Ever wanted to enter the world of “Westworld?” Now you can — except it won’t exactly be like you might have imagined it. Instead of being one of those guests living out their fantasies, you will be a host, slowly coming to grips with your life being an elaborate illusion.
“Westworld Awakening” has been produced by HBO and virtual reality (VR) startup Survios in partnership with Kilter Films, and with close involvement of the “Westworld” showrunners. In the game, users get to play the role of host Kate, who gains self-awareness, and has to find a way to survive and take charge in a world designed for her to be a victim.
“Westworld Awakening” is a separate storyline with five chapters that takes part during “Westworld” Season 2.
“We are not just showing you an episode of ‘Westworld’ in a VR headset,” said HBO creative lead Colin Foran in a recent interview with Variety.
Foran said the teams at HBO and Survios set out to develop a game together, but that the result turned out to be very experiential as well. Players have a chance to explore many details in the “Westworld” Mesa Hub as well as out in the world, find clues, avoid hazards, and interact with other hosts.
“It’s a very dense, high fidelity world,” said Survios project lead Daniel Zeligman. The average time to play through the game is between four and six hours, estimated Foran, adding: “If you wanted to, you could spend a long time in it.”
“Westworld Awakening” uses some of the same VR locomotion that Survios developed for its other gaming titles. Notably, you’ll move your character by emulating a running motion with your arms, like in “Sprint Vector.” However, this game adds a few extra motions, including the ability to crouch behind objects, and peek over them to observe enemies.
But what really makes “Westworld Awakening” special are the things you can’t do. Encounter a killer early on in the game, and your character freezes up, ready to be slaughtered, and once again wake up in the Mesa facility, like a dystopian “Groundhog Day.” That is until you take charge of your own destiny, with a little help from a quality assurance tablet.
“Westworld Awakening” is being released on the Oculus Store, Viveport and Steam for PC-based headsets on Aug. 20, and will cost $29.99. There are no plans to bring it to the Oculus Quest at the moment, but Survios will release the title in 400 VR arcades worldwide as well.
For HBO, putting together this title was more than just a tribute to “Westworld,” said Foran. In the past, the network’s immersive team had primarily produced one-off experiences designed to promote the show at industry events like SXSW. With “Westworld Awakening,” these efforts are now turning into an actual product, and a potential proof point that VR can be a revenue generator. “It’s not linked together with duct tape,” quipped Foran.