Inspired by Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series of books, rather than being based directly on the recent Apple TV small screen adaptation of the same name, Journey to Foundation is a rich narrative adventure with a pronounced streak of nonlinearity running through it. Notably, Journey to Foundation actually tries its hand at integrating a fair number of different mechanics and gameplay design templates, all the while leveraging the immersive possibilities of Sony’s latest lump of VR technology. The upshot is that while Journey to Foundation does a good job of ticking a big box for sci-fans looking for an immersive narrative adventure to sink their teeth into, it can occasionally feel a little underwhelming at points due to the fact that much of its design feels overfamiliar and is implemented in a workmanlike fashion.
Journey To Foundation PSVR2 Review
A Satisfying Narrative Adventure That Is Exactly The Sum Of Its Parts
In Journey to Foundation you are Agent Ward, a highly trained member of the Commission of Public Safety that also happens to be a somewhat shady organisation dedicated to maintaining order in the Galactic Empire, you find yourself dispatched to the Periphery to investigate the disappearance of a prolific governor’s daughter and in doing so, uncover a threat to the Empire that looks to alter the very future of the universe in the process, as well as your own destiny.
Even for those folks who have not been exposed to either television show or Isaac Asimov’s writings, the story which sits at the heart of Journey to Foundation is an entertaining one to say the least, taking in all manner of galaxy-wide, geo-political intrigue, subterfuge and of course, plenty of back-stabbing and double-crossing aplenty. It also doesn’t hurt that there is some emotional heft which helps the whole thing to stay interesting, too. This comes from the Empire-abiding mentor that Ward owes everything to and her newfound discovery of a schism in the galaxy and will upend everything she knows for a potentially better result. Again, it’s an entertaining story and both fans of Asimov’s source material and sci-fi junkies alike will get a lot from it, while collectible holographic orbs backfill the lore of both the story and the universe in the process.
Of course leveraging all of this narrative weight and complexity is Journey to Foundation’s emphasis on non-linear storytelling, which through key points at the story allows Agent Ward to either maintain the order of the Galactic Empire or send it into seeming chaos through both dialogue choices and actions that are taken. This aspect of Journey to Foundation’s design is well done too, since all of your choices feel appropriately weighty and can make a real difference to the overall story – bolstering replay value as a direct result.
As alluded to at the top of this review, there is a bit of everything in Journey to Foundation – all of which seeks to serve the overarching goal of its non-linear, narrative adventure shenanigans. Where perhaps Journey to Foundation fares a little less well however, is in how each of these various game mechanics appear to be pulled from various other genres and yet, are forced to co-exist harmoniously here to varying degrees of success. To be plain, Journey to Foundation would seem to be an adherent to that old maxim ‘jack of all trades, master of none’.
Broadly speaking, you’ll spend much of your time wandering around a series of relatively small, linear environments. Whether you’re onboard the apparently massive Array station or down among the gleaming purple rockets of the planet Tygra III, Journey to Foundation’s level design is compact to say the least. This means that if you were looking for some breathlessly scoped exploration, you could well be disappointed with what has been presented here. There are also extended climbing sections too which will remind folks of Horizon Call of the Mountain, where players must grip onto hand holds and pull themselves up and over various walls and other such obstacles. Though these sections aren’t really executed to the same level of flair here, they nonetheless do help to make the various worlds of Journey to Foundation feel more varied from a traversal perspective.
Within those tightly constructed areas, you’ll also find that a lot of time will be spent walking around and chatting to the various characters that essentially drive each scene forward and within those conversations you’ll have the option to push events done one path or another, as we’ve already looked at earlier in this review. Additionally, performing specific hand gestures are also used to drive the story forward depending on whether you employ them or not.
Where Journey to Foundation elevates things somewhat in this regard though, is in how it enables Agent Ward to tap into her ‘Mentalics’ skill to parse the inner thoughts of whoever she is talking to and then follow that up in conversation to uncover particular revelations to drive the story forward. There’s a neat touch to this mechanic that reveals itself through the UI too, since to uncover these hidden thoughts and desires, you have to reach out both arms and twist your hands to essentially ‘tune in’ to these hidden brainwaves. It feels unexpectedly badass – almost like you’re some sort of intergalactic Charles Xavier.
Given the high stakes of the story, it should come as no surprise to discover that matters often devolve into violence and it’s here that Journey to Foundation’s gunplay comes into sharp focus. Combat is largely restricted to firearms based conflicts where your trusty handgun can be upgraded to use rapid-fire, precision shot and other firing modes to take down your foes. Ultimately though, combat really is just a case of using cover generously while you whittle down the health of your enemies and also taking time out to recharge your own if need be. Eventually, you gain the ability to expand your mental powers into the combat side of things as well, permitting you to stun or even outright kill your enemies as the game progresses.
It’s serviceable stuff certainly, but nothing more than that. It’s also worth noting that there’s no real progression in Journey to Foundation. Instead, new upgrades and gadgets are provided as part of the story taking its natural course rather than through any sort of baked-in progression system. Given the tightly scoped nature of Journey to Foundation this makes sense, but again it serves as a reminder that Journey to Foundation merely co-opts these various game mechanics and sub-genres rather than seeking to excel in any one of them.
Of all of the various moving parts that hum under the hood of Journey to Foundation, the puzzle solving proves to be surprisingly engaging. Encompassing a mixture of visual brain teasers and logic based conundrums, these are entertaining to solve and the satisfaction when you do complete them is pleasingly palpable. With Journey to Foundation then, everything seemingly just works as it should, but none of its composite parts could be considered exceptional, let alone withstand comparisons to other efforts which focus on those distinct elements more strongly. The climbing and traversal is done better in Horizon: Call of the Mountain, the shooting is pulled off better in After The Fall and The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners, while the puzzle solving does find itself in largely its own company, thanks to a relative lack of comparable puzzle solving efforts on PlayStation VR2.
From a technical perspective, Journey to Foundation is also something of mishmash of the perfectly fine and the less so. Visually speaking, Journey to Foundation looks decent enough, with stylised characters giving way to impressive variety of planets, spaceships and other environments, but it certainly doesn’t rank among the most opulent games that PlayStation VR2 has to offer. Speaking of which during my time with Journey to Foundation, I discovered an odd bug where the game refused to run at 120hz (all I would I get is darkness, some sound and that was it), so I had to turn off 120hz compatibility in the settings menu of my PS5, forcing the game to run at 60hz. The result of this, at least to my eyes, is that when you’re panning around some of the environments in Journey to Foundation there is some noticeable judder which takes the sheen off of its otherwise fine presentation somewhat. Hopefully this is addressed in a future update.
Further afield, sometimes the UI can be a little clunky and janky – because when you reach out with your fingers to interact with dialogue choices and some elements in the environment, it doesn’t always react first time the way that you would expect it to and can occasionally make such interactions more frustrating than they would otherwise need to be.
Journey to Foundation is a multi-layered concoction of elements drawn from other titles that have been unified under an engrossing and non-linear sci-fi narrative. Though its story and cast of characters engage for the most part, these different elements all feel like they have been executed better elsewhere, making Journey to Foundation feel precisely the sum of its parts and nothing more. That said, fans of Asimov’s writings and involving sci-fi tales in general will still find much to enjoy here.
Journey to Foundation is out now on PSVR 2.
Review code kindly provided by PR.