Edge of Nowhere
I’m a big fan of weird fiction. What is weird fiction, you ask? Well, it was a genre defying catch-all phrase used to describe literary works that would today be considered horror (supernatural and otherwise), adventure, and even science fiction. In this way it pre-dates all of the cutesy little categories of fiction that we have today, including survival horror, adventure, etc. However, you can still see that these multitudinous modern subgenres have been heavily influenced by weird fiction. All you have to do is read (yes—people still read) some of the works from British and early American authors such as Edgar Allen Poe, M.R. James, and H.P. Lovecraft, especially from the 1930s.
So, when I’d first heard that Insomniac Games was working on a horror-type game that combined several genres and that took place in 1932, it piqued my interest. And when I first saw footage of the game, titled Edge of Nowhere, that’s when I really got excited. That in turn was dullened into a wait-and-see attitude when I learned that the game would be a virtual reality project. There have been many who have dabbled and attempted to create a virtual experience worth playing but a very limited amount who have succeeded in doing so. Has Insomniac triumphed? Overall, I’d say yes, except for a few missteps here and there.
In Edge of Nowhere, you are Victor Howard, and as previously mentioned, the game is set in 1932. Victor is searching for his fiancé, Ava Thorne, who recently disappeared along with an expedition that was researching some strange occurrences going on within the frigid wastes of Antarctica. After a heart-wrenching first person account of Victor’s plane going down and crash-landing on a glacial tundra, your view switches to a third person account of the action—and action there is aplenty.
After initially getting familiar with the game and its controls, I couldn’t help but think how much Edge of Nowhere’s gameplay reminded me of the first parts of Rise of the Tomb Raider. There is a lot of third person platforming punctuated by either environmental hazards or encounters with the game’s many grotesque entities. There is also a lot of usage of Victor’s pickaxe in order to not only scale sheer walls of ice, but also ward off some of the game’s more vulnerable creatures.
The further I got into the game, the more I began to appreciate what Insomniac has done here. There are some sudden moments of horror, such as when a rope bridge begins to break apart right under your spiked boots, but for the most part Edge of Nowhere uses the slow boil method of delivering the goods. As mentioned, there are a couple of jump-scares, but these are few and far between.
Most of Edge of Nowhere’s dread is articulated through solid tension-building that can really fray your nerves. This, coupled with the fact that Victor doesn’t quite know if some of the terrors that encounters is due to a concussion that he suffered in the plane crash, or if there are more sinister forces at work, really ratcheting up the creeping sense of distress.
You’ll eventually encounter horrific monstrosities of different shapes and sizes. Some are tiny little buggers that you can more or less smoosh with your pickaxe (if you can hit them that is). Others are gigantic shambling entities the size of a multi-stories buildings. Learning how to deal with each of them can be a real blast. Or, if you’re not careful or patient enough, it can end up with Victor being smashed like one of the aforementioned smaller creatures.
Like any decent survival horror game that actually features weapons, as opposed to games like Outlast where you have none, in Edge of Nowhere, Victor’s double-barreled shotgun ammo is scarce. Even though he is towing around a large backpack, he can only carry up to four rounds at a time. This game-design mechanic felt forced, and seemed incongruous with logic. It sort of diminished the game’s otherwise brilliant immersion. There are also rocks that you can come across that Victor can use to throw and distract certain enemies in order to try and sneak past them. But once again, carrying that big ‘ol backpack seems to be for show only, as Victor can only carry two little rocks at a time. What the—?
Edge of Nowhere’s visuals certainly deliver. The vast Antarctic expanses, especially when seen from snow-frosted hilltops, are especially exhilarating. The VR aspect of the game also works well from the third person perspective, and gives you a real (or at least virtually real) sense of the game’s massive scale.
There are plenty of horror and action tropes to be found in Edge of Nowhere, but luckily Insomniac’s implementation of VR really helps to transcend them in most cases—after all, they did build the game from the ground up specifically for the Occulus Rift. As a game that draws from several disparate genres, it more or less succeeds in blending together for a unique survival horror-esque experience.
Although Edge of Nowhere is a fun, gripping, and (for me at least) an ultimately satisfying gaming adventure, I did manage to reach its end in around six hours. Those looking for longevity or replay value should probably look elsewhere, as I doubt if I will want to play it again—even on a higher difficulty (with even more limited ammo), as I couldn’t see getting much fun out of the same scripted events over again. But as a solid and challenging one-shot horror/adventure, I’d highly suggest taking it for a spin.
Edge of Nowhere has some really immersive graphics that really draw you in. However, in order to play it with a decent framerate at higher resolutions, you’re going to need a powerful gaming PC or gaming laptop, such as:
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