Screenshot of Tethered

Wanting more can be high praise.

I finished Tethered last night, and I think it is a great example of VR gaming. It controls super well, I had fun and felt immersed the whole way through, and now that I have put it down I wish there was simply more of it. A sandbox mode, randomly generated levels, what have you.

(Or multiplayer, to dream big. Wow, that could really be something.)

So, what kind of game is it?

I think of Tethered as a god game or a realtime strategy game, but I bet there are lots of labels which more narrowly describe this type of game. When I think of ”classic” realtime strategy, I think of a game with somewhat freer controls. In Tethered, you can not really tell your units (called peeps) to go anywhere, you always select one and pick a target. So there is no placing units in formations, putting one on guard at a choke point or anything like that. But you do gather resources, construct buildings, advance tech trees and fight enemies, so I think it fits nicely and easily within the genre.

Tethered is very good at always having something to do. Yes, you lack certain freedoms of classic realtime strategy, but you have so many things to do that those freedoms might well have become overwhelming and confusing. I think the mechanics of Tethered have been very carefully thought through and tested. I think of it as "classic" realtime strategy being scaled down and adjusted to fit great with the controls, then having new things added on top to balance and add spice. It all works very well and is great fun once you get into it.

And there is enough complexity that getting in actually takes a few levels. At first I felt as if I was barely scraping by, losing peeps to despair, missing events and generally having too much on my plate. Then, it suddenly clicked. I finished the third or fourth level with much less trouble and suddenly I had reached a plateau where everything just flowed and was fun. I was wondering if there would be another steep increase in difficultly somewhere along the way, but there was not, and I finished the thirteen levels hungry for more.

I played the whole game with my Playstation VR using the standard controller. In this mode, your view is always attached to a fixed point (you can switch to other fixed points to look around the world from different angles) and you control your cursor by simply looking at things. It works great, but I am excited to try the game using Move controllers. Their controls seem equally well thought out, but mainly they offer free camera movement, and I would really love to see this amazing world from more perspectives.

Just like in Tiny trax, the world is beautiful to look at, like peering down at a model world where miniature creatures live and follow your commands.

The game also supports playing in 2D, but that option holds so little appeal I have never even tried it. Sure, the visuals will be sharper … but why would I want to leave this immersive model landscape for something flatter?

I am curious what someone with more game design theory has to say about the game style and challenge curve, it feels as if there are interesting insights to be had there.