Vane is an incredibly relaxing game. Almost immediately following the 2016 PlayStation Experience, I went hands-on with this title from a small team of 8 game-making veterans. If you blinked during the showcase, you might’ve missed Vane, but my brief demo sold me on a familiar, comfortable experience in the vein of Abzu and Journey.When you think Vane, think of flight. You’ll spend at least some of your time controlling a raven while soaring across vast landscapes. The simplicity of this feat made the learning curve nonexistent.
Typically, exploratory adventures like this only ask you to spend a brief time learning how your character moves, their limitations, and how they can interact with the world around them. Vane is simpler–you only soar. Tilting the analog stick changes your pitch and yaw, tapping or holding X yields wing flaps to speed up or raise altitude, and tapping Triangle issues a “caw” to attract other birds.
The strongest thing going for Vane is the smoothness of flight. I found myself getting lost in how natural and responsive flying felt. The swoops and dives of a real-life bird are near-perfectly mirrored and surprisingly easy to execute. On a whim, I skimmed the desert surface to watch dust kick up behind, banked into a canyon through a flock of fellow birds, and nosedive into a dusty desert ruin to weave in and out of narrow openings. Already, I prefer this movement and gameplay style to other exploratory adventures. There’s hardly anything to learn, so hardly anything gets in the way of enjoying and appreciating the adventure.
That adventure is decorated by a polygonal art style somewhat reminiscent of Bound and the kind of surreal, unexplained elements that make for a story worth exploring. After soaring over the desert for awhile, I entered a massive cave system and the flock of birds that had been following me dissipated, afraid of entering themselves. Around a few corners, I encountered a golden, glowing pile of shapes–flowers? Money? In this art style, in this pre-alpha stage, it’s hard to say. But immediately upon striking the pile, the triangles comprising my body broke apart and reassembled into a human girl. Frightened and confused, she look around and moved tentatively, unsure of herself or why her existence as a bird had just come to a screeching halt.
Some light platforming followed as I climbed some staircases and made some jumps on my way to the top of the cavern. Answers were few, but I suspect that in the course of Vane, we’ll come to learn who this bird/girl is and why sudden transformations are happening. The story is important to Friend and Foe Games, but more than anything, I was caught off-guard by the positively pleasant atmosphere and controls of Vane. With flight so freeing, I just want to spend time in this world. When Vane releases in 2017, any fulfilling resolution to a compelling story would be icing on the cake.