Shadow Legend VR

I bought Shadow Legend VR for the Rift S a long time ago and never played much because it made me kind of sick. I now understand that the gaming laptop I used back in those days was underpowered for VR and so my framerates weren’t great. It’s possible the Rift S itself also contributed to this given its age (it came out in 2019) and refresh rate of 80Hz. Whatever the reason, back when I was playing on the Rift S, Shadow Legend VR tended to make me queasy so I never got very far into it.

Fast forward to the last month or two and I’ve been experimenting with Air Linking the Quest 2 to my current (but still not state of the art: it has an Nvidia 2070 GPU) PC. If I remember right the laptop had a 1060 or something? Anyway the new PC is much more powerful and I was now able to play Shadow Legends VR fairly comfortably; enough so that I’ve completed the game and generally enjoyed the experience.

In Shadow Legend VR you play as the “Grand Master” who is tasked with entering a shadow realm to fight a big bad. Honestly the story isn’t the strong point here. The setting is fantasy-medieval so you’ve got your swords (including flaming swords and ice swords and the like), bows, and magic staves. If I remember, I bought it for the sword fighting experience though it turns out there isn’t a huge number of enemies to cross blades with. I spent more time with bow or staff than with a sword.

And that was OK because the sword combat was one of the less interesting aspects of the game, though the first time I lopped off an (undead) enemy’s arms and it started to kick me I had a good laugh. “Tis a scratch, a mere flesh wound!” Bow combat is typical VR bow combat. You hold the bow in one hand and reach over your shoulder to grab an arrow (you have unlimited arrows). Then pull back and shoot. I felt like I could aim pretty well, even to the point of shooting down crows in flight. (Sorry crows but maybe don’t try to steal my Runes.) For the staff combat, you hold a gnarled staff with a ‘claw’ at the end. There’s a ball of elemental energy in the claw and you fire that using the trigger on the controller. You can take just 2 shots, then you have to conjure a new ball of energy with a free hand, basically by making a fist until the ball coalesces. Then you place it in the claw and can fire again. This was admittedly a little cumbersome but also felt fresh. I hadn’t encountered this mechanic before.

Shadow Legends VR turned out to be roughly 1/3 combat, 1/3 exploring and 1/3 puzzle solving. The puzzles tended towards physics-based stuff. Y’know, cut that rope to make this item fall and break the cover of a well and then you find a secret passage at the bottom of the well. That kind of thing. The puzzling aspect was fun but not super difficult. Finding all the hidden items was more of a challenge but you don’t need to find everything to beat the game.

The odd thing about Shadow Legend is that it felt like half a game in a lot of ways. When you first start you’re in a courtyard with your comrades. Everything is lovely and you can spend a lot of time wandering around here, feeding carrots to horses, petting a dog, cooking food and blacksmithing. Later you’ll encounter potion brewing, fishing and even gardening. All of this is interesting but never really used in the bulk of the game. A few times you’ll find a cauldron with some empty bottles and mushrooms which you use to make health potions but the mushrooms aren’t foraged, they’re literally sitting next to the cauldron. As to the rest, it’s all just for flavor. I’m not really complaining because fiddling with this stuff was fun enough; it just seemed weird that it wasn’t incorporated into the main game loop.

So you enter an area and explore. Your main goal is finding Runes that bump up your strength. You need more strength to wield better weapons. You’ll also find coins, jewels, golden goblets and gold bars. These you can trade to an NPC for coins which in turn you can use to buy weapons. But everything is very VR-ized. So when you talk to the shopkeep, you take items out and put them on his counter. He’ll offer you a price and if you agree he’ll hold out a sack of coins and you have to reach out and take it. There is also voice support so you can literally talk to the shopkeeper but I never set that up.

Every area also has several ‘side quests’ for you to do, but doing them seems to be just for fun, or possibly for Achievements. There’re no experience points given for these. Defeating enemies results in you getting souls (I think they called them souls but they look like beating hearts) that you can use to bump up your health or combat strength, and there’re the Runes that you have to collect. However neither of these systems tie directly into solving quests.

It all just gives the feeling that the dev team (Vitruvius VR) started out with a much bigger vision but then started running low on funds and had to scale everything back. I don’t have any inside knowledge but that’s how it feels to me. It’s a shame because the game (I assume) they WANTED to make would’ve been amazing.

But what is there is quite fun and I have no regrets. The only real issue I had was that it is a real room-scale game and there were some challenges I couldn’t complete because I didn’t have enough space. In particular there was a ballista challenge where you had to shoot down flying enemies with this giant ballista, so you had to actually move around to turn it and I didn’t have that much room in my VR space. At least this was an optional challenge. (Generally you move with the analog sticks but I just felt like this challenge needed the precision that comes with physically moving.)

Combat takes some space too as enemies will circle around you. Again I guess you COULD turn using the sticks but in the heat of the moment I always turned my physical body to face the opponent and it can be easy to ‘drift’ out of your safe VR space when doing this. There were also one or two places where I had to kneel down to get under something. If there was a ‘crouch’ button I forgot what it was and never found it again, but honestly a lot of the fun of VR for me is physically doing this stuff so when I had to practically get on all fours to crawl through a tunnel, I thought that was kind of awesome.

Shadow Legend VR came out in 2019 and it is still listed at $25 on the Oculus which seems a little steep as it isn’t very long and there’s not a lot of incentive to replay it. Right now on Steam, though, it is $12.50 thanks to the Summer Sale and that feels like a very fair price. (With the Rift S discontinued I’m not sure why you’d buy anything via Oculus anyway, to be honest.)

I am not 100% certain but I think Shadow Legend may only be the 2nd VR game I’ve actually finished (the first being Farpoint on PSVR) so the fact that I stuck with this one through to the end definitely feels like a recommendation from me, but only if you get it while it is on sale.

PS I lifted these screenshots off of the Steam page because I can’t find a good way to take screenshots via the Oculus Rift S interface. I guess if I’m going to be talking about VR games I should figure that out. Though again, I’d probably buy any future PCVR games through Steam rather than the Oculus store.