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Survivorman VR: The Descent Review (PSVR2) – Survive In VR

Survivorman VR: The Descent Review (PSVR2) – If you watched a lot of Discovery Channel shows in the mid-2000’s, then at some point you were likely aware of Les Stroud, or as he’s better known – Survivorman.

The show featured Stroud by himself in some of the most remote, intense parts of the planet, generally with no food, no water, and the need to survive for seven days before being rescued.

Every episode is like its own documentary, that shows you the realities of what it is to survive in the wild, wherever you may be, and just how amazing nature can be when you take a few steps outside your door.

Now, years after Stroud has said goodbye to the various Survivorman shows he produced and starred in over the years, he’s teamed up with Cream Productions to release Survivorman VR: The Descent.

A VR game for PS VR2 and other VR platforms that not only teaches you key survival skills, but puts you in the shoes that Stroud has been in multiple times before – needing to survive, or die.

Survivorman VR: The Descent Review (PSVR2) – Survive In VR

It’s The Survivorman Himself

Considering that Stroud and the brand he and his team created over the years, it’s unsurprising to see that Stroud is everywhere in Survivorman VR: The Descent, which I’ll be calling “Surivorman VR” from now own to keep things easy.

He’s the first thing you see when you load up the game, as a short clip shows Stroud introducing you to The Descent and giving you a brief summary of who he is.

Stroud will also constantly show up while your playing as an in-game avatar, and he ultimately guides you through your survival experience, narrating your own adventure and giving you tips along the way.

The Descent begins with a crash-landing on the side of a mountain somewhere in the Canadian Arctic, and it’s from that point you’ll have to survive.

That’s all the narrative that really exists in The Descent, because that’s all it really needs. Your survival is the story, with Stroud showing up to help you each step of the way.

This is also part of what takes you out of that story constantly. Admittedly, I did feel nervous crossing a glacier, poking at the snow with a pole to make sure I wasn’t about to fall through a crack I couldn’t see. I even jumped back at the times I almost did fall through.

But that came more from how well the game does immerse you in feeling like you’re alone, out on the snow miles from any actual civilization. Anytime I heard Les narrate another tip, or whenever he materialized in front of me, it took me out of the survival situation.

There’s also the issue that only on a few occasions are you asked to figure out a solution yourself based on what you’ve already learned. For most of the game, you’re guided through step-by-step, and you’re not allowed to experiment with what you know to find a new way of surviving, you can only complete the steps the way that the game (Stroud) tells you to.

Balancing A Tightrope

Which brings us to the crux of Survivorman VR’s issues. While it’s trying to be an educational tool for players to experience, it’s also trying to be a game, and those two things don’t always mesh well.

Stroud’s tips and guidance are accurate based on his years of experience, and it’s cool to know all this stuff, to know that there are ways to get out of these unimaginable situations.

It’s quality as a tool to educate is high, but the gameplay lacks creativity because of it constantly making sure you’re learning a lesson. Which, funnily enough, feels like it’s going against you doing a lot of quality learning.

That’s also an issue that stems from it being a very short experience. You can make your way through all six sections in less than two hours, and I can imagine that if there was a little more to Survivorman VR, there could be more opportunity for players to creatively figure out ways of surviving based on what they’ve learned.

Better to die in a VR educational tool because you learned something didn’t work there, than out in the wild where it really matters. Not that it’s recommended you try to survive in the Arctic with no food, water, or shelter after playing Survivorman VR.

On the other side of this, Survivorman VR is only listing at $19.99 USD, so yes it’s short, but it also isn’t breaking the bank at all, and is priced more like an accessible educational tool.

The parts of it that feel much more like a game, like tobogganing down the side of a mountain in a small briefcase or paddling through river rapids definitely turn up the fun dial, but they don’t entirely feel like the mesh well with the authentic vibe the rest of the game seems to be going for.

The watch you wear also doesn’t match. I’m not saying that it shouldn’t exist, I understand that it’s a great thing to have functionally for the game. But it only counts your calories, keeps track of objectives and your body temperature.

There’s nothing about your water intake, something that I feel is easily fixed by requiring you to eat snow to keep hydrated. It’s exactly what Stroud has done before, on Arctic episodes of Survivorman.

It’s a tough tightrope to walk, and Survivorman VR does an okay job with it. I do think though there are ways they could keep the authenticity Survivorman VR is so clearly keen on having, while being a better interactive experience at the same time.

Get Outside, Touch Snow

What I loved most about Survivorman VR though, and what it does best, is how it depicts the world around you. The graphics aren’t entirely amazing, and without a day one patch, there are some bugs that I had to restart from my last checkpoint to get around.

All things said, nothing too damning that can’t be fixed with a patch, that may already be fixed by the time you get your own hands on it. Even without the best graphics I’ve seen in a PS VR2 title, it’s still incredible to see how the Canadian Arctic is depicted.

And those moments within Survivorman VR that are purpose-built to make you look at our world with wonder, in awe of how beautiful it can be, hit exactly as hard as intended. I’m not looking to get lost up North, but I will be savouring my daily walks with my dog even more now.

Especially since at time of writing, my city has just had a good dusting of snow. That’s just coincidence of course, but the point is that this game did give me a greater appreciation for nature, both in how harsh it can be, and how beautiful it can be.

I think for its price, the experience you’re getting with Survivorman VR is great. It’s length for many is likely a plus, since however long you can last in a VR session is different for each person. It’s not the worst feeling to only put your headset on a few times, depending on each session, and have rolled credits.

Even though I would’ve personally loved a little more from the game, and perhaps a few things done differently, I still greatly enjoyed my time with Survivorman VR: The Descent. For any PS VR2 owners, (nature lover or not) I’d highly recommend making it the next PlayStation VR2 game in your library.

Survivorman VR: The Descent is now available on PS5 and PS VR2.

Review code generously provided by publisher.



The Final Word

Survivorman VR: The Descent walks a difficult tightrope between trying to be a fun game, and an authentic educational tool, and it does an okay job. It's quality as an educational tool is extremely high, but that doesn't always mesh with being a fun game, and it feels like there's a lot of missed opportunities with how it goes about teaching you. Still, it's a fun, short time that is a great to experience for how it depicts nature alone, especially at such a great price.