutorial will guide you through every combination, but if you are curious about an exhaustive list of objects, you can check out our Tethered: Game Preview.
To summarize, you can tether sky objects, such as sun or clouds, to buildings or peeps and that will give you certain bonuses. While a snow cloud will give armor, rain will regrow your fields, and so on. You can also combine clouds together to create a thundercloud, for example, that can be used to kill your enemies.
By tethering peeps to resources, they will start collecting them. If they are tethered to specific buildings, they can also choose a profession to either become more efficient at collecting resources or stronger when fighting enemies.
There are five different types of buildings that serve a specific purpose. The workshop will help you control the weather and spawn specific clouds, the barracks are used to kill creatures, temples are used to convert your resources and your peeps into spirit energy, etc.
Simply put, construct buildings that will either help you defend against monsters or help you collect resources, give a purpose to your peeps, grow your village, and combine sky objects to accelerate the process. The day cycle is short enough that you will not find yourself bored, but long enough to make significant progress.
Tethered offers 13 unique levels at launch, which will take 30-70 minutes to complete for the average gamer. Every level consists of an island drifting in the sky. Each island has its unique design and its own starting building.
For example, you might start with a field on an island, making it easier to collect food but harder to defend against creatures.
Also, you can find small entertaining riddles on every island. We found that the length of a level was ideal for a single sitting. Our gaming sessions usually consisted of completing one level and then taking a break. Secret Sorcery seems to have found a great balance between fun and challenge.
Engaging and Challenging
Tethered requires a lot of attention! It is not an easy game by any means.
There is always something to do, and if you forget to take care of a peep, it will start to despair. Once its desperation level is high enough, it will tragically suicide by jumping off the island, leaving a hole in your heart and your defenses. While suicide might be one of the leading causes of deaths amongst peeps, the night creatures can also prove to be challenging.
There is always something to do in Tethered…
A strong monster able to kill two of our heroes appeared on the second level, and we had to use a thunder cloud to kill it. If we did not have the correct clouds, or if we had used them in other ways, we might’ve suffered greater losses.
The decisions you take do have consequences, but the gameplay is flexible enough to offer you multiple paths to victory.
Many ways to play and to replay
The speed-rushers reading us will be happy to know that leaderboards have been created so that you can brag about how fast you led your Peeps to their salvation. For others, various ways to play are possible.
Crystals are hidden around the map and finding and collecting them can become very entertaining. You can give the map your own individual style, upgrade specific buildings and create various professions for your peeps.
It is very easy to simply enjoy the maps, as there are beautiful waterfalls, caves, and plants. We recommend to take your time on your first play through of every island and try to beat it in more than one way.
This game offers an excellent replay value. Use the force of your peeps, by upgrading them into heroes, to fight monsters, or be a merciful god that protects his or her subjects by using the power of thunder to kill enemies.
Take your time by discovering every element of the island, or try to rank amongst the top gods on the leaderboards. The game will offer you at least 8 hours of gameplay, which makes it an incredible value for a PSVR game.
What could be done better
Tethered is, however, not without flaws. While using a PS4 DualShock controller is not uncomfortable by any means, we regret that the use of the PS Move was not integrated.
Also, the in-game menus will sometimes be displayed in a strange angle or just way too close to your face, which becomes slightly annoying as you have to lean out to see it entirely. But this could certainly be fixed by a patch.
Furthermore, it becomes harder and harder to keep track of all your peeps as you progress through the level.
Secret Sorcery missed a great opportunity by not offering the possibility to customize your peeps. If we could not only name them but also spend time dressing them up with various accessories and so on, a more personal relationship would be possible with each peep.
That would also greatly help with keeping track of all of them and make the game much more immersive. At the start of every level, I wanted to be able to name my first Peep and see if he would make it to the end.
Unfortunately, except for the various professions, you cannot customize peeps.
Finally, the lack of autosave and save features while you are in a level is a little problematic. If you want to play for 10 or 20 minutes, that is hardly doable if you want to keep your progress. So be prepared to finish a level from start to finish, before starting a session of Tethered.
To conclude, despite its cute looks, Tethered offers a challenging and immersive experience to the PlayStation VR. It is a great game that will be enjoyed by any strategy/simulation fan, and at the same time opens the door for future strategy games. It is a genre that we did not necessarily expect to fit as naturally as it does in Virtual Reality.
Secret Sorcery has accomplished a great feat by paying close attention to details, which provides the players with a sincere desire to care for the peeps.
Despite the impossibility to use a PS Move, the lack of customization for the peeps, a sometimes awkward UI, and the absence of a save feature in the middle of a level, Tethered is a game that is well worth its price and provides many hours of fun, sadness, and awe.