This week saw the release of Wraith: The Oblivion – Afterlife for the Oculus Quest. It is a VR game set in the world created by White Wolf Games Studio (creators of Vampire: The Masquerade). Afterlife allows players to play as one of several characters, including Anne Knudsen, an Erstwhile who was turned to one of the eponymous ghosts at very near death.
The Erstwhile are a race that is a mix between ghost and revenant, their ability to interact with the world being at the behest of living mortals. In Afterlife, Anne has been freed from her master, but not from her debt to him – as she now works for Exodus International, an organization created by the secretive Obliviators to help transition wraiths into their afterlife of choice.
Wraith: The Oblivion is a tabletop roleplaying game set in White Wolf Game Studio’s World of Darkness, which also includes Vampire: The Masquerade, Werewolf: The Apocalypse, Mummy: The Resurrection, etc. Since this is a Pen & Paper RPG, there is no need for a battle map or miniatures. All you really need are some friends, a GM, character sheets, pencils/pens, and some 6-sided dice.
Oculus Quest is White Wolf Game Studio’s first foray into bringing their incredibly popular World of Darkness series to Virtual Reality. As an Oculus Quest exclusive release in Early Access form (the full release will have more content in comparison), Afterlife is significantly shorter in length but still thoroughly enjoyable with plenty of replayability.
The single-player campaign can be completed in 2 hours or less once you have a handle on what you are doing, so expect it to be even shorter when playing alone. While each playthrough could last a little bit longer with a full group of 4 players, Afterlife is designed to be played multiple times.
In order to play Afterlife, you must join Exodus International and make a character. The form for this requires several questions about your available time, gaming style preferences (completed in a simple yes/no format), etc. Once that is done, you will be given a choice between 3 characters – Anne Knudsen is the default protagonist, with 2 others being unlocked by completing various achievements in-game under specific conditions. This helps avoid having every player choosing the exact same character since everyone starts with Anne as their first choice already made for them.
Each character has their own special ability called Touchstones which are used once permission and can have a wide variety of effects, from revealing new dialogue options to teleporting the character. When creating your character, you will choose between being either a Handler or a Hound. Handlers are primarily there to collect information through a variety of dialogue options and use their Touchstones as necessary. Hounds on the other hand have more stamina and damage resistance but may only select one conversation option at a time. If you’re playing solo with Anne Knudsen as your chosen character, her ability is that she has two conversation options available at all times.
Each individual mission takes about 5-7 minutes if you do not inspect every nook and cranny for OOC (Out Of Character) Dialogue, which can be easy to miss in some cases due to the camera angle. There are also several environmental objects (e.g., candles, books) that can be inspected for more information on characters and White Wolf Game Studio’s World of Darkness setting. For players new to the World of Darkness or simply unfamiliar with Wraith: The Oblivion specifically, there is a generous help feature which explains many important and/or complex concepts that will be introduced as they become relevant.
While exploring each area, you may need to interact with certain objects in order to proceed forward – usually, these interactions will result in one of your conversation options becoming an interaction option once it has been used in that specific location. This is especially true when looking for hidden items in some rooms since the player must find a way to distract characters if they are located somewhere that is not normally accessible.
These interactions will often result in a new scene playing out with accompanying text and voice over, though sometimes it simply results in a few lines of dialogue from the character you have been talking to up until this point. Many objects may also need to be inspected multiple times as you unlock more of these interactions – inspecting items or areas after using Touchstones can reveal even more information. If all else fails, Anne Knudsen has a short-range teleport ability unlocked as her final conversation option which allows for fast travel across most parts of the map, allowing access to just about anywhere this early into the game.
The Wraith: The Oblivion corebook itself is based around 7 main factions/camps/Roads which are all represented in Afterlife. Each of these roads is named after the book that describes them, with Road names being presented in-game in a stylized way that makes it appear as if they are written in Ancient Greek. These roads consist of The Hierarchy (What Death Is Not), The Unconquered (No Enemy But Time), The Mysterium (Land Of Will And Apprehension), The Phoenicians (A World That Has Passed Away), The Free Council (The Gates Of Pearl) and many more. Each Road has its own unique set of Touchstones, dialogue options – both active and passive – and even possibly help features you can unlock based on your choices during character creation. This allows for a significant degree of replayability and lends itself well to future expansions and additional content that will allow for more options and the chance to interact with other factions.
Being a dream world, players may be wondering how death is handled in Afterlife. Since this is essentially an MMO, characters are only temporarily held at their current road level until they are resurrected back into service or are pulled into the Underworld by another ghost. The good news is that you will not lose any previously unlocked Touchstones, dialogue options or help features just because you have died – instead, you simply respawn at the beginning location where Anne wakes up after being killed in action during her normal life on Earth! This can actually happen multiple times per mission so it’s best not to get too attached to a specific build or gameplay style.
One particularly neat thing about the respawning mechanic is that you will be presented with a choice between two Touchstones when respawning, allowing you to choose whichever one best fits your current playstyle and road level. This is fantastic for players who like to vary their approach in death based missions and ensures that they won’t lose access to any previously unlocked abilities just because of a single mistake. However, this also contributes toward making it so that Afterlife feels more like an MMO than an action RPG – and I’m honestly okay with this!
The graphics and environment design in Wraith: The Oblivion are without question some of the most impressive visuals ever seen in VR gaming. Despite being limited by available hardware at the time of release in August 2018, the level of detail in the environment design is absolutely breathtaking.
One particularly amazing feature is how much freedom players are given in terms of exploration and movement around the map. In most VR games, your character will be locked to a single position or have been restricted from being able to move or see certain items until they get close enough – Wraith: The Oblivion does not do this! If you can reach it within walking distance without running into any invisible walls that prohibit your movements, then you should have no problem exploring every area on the map. You can even walk up and examine paintings or admiringly gaze at architecture if you feel so inclined. This makes for a very immersive experience where you actually feel like an explorer discovering a new world for the first time.
For me personally, this was especially evident when Anne’s player character Soveh stopped by the doorway of my room and stared at me directly through my VR headset! My reaction to her looking directly into my eyes from just a couple of feet away while I was playing was honestly priceless and made for an extremely memorable experience. It’s not very often you get to see your characters in VR be able to physically look at and notice other players – it makes one feel like their actions actually affect other members of the team. This may sound really strange, but it also adds a sense of responsibility that doesn’t exist in most VR games. You aren’t simply wandering around aimlessly or completing various objectives – instead, you are taking on the role of someone else and experiencing life as them.
Finally, one aspect of Wraith’s visuals that I find to be truly amazing is its attention to detail when it comes to immersion into the game world. The environment design, in particular, is without question some of the best that I’ve ever seen in VR, with everything from grass swaying under your feet as you walk past it to leaves blowing off trees due to wind gusts if you stand still long enough – even games like Beat Saber don’t go so far as trying to fully immerse their players! This makes every level feel alive and contributes greatly toward an enhanced overall gaming experience.
Afterlife also features some very unique sound effects for each type of weapon Annecan wield in the game. Unlike most games where all weapons make the same noise regardless of shape or style, Anne’s various swords will produce unique sounds whether they are slashing an enemy horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. This is a very nice touch and heightens immersion within each mission as it no longer feels like you’re simply pressing buttons to slash enemies – instead, it makes it feel as if your weapon is actually doing damage based on how you use it!
In terms of audio design for Wraith: The Oblivion itself, the music tracks featured within Afterlife do a wonderful job of enhancing its overall atmosphere. The soundtrack contains a respectable number of tracks that range from atmospheric soundscapes that create a sense of dread and despair to fast-paced compositions that can get your blood pumping and encourage you to fight against hordes of enemies. I especially enjoyed the main menu theme song since it really invokes a sense of curiosity and makes one feel like they’re about to embark on an epic journey through another mysterious realm, ready for any potential threats that may stand in their way!
Overall, Wraith: The Oblivion – Afterlife is easily the visual and auditory masterpiece of VR gaming and shows what developers can do when they take advantage of all the available power provided by today’s advanced VR technology. The only real area where Afterlife could be improved upon would be storytelling – while there are some awesome voice acting performances here (especially from Anne’s player character Soveh who sounds amazing), the more on-screen text could have been used to help the player better understand the world they are exploring. Every time I went into a mission, my first instinct was always to look for more on-screen information regarding objectives or story events since I wasn’t sure what I should be doing at times. This is particularly evident during some of the tougher boss battles where it would’ve been nice to have additional instructions as to how to defeat them – but even without this, Wraith: The Oblivion – Afterlife still manages to produce an amazing gaming experience that fans of VR and general video games alike will enjoy!