Doctor Who: The Edge of Time is a VR adventure title set within the thematic universe for which it is named. It is developed by Maze Theory and published by PlayStack. This title is currently available on Steam and PS4 VR.
As a camera driven adventure VR game, Doctor Who: The Edge of Time will not feel unfamiliar to VR players in general. In the shoes of one of the Doctor’s unnamed associates, you will attempt to save the day as a proxy while the Doctor is otherwise occupied. This doesn’t mean that the Doctor, voiced by Jodie Whittaker, plays no role. Instead she serves as a guide and adviser along with another NPC to guide you towards completing your objectives.
These goals differ in each of the 5 chapters and many will require both physical coordination and puzzle solving skills. If you are an experienced or older gamer, you will drive through the puzzles quickly enough, but many still require forethought. Often times, the NPCs will attempt to aid you with verbal clues on what needs to be done, and in most cases they can be pretty direct-and insistent-about it.
Most of the physically demanding parts were within the threshold of normal VR games and I didn’t find them to be straining or painful. You’ll find yourself operating the TARDIS, examining items for clues, solving puzzles with the physical placement of objects, avoiding capture, operating a Dalek shell, and more. Fans of the series will probably also appreciate the use of the Sonic Screwdriver, which will be a tool used throughout the game. There are even a few unique scenes utilizing horror elements, one of which uses the Weeping Angels, which I found to be well implemented.
The game only has the standard difficulty and is solely a single player game. Once completed, each chapter can be reattempted individually if you happen to have a favorite part you want to play again. And though the IP isn’t known for its prolific combat, there is one chapter where you will get to have a fair amount. Doctor Who: The Edge of Time rates in at about 3-6 hours depending on your speed at puzzles, and your exploring habits inside virtual games.
One of my only complaints from the game itself was the constant reminder of instructions. If I stopped to explore or appreciate a detail in the middle of a task, I was barraged with constant instructions on what I needed to do next at regular intervals. A better option would have been to allow the player to press a button to repeat the instructions or to integrate some kind of recall feature.
The universe is under siege by a reality virus and the Doctor has been sequestered from the action. The player steps into the shoes of an associate which is guided by the thirteenth Doctor. You will end up navigating many of the iconic places and meeting many of the notable enemies appearing in the series. The story itself focuses on finding three time crystals to fight against the virus. They are of course located across space and time and the player will encounter many elements of the show while searching for them.
While there are no side quests or true deviations from the main story-line, there are several nooks and crannies you can explore. Some of the places you go will have classic TV tropes attached to them, but some humor such as a Dalek laser having an attack power of over 9000 will be out of left field. Either way, the story was just about the right length to avoid being too convoluted and each chapter was unique enough to keep my attention focused. Time altering tropes can be some of the worst, but I feel it was handled fairly well here in keeping with the spirit of the series.
In terms of the VR headset, the controls handled just fine. All of the motions were smooth and never gave me any sense of tearing or motion sickness. Since the surrounding areas were fairly detailed, it was enjoyable to stop and take a look at every scene from different angles.
I tried playing with both a native PS4 controller and the motion controllers as well. While the motion controllers performed as expected, using the native controller gave me minor issues. It responded well enough to motion and walking around was more smooth, but it simply couldn’t reach certain objects well enough. I recommend using a pair of motion controllers for the best experience, but be prepared to learn through trial and error as there was no expanded tutorial or configuration option to learn from.
I also tested standing versus sitting and found sitting to be more comfortable. I was still able to grab and interact with everything that was required, but I did notice that standing gave you a better sense of reach and range. Interactive objects were easy to use and they had a certain snap response to being grabbed which made things easy. At the end of the day , it’s all up to user preference in that department.
The explored worlds themselves were very lush despite using some basic VR techniques. Layered effects made the difference here and the artists gave a good attention to detail. From the grittiness of the laundromat at the beginning to viewing stellar bodies from the bridge of a ship, every scene was a pleasure to walk through. There are a few items that were less animated than a similar object right next to it, but you really almost have to go out of your way to notice. Many of canonical items were given a great deal of attention to detail and several made me stop to smell the roses.
I really had a lot of enjoyment in the sound department. The voice overs of the NPCs were the big highlight here, especially the Daleks. I laughed more than once listening to a back and forth conversation between two of them in a temple. Jodie Whittaker’s performance was notable as well, translating well into the gaming world.
The sound effects themselves were exactly of the caliber you would expect from the series. Classic sounds stood alongside gaming ones and blended without a hitch. Positional audio played correctly and helped me to identify where to turn when something appeared on the screen outside my current view which I feel is very important in a VR game. There were even a few jump scare audio cues for enemies like the Weeping Angels and a particular portrait which were well implemented. Overall, my hats off to the audio department for making a well integrated experience.
The Music setting in Doctor Who: The Edge of Time was orchestral and thematic. The cello parts in particular had a gravitas indicative of the series itself. It was very easy to fall into a nostalgic state listening to the different pieces and it was clear from the beginning that the composer knew his source material. The OST explores the full range of the series and can be emotionally charged, inspirational, whimsical, mysterious, and emotive to say the least. Composed by Richard Wilkinson, the entire OST is available for streaming on Spotify and can be downloaded on Steam as well. I’m positive that this is the first time I’ve heard his work, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for future releases.
Beautiful details, well timed effects, and a thematic sound track all work in concert to deliver a well structured experience. It was a short but sweet ride, and while it certainly isn’t the height of VR in terms of mechanics, the overall production is solid. It would be interesting to see more IPs like this in a virtual space and I think Doctor Who is a great choice for one.
To say the least, the spirit and intent of the series was well carried over and translated into this game. I haven’t been the most consistent watcher of the series in the last few decades, but it was one of the gems of my early childhood (I’ll avoid stating which decade). I played through with my son sitting right next to me and enjoyed explaining some of the parts I loved most from my younger days. Doctor Who: The Edge of Time should be a great purchase for current and older fans of the series, anyone looking to relive a little nostalgia, or any sci-fi fans who have access to VR.