Oculus’ first major launch title for their untethered VR headset, the Oculus Quest, Wander is an unparalleled visual gem that holds up to several hours of exploration and puzzle-solving. The game makes excellent use of its environments to create challenges that are engaging without being frustrating, all the while feeling like a natural experience rather than something artificial created by game design tropes.
The game’s art style provides one key reason why it is so inviting; taking cues from various real-world locations, each region allows you access to wide-open spaces with contrasting points of interest. While traversing through these regions, I often found myself straining my neck trying to look past the Horizon into the distance or stop to take the view off in another direction. This is where the game truly excels, presenting an incredible sense of scale and awareness. The feeling that I was there, in these places really propelled me forward to explore more than any other VR game thus far.
The game does not rely on its environment for the entire experience, though; while guided tours are available at key pieces of interest within each region (i.e., unlocking certain statues or following a path created by light beams), players are free to follow their own path without much repercussion — if they get lost, simply look around until you spot your next goal. Verticality plays a big role in navigation too; climbs become progressively more difficult as you approach higher peaks but the reward is worth it thanks to new vistas and secret areas.
Wander really succeeds thanks to its satisfying puzzle design, which comes in the form of finding your way up to higher peaks — these puzzles are not too difficult but always engaging, encouraging you to take your time and soak in the view. There is also a “Flower” mechanic that allows you to mark spots of interest or collectables for later use; while generally unneeded since the game’s environments are so well designed, I found myself using it when I was feeling lost or overwhelmed by my surroundings.
Audio plays an important role in Wander as well, providing cues when players stray from their intended path without being intrusive. Subtle environmental sounds help keep players grounded within each region while music plays at key moments in order to heighten the emotional experience.
The game’s story, which takes place on an alien planet, is sparse but present enough to give you a reason to explore and engage with this world. However, it can be unclear at times why you are doing what you are doing or where exactly your goals lie outside of the overarching goal of “finding your way.” Some additional guidance could have helped players maintain momentum when they inevitably fall off-course.
Wander succeeds as one of the most engaging VR games I have played because it creates a sense of scale that no other title has achieved — even if it occasionally falters in its lack of direction. While some may find the gameplay elements too light for their tastes, I found myself constantly wanting to see what was around the next bend, making it one of my favorite games on the Oculus Quest so far.
Wander is available now on Oculus’ new VR headset for $29.99 USD or equivalent pricing.