Nearly three and a half years after its launch, indie VR gem Vanishing Realms (2016) is due for a major expansion, set to launch on Friday. Vanishing Realms: The Sundered Rift, as it’s called, is said to be even larger than the original game, bringing new environments, enemies, and weapons, while concluding the game’s story.
Vanishing Realms: Rite of Steel brought Zelda-esque room-scale RPG action to SteamVR all the way back at the launch of the first PC VR headsets in 2016. The game is one of the top rated titles on SteamVR, but has remained in Early Access more than three years after launch. Updates on development progress have been extremely sparse in the intervening years, leading some of the game’s community to believe the project would never be completed.
But the wait for both the original game’s ‘1.0’ launch and its expansion is finally coming to an end, says Kelly Bailey, the title’s sole developer.
Vanishing Realms: The Sundered Rift, is expected to launch tomorrow (Friday, August 22nd), and the original game—having benefited from some of the tech developed for the expansion—will finally leave early access at the same time.
The Sundered Rift is “even larger than the base game, spanning six distinct environments and featuring ten new monsters and many new weapon types,” Bailey tells Road to VR.
Functionally speaking, The Sundered Rift expansion will be released as DLC, which means it requires the base game as well. A final price hasn’t been set just yet, though a launch sale is planned for release.
Bailey touts the following for The Sundered Rift:
- Six distinct new realms, each beautifully hand-crafted for VR. Watch from a sheltered cove as the the moon rises over the sea, surrounded by birdsong discover deep forest groves by dawn, see clouds in twilight moving over mountains, walk through the bleached bones of a colossus to explore a canyon and a deadly desert beyond, in a gathering storm ascend a vast stairway to the heart of a dying peak, traverse a bottomless crevasse, discover secret caves, waterfalls, ruins, wander a vast mist-enshrouded swamp, loot treacherous dungeons and more.
- New weapons to master, including an enchanted throwing hammer, deadly throwing axes, war-spears, bashing shields, shields to ward off blade, arrowhead or flame, quick-firing elven bows, hard hitting long-range bows, new two-handed weapons and an epic relic of such power…well…it Shall Not Be Named.
- 10 new monsters and diabolical automata with unique combat mechanics.
- Challenge yourself with over 15 new achievements.
- Experience the thrill of face-to-face melee combat, explore, climb, mine, unravel the clues within poetic riddles, detect and defeat traps, solve puzzles, ride mystic levitating stones, follow spirit animals to healing groves and ancient gateways, all in a regenerating human-scale VR world.
For Bailey, The Sundered Rift expansion, together with the original, concludes his vision of the game.
“I really gave myself time to build the expansion, several years as it turns out, and it grew much larger than my original design! It’s been quite a journey, and I think Vanishing Realms: The Sundered Rift now pretty much includes everything I wanted to say in the story and could think of adding for gameplay!”
Building Vanishing Realms has been a “nostalgic experience,” Bailey says; the title is heavily inspired by the games of his youth, like those he wrote on an Apple II computer and Dungeons & Dragons campaigns played with friends.
Back in those days, we read everything by Howard, Tolkien, Pratchett, Anthony, Leiber. We spent rainy Saturdays rolling 20-sided dice and letting our imaginations transport us of out a suburban basement onto epic battlefields, to ancient cities and dark underworlds. […]
When I first encountered VR in 2015, I was captured by the possibility that the adventures we once experienced in shared imagination might actually be realizable in some tangible form. I’m still inspired by that idea today. I hope you will enjoy playing these new chapters of Vanishing Realms as much as I’ve enjoyed building them!
In addition to being the game’s sole developer, he also composed the game’s soundtrack which further draws inspiration from that era.
“For atmosphere and inspiration [while playing D&D], we’d often have the electronic music of pioneers like Synergy, Tangerine Dream, and Vangelis playing in the background. Reminiscent of those times, I’ve written a somewhat ’80s inspired sound track for this expansion.”
Speaking to Road to VR, Bailey briefly addressed the lengthy delay of the expansion compared to his original expectations and announcements to the game’s community.
It’s an unusual situation, but over time the new content for Vanishing Realms actually grew to become larger than the base game. When I look back on my announcements to the community in 2017 and 2018, indicating I’d be keeping the [original game] in Early Access and delivering the new content as DLC, I didn’t really anticipate that the new chapters would take me two years to complete or get quite this large. […]
I have to smile when I see the 2016 Early Access announcement where I anticipate launching the base game out of Early Access within two weeks. It’s been a long journey getting here; I ultimately just kept the base game in Early Access while building the expansion because it turned out to make it much easier to keep all the shared technology in sync. For instance, as I upgraded the monster movement AI to be more agile when moving in a more open terrain world, the [original game] got that benefit right away. Many more cases like that, in fact the entire game engine was upgraded to allow for more open-world design—you’ll see a bit more detail in the outdoor scenes in the base game as a consequence—things like that.