The Climb is an excellent experience, one that works exceedingly well with the Oculus Touch controls. However, a lack of gameplay depth and overall number of environments could give some gamers pause when they try to decide if this is a journey worth undertaking.
Let me start off by saying, I think The Climb is going to be divisive among Oculus players. On the one hand, it is less game and more experience. Hardly a walking simulator, there is a clear objective and you have to take your time and work up the sheer surface with some careful thought as you progress. Of course that progress does have its challenges along the way. By no means is The Climb a hard game, but the basic formula is tied to a primary resource - stamina.
Hands work better together, when they can support weight in unison. This allows your stamina to recover. Conversely some hand positions if too far apart - or if only one hand is currently anchoring you in - will cause stamina to deplete very quickly. To this end, The Climb is like a giant adventure or puzzle game as you have to focus your strategy on the best way to ascend the rocky surface above you. Sometimes the options are singular or simple, but at other times the way forward can be somewhat vexing as you have to decide which is most likely to lead to success.
The Climb is an action game however, as well. As such, mentally mapping out your path is not enough to succeed. You need to be able to execute on it - and in a timely fashion or your stamina will give out. Now, The Climb can be played with a controller - a necessity given that the game came out well before the Oculus Touch did, but this is absolutely best experienced using the sensitive controls and motion tracking of the Touch. The experience is far more immersive and considerably less clunky when making use of the Oculus Touch controls.
With only a few locations and relatively simple gameplay (you sometimes need to chalk your hands for increased grip, you need to manage your stamina, but you are mostly just pointed upward and looking for a solid handhold along the way), The Climb lacks in content and replay value. This is partly why I think of it more as an experience. Certainly you can lose, but the systems while well-executed are pretty simple. There is also a very modest sense of progression here as you can unlock some cosmetic items for your character, but they have no impact on the actual game itself. I did like the ability to tackle the locations at different times of the day, as it not only changes up the visuals but adds a slight change in your climbing strategy as well. Last gripe: the nature of this game has you tilting your head up a lot. Similar to Pinball FX2 VR (except that title has you constantly looking downward), you just find yourself keeping your head craned at angles that are not normal, and some neck strain can occur. Obviously this is a challenge real climbers face, but I think it is safe to say that on no level do I have the physical ability to be a climber.
The Climb is at its best when you get to take in some spectacular sights. Each of the locations is well-designed. Crytek is known for their beautiful games and solid sound design, and on both counts The Climb excels here. There is a spectacular sense of height, of scenery and with the sound effects working in concert with the visual presentation, the immersion factor here is outstanding. I am not someone who considers himself afraid of heights, but there were moments looking around when I bent my knees just a little more as my stomach did that momentary drop due to the convincing visuals. That level of immersion is excellent and while this may not be a traditional game, it is one of those experiences that VR can deliver on that I would never have the guts to undertake in person (like base diving and other such real sports).
It would be easy to disregard The Climb based on its relative lack of depth, but at the same time? I'm glad I got a chance to play it. Some of the coolest 'wow' moments with my Oculus occurred while playing this title, and that's not insignificant. It is going to boil down to how much content you expect right now out of an Oculus title. There are some full games out there that can take more than a dozen hours to beat - this is not one of them. There is plenty of room to add more gameplay elements to The Climb as well, but the core experience is so immersive and so polished, that I came away impressed with my time playing it.
PC - Oculus Rift
Provided by Publisher
Article by Nick