It may have been a long time for The Climb to ascend onto the Oculus Quest, but it has been well worth the wait.
The Climb has been eagerly awaited on the Oculus Quest ever since it was first promised to appear on the untethered headset at launch. After six months of waiting, and what has likely been lots of optimisation from its developers, Crytek, The Climb finally lands on the Oculus Quest for fans new and old to experience, untethered and free.
As its title suggests, The Climb gives you the ability to climb a few of the mountainous locations around this little planet of ours. Reaching the top is your goal, through a series of three checkpoints along the route. How you do it is entirely up to you, and the speed and flow at which you do it will give you an overall score.
Scoring opens the game up to achievements and a competitive edge, as you race to the top of the leaderboards against friends and other online climbers. So with chalk in hand, let’s find out if The Climb manages to reach the peak of our impressions.
Booting up the game for the first time you are given a brief tutorial of the climbing basics. Each Touch controller resembles your hands, and what beautifully created and animated hands they are. You can customise the gender and skin tone to better tailor them to your own hands, and by successfully completing climbs you also get to unlock accessories to dress your hands with, be it with gloves, wristbands and watches.
With each controller in hand, you simply raise your arms and grab specific white chalked ledges of the rock face with the default trigger buttons. Personally I found the grip button to be more intuitive than the trigger buttons, and luckily this can be easily set in the game’s settings menu. Once a ledge has been grabbed, you simply pull yourself up to give you the ability for your other hand to grab another available ledge above you. It’s scaling mechanic feels very natural and this helps to build the immersion in the world you’re climbing in.
As difficulties get dialled up into more challenging climbs, so does the mountain and its obstacles that begin to challenge you. Soon you have to do more leaps between ledges, a feat that builds the nerves. You’re soon asked to swing between bars like a monkey, fly down zip wires and dust off ledges with one hand quickly before you are able to grab on to it.
To add a level of difficulty to the climbing mechanic, each hand has a stamina bar that loops around your wrist. The longer you hold on with one hand, stamina for that hand will begin to turn red and reduce. If your stamina bar hits zero, your grip is lost and you will soon be tumbling down the rock face and death. Thankfully there are snap hooks along the way that act as save points for your progress up the mountain, so should you plummet to your death, you can be back up and climbing in no time from the last save point. Holding on with both hands also lets you recover your stamina in each hand, and you can also slow down the stamina depletion by chalking each hand at any point in the climb.
By holding the chalk button and shaking your hands you can apply chalk to them. This allows you to slow down your stamina depletion rate because your hands now have more grip to them. Certain rocks of smaller sizes as well as holding ledges with your arms wide apart also speed up the depletion rate, so for climbs in harder difficulties, chalking is very important to reaching the top successfully and in good speed, that’s if you wish to earn a high score for the climb.
You have three key locations to choose from in The Climb. The Bay is a sunkissed southeast Asian location, that first eases you into the game with its first easy climb location. Once complete, this opens the American Southwest Canyon location and the European Alps location. Each location contains up to five different climbs, spanning easy, medium and hard climbs. Easy climbs are a good way to ease you into the game, requiring very little chalking, whilst medium and hard climbs introduce difficult to reach ledges, multiple pathways, crumbling ledges and ledges with nasty stinging plants on them.
Medium and hard difficulties also require you to take a leap of faith and jump between ledges that are slightly out of reach. You can do this in two ways. First is by physically pushing your way off one ledge and grabbing onto the other, or alternatively you can press the A button whilst looking into the direction you wish to leap towards. Whichever method you choose, jumping always gets your heart racing, as you reach out for that ledge, sometimes missing it completely and you have to quickly scramble to grip another ledge before you fall to your death.
The months its developers have taken to improve on this game has genuinely paid off, as it looks fantastic on the Quest. Sometimes with games like these, you have to remember you’re still playing on 2-year-old mobile hardware. The graphics are more photorealistic than many other Quest games, which means there will be a compromise on the mobile hardware, but with that said the graphics are just great, and it is a big achievement to port this game so well from PCVR to the Quest. Even though some textures can appear a little blurry in places, you easily sideline these whilst you focus on the task at hand.
The only real issue I encountered was with the Fixed Foveated Rendering, which lowers quality on the edges of your view. There are many times where you are looking up and outside your central view, for ledges and route directions, and with these being displayed in a lower quality it can break the immersion slightly.
The audio in The Climb is very subtle and I am glad this direction was chosen. The wind blows past you as you scale the rock face, waterfalls can be heard beneath you, bird calls, bells and general natural ambience play out subtly in the background. There are skin slaps as you grab each ledge and there is a sense of panic in your character’s voice as you begin to lose grip on ledges, and there are even screams of fear as you fall to your death.
Throughout my time in The Climb, I had a great experience. As someone that likes to hike and do outdoor pursuits, this game was really enjoyable to play. Its easy access into its core mechanic and the gradual introduction into its harder difficulties and the challenges within them is well-paced. Its many climbing stages and the online leaderboards will keep you coming back for many hours, and its simplified practice mode makes for a staple game to introduce friends and family into VR. It may have been a long wait for The Climb to reach us on the Quest, but it has been well worth the climb to get there in the end.