When people think of VR they typically imagine a first-person view on another reality or one that bears a remarkable resemblance to their own. While such simulations project well in VR games, it doesn't have to be this way.
What if the view wasn't of a bipedal human sized creature, but of a nebulous benevolent being that floats in the clouds over a land populated by creatures that worship this deity? That's exactly what Secret Sorcery, the maker of Tethered, has done and I got to have a go at it during EGX 2016.
Floating in the sky is an island with little creatures that resemble Ratchet from Ratchet and Clank. Unlike that all-conquering, wise-cracking hero, these beings are quite helpless and unless carefully guided they'll actually leap off of the edge of the island to their doom. To prevent this the player must ensure these creatures are well fed, both in terms of health and spirit, as well as defended from the beings that invade the island in an attempt to steal precious resources.
At its core, Tethered is a god-sim whose main differentiator is its interface. With Tethered rather than the mouse or thumb-stick being used to position a cursor, the player's head is the pointer. In order to give orders to the creatures on the island, the player selects the creature then looks at the thing they want the creature to interact with. this creates a thin glowing blue line between the creature and their intended target, in effect tethering them to it. Yes, that's right, Tethered is named after its interface.
The demo of Tethered I played at EGX 2016 was designed to show the full gamut of tools that are available to the player, which did lead to me becoming somewhat overwhelmed.
One minute I was guiding clouds over crops, the next I was training warriors to take on the snake-like monsters that come to take resources that I had ordered be collected five minutes prior. Normally there is a slow build-up towards this point, but Secret Sorcery wanted to show off all the aspects of Tethered and I don't blame them, for it is a charming and fun game to play.
My only gripe with Tethered was the method it uses to give a view of the island that is under the player's protection. With the player's head acting as a pointer, the view of the island is largely fixed. It is possible to change this from another fixed angle by selecting a cloud, but this can be disorientating and also wastes precious moments as you try to manage the creatures to prevent them from coming to an untimely end.
The aim of Tethered is to gather spirit energy that is emitted by the creatures that inhabit the floating island. The level ends when sufficient spirit energy is gathered. This energy has to be collected by the player, it is not automatically gathered and adds another task to an already long list of things to do.
From the outside I was charmed and deeply engaged by Tethered. The use of VR as a means to point and click items on a map is a great one and could be used on other games - a VR version of Frozen Synapse perhaps!