Developer / Publisher – Wevr, Inc
Price – US $29.99 / CA $33.99 / EU €24.99 / UK £23.79 / AU $42.95
Release date – September 23, 2020
Control Method – 2 x Tracked Motion Controllers
Play Area – Seated, Standing, Roomscale
Reviewed on – Oculus Rift
Store Links – Steam
For those unaware, Gnomes and Goblins comes from the Creative mind of John Favreau, the man behind some amazing cinematic stories like Iron Man, Elf & The Mandalorian and has been in development since 2016. The story centers around you as a visiting spirit or presence who stumbles upon the Goblin folk and must aid them in their day to day lives and defend them from the evil Gnomes that live nearby.
Armed with 2 motion controllers you’ll have to interact with the environment and items around you to solve the tasks put before you. Right off the hop you will have to mess with the locomotion settings as the default ones are wonky and confusing, though with the right options selected, this controls like standard first-person walking sims. You’ll meet a shy goblin right away and must follow him throughout the 1 hour campaign as he takes you on a tour of the Goblin village and asks you to help out with some simple tasks like raising a dam, planting seeds and picking fruit. Throughout the story you’ll shrink down to Goblin size, allowing for access to those smaller areas and opening up some more interactions with the goblin folk around you. Once you finish the story, this opens up the endless mode which lets you interact with the Goblins in some new and familiar ways that adds significant play time…should you wish to pursue the random tasks put before you. You can plant crops, brew goblin drinks, take a river ride, explore lore ridden caves and a few little mini-tasks though this mode is much more freeform allowing you to complete whichever job you want whenever you want to. Aiding you in your efforts are 3 fairies that can be summoned with the shake of a bell found on your belt with 1 providing a map of the area, which despite its size is easy to get lost in. The second can shrink you IF the area you are in lets you and the final one highlights items nearby that you can interact with and can really come in handy when looking for nearby resources.
One thing that Gnomes and Goblins nails is the presentation as it has truly wondrous moments that feel ripped right out of a Disney movie. Every blade of grass or the leaves on a tree blow in the wind and the Goblins you meet are typically busy doing something as they run around and perform their own little jobs or just mess around. Walking through this forest realm is an absolute treat and the ability to shrink yourself to Goblin size puts a whole new perspective on the world around you. You have no physical presence in the world save for a pair of ghostly controllers that let you know where your hands are. When you are paddling on a little boat, just watching the ripples in the water is hypnotising and seeing the goblins’ eyes follow you as you move past them does add to your lacking presence in the world. Other singular moments add to the fun, like a fruit fight between yourself and those dastardly Gnomes as well as a chase through the Gnome caves so while the campaign may be lacking in quantity, the visuals are some of the best you can get in the headset, just make sure you have a beefy rig as even on my 2070 super, I still ran into the occasional stutter.
Much of the story is told through your interactions with the little Goblin, who just makes little noises to get your attention, as do all the other Goblins around you. Those little guys will also sing songs or hum tunes as they toil about their day. An ambient soundtrack accompanies you on your little journey adding to the overall cinematic feel of the story with some lighter background music playing during the endless mode. With these little goblins moving all around you, seemingly always busy, the world presented feels very authentic and at times, I couldn’t help but get lost watching these little guys do what they do.
I really enjoyed the campaign though it does feel way too short and more like the 1st chapter to a much larger story though sadly, that’s not the case. Exploring the forest did reveal an area labelled as Gnome hills coming soon but I have no idea if that will include more story content or just more random tasks and I can’t find any ETA for that content regardless. The campaign is very linear and guides you through its series of jobs with endless mode doing the exact opposite providing almost no guidance save for a book that lists the things you can do without explaining how to actually do them. That’s not inherently a bad thing but it can be a little confusing at times until you discover recipes hidden throughout the village that let you easily brew those goblin drinks with the only real reason to do any of those tasks being because you want to. Working against you are a host of invisible walls that require you to take the long way to just about anywhere you want to go with many not being apparent as the only obstacle in front of you might just be some grass. There are hidden items scattered throughout the forest that, when found, will be added to your tree house base, decorating it and filling in all those empty spaces. There are some issues with the controller settings and I often had to cycle through the smooth turn option as even when enabled, would not be until I toggled that check box. I also experienced 2 crashes while going through portals though no progress was lost, just time waiting on loading screens to get back into the game.
Gnomes and Goblins comes out of the gate swinging with a fun and endearing story that ends way too early. The endless mode has a bunch more stuff to find and do but with almost all of my actions in this section having no real world effects beyond some reactions from the Goblins and the items accrued popping up in your tree fort, I quickly lost the motivation to keep hanging out with the little green folk. It’s a gorgeous experience and offers some fun and fanciful moments but after the campaign ends, it devolves into a job sim title with very little in the way of reward for your efforts and some unnecessary frustration.
What would I pay? This is currently $30 US and that is just too pricey for what is currently available. The promise of future DLC could change that but as it stands today, this should be somewhere in the $15 to $20 mark thanks to the brief story and superfluous post campaign content.
Wevr, Inc provided The VR Grid with a press code for this title and, regardless of this review, we thank them for that!