Survival. When you hear the word what comes to mind. Would it be just seeing how well you could last out in the wilderness or maybe if there was a natural disaster? What precautions you would take to make sure you could last as long as possible? Some would try and plan ahead while others may and do whatever they could at the spur of the moment to make sure that survival was the number one priority. But does developer 17-Bit show us what it’s like to survive the wild? Let’s find out more with Song in the Smoke for PCVR and PlayStation VR.

Song in the Smoke has you entering a world full of danger where you craft weapons, make clothes, build fires, and brew potions as you defend against vicious predators while blocking and striking back with your weapons from your club to your bow while following the guidance of your ancestors while uncovering the secrets as survival is in your hands. Before we begin, I thought about how I was going to do this review as I didn’t want to show the creatures and all the environments you will face and encounter, not because they do not look amazing (they do), but the world of Song in the Smoke should really be witnessed and experienced first hand. So with that, I wanted to focus more on different parts that really stuck out. First, make sure your controllers are charged as you don’t want to come across a creature or creatures where your last survival minutes come to an end because you can’t defend yourself. Second, set some time aside as you will need it., and just be prepared to soak in all the survival this world has to offer. So with that said let’s continue…

When you first start Song in the Smoke you will need to choose your gender. Do you want to be male or female? Once you start your journey, the first thing that really sticks out is the art style that is used. I honestly think that any other art style for this adventure might have been the wrong choice, but the developer chose very wisely and it pays off. Seeing the fogginess of the world when you first are brought into it and seeing this darkness of the plant life as leaves are falling really is a poetic statement that really makes you want to continue. I mean, just look at the giant three-headed bird that has this human type of face in the middle that you come face to face with. Again, the video does not do it justice to seeing it for yourself in Virtual Reality.

Now, being that you are in the prehistoric era of sorts, there are some instructions on what to do such early on such as you need to bring food to your mouth to eat as you will need to eat to survive. You do at least have a map that gives you some clues as you try and reach different areas that are represented by a sort of light that helps to guide you. Basically, you will need to find items that you can add to your inventory and combine certain items to make new ones. Picking up the items is using the LG and RG, pressing Y to bring up your storage. Combining items here works really well like hitting bones with a rock to make a billet or even combining an arrowhead with a bone to make a knife. Since this is about survival, you do need to think about a few things such as clothing, weapons against prey, and even sleeping and eating are all important when it comes to survival. To save your progress, you will need to make fires by collecting sticks and fiber and then starting the fire.

As you do try and reach certain parts of each area, you need to collect three stones that could be anywhere along with boss fights to move on to the level. Again, survival of the fittest here. The cutscenes do help when it comes to fitting the bosses with hints on how to deal with them. With each new level, the size will increase, which means finding the stones will become tougher as there will be more area to cover which means more creatures to encounter including a special type of foe to deal with (not going to spoil anything). But you need to pay attention to your health. You can start to hear when you are in pain and you will need to make potions to heal yourself. But the real fun of not only the survival here is the crafting of the weapons and luckily you do see which items will work with what you have in your hand and it is fun to see what you can come up with (which you also can upgrade your items if you want to, you don’t have to, but you can), but also just exploring this world that just introduces you to new things that really, I couldn’t wait to see what I would see or encounter next.

Let’s talk about the graphics and sound. I already mentioned the art style and how truly well it works here and in VR. The cell-shaded style brings life into the different creatures as well as the world here. Just being able to sit on a cliff and hearing the different things around me while just watching the water move in this majestic way and made me think of how real this place could be and made me question how I would survive if given the opportunity in the same time period and in the same role. The sound is equally impressive with this ambiance of the surrounding atmosphere. Being able to hear the world come alive around me is something again, that needs to be experienced.

There are some things that I wish were here. For one, a story. Yes, there is the guidance of your ancestors which could be a story within itself. Don’t get me wrong, it is all about survival and the different ways that the game gives you the freedom to play, but it almost feels that this is the one main thing that Song in the Smoke may be missing. And finally, there are times when there is no explanation of things when other times there may be more of an explanation that we may need. It would be nice to see a balance of them added.

Song in the Smoke may have set a new bar when it comes to survival. It gives us a journey without too many rules and all the freedom to explore those rules of how we see fit. Sometimes we are more used to being told what to do that it almost comes as an expectation and to a point, but when we have the opportunity for that point and it’s not there, that’s when we can either start to question or just enjoy the journey that we are given in life.

Song in the Smoke is out now for the Oculus Quest/Quest 2 and Oculus Rift/Rift S on the Oculus Store and on PlayStation VR. A review code was provided. To learn more about 17-Bit, please visit their site, like them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter.

In case you missed the trailer, please enjoy. Until next time, I am going to see what else I can discover out in this world.