Virtual reality hasn’t quite reached its full potential. There are all sorts of experiences out there to try, but if you’re like me, action packed games with fast movement are a recipe for motion sickness. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I can handle a lot of virtual reality games, but unless it has extensive comfort settings, I’m probably going to be miserable after playing them. That’s why I’m always grateful for a good game that is slower paced and contemplative. Flow Weaver fits that bill perfectly—unfortunately, it’s not without problems.
Flow Weaver is a virtual reality puzzle game. Most puzzle games I’ve played in virtual reality use some sort of system for locomotion, but Flower Weaver is sitting only. That’s perfectly fine with me—lack of movement can be cleverly fixed with game mechanics—something Flow Weaver attempts to do. But sitting causes its own problems, and that isn’t even Flow Weaver’s biggest issue. Flower Weaver suffers greatly from bugs, issues with item manipulation, and just inconsistent mechanics in general. Which is too bad: Flow Weaver really seemed to have a lot going for it.
My first impressions of Flow Weaver were great. You play as a student of magic who hops between dimensions and harnesses power from each of those dimensions. It’s a cool concept, and one that lends itself to seated gameplay well enough: you don’t even have to get up to visit wondrous locales. Your dimension hopping is cut short, however, when a shadowy necromancer traps you in a tower, and binds you to it with runes. You can’t physically escape the bindings, but you can use your dimensional powers to move between points parallel to your stuck position. In other words: when you travel, you’re still stuck in place, but you have a new scene to interact with.
In Flow Weaver, most of the gameplay revolves around skipping between dimensions. Sometimes you will find items that will open up new dimensions. Each dimension contains a rune, and once all of these runes are found, you will break the magical bindings that hold you. Hopping between dimensions is as simple as opening a menu, and physically pulling open a portal. In these dimensions you can find items and use them to unlock new possibilities in one world—or even affect the other dimensions. See, the dimensions in Flow Weaver are connected, and manipulating an object in one dimension can have an effect on the others. Unfortunately, interaction and object manipulation in Flow Weaver is problematic.
Perhaps I’ve been spoiled with games like The Room VR: A Dark Matter and Half-Life: Alyx, both of which had some of the best feeling virtual reality controls I’ve ever had the pleasure of using. Flow Weaver, while not the worst, definitely resides on the other end of that spectrum. I spent more time wrestling with the controls and dealing with bugs and design decisions than I spent solving puzzles.
Flow Weaver features a few ways you can interact with the world—most of which is done through a telekinetic power called Shadow Hand. This ability allows you to grab objects from a distance—yet often these objects, once grabbed, would fly hundreds of feet or get snagged. Sometimes the objects wouldn’t even come to my hands completely. Another annoyance about object interaction is that only certain objects can even be touched and manipulated by the player. If a room is full of knick-knacks, perhaps only two of them will be able to be touched/moved. There is an ability that allows you to sense magic in objects, which gives you clues as to which objects can be manipulated—but it feels like a cheap solution. Perhaps it’s for the best, though—even when I knew I could use an object to solve a puzzle, it wasn’t surprising to discover the object would glitch in various ways. There were a couple of objects that, once touched, made my progression seem impossible, forcing me to quit the game and play from an earlier state. I’m not sure if it was helpful or not that the save states were too far apart, so when I did quit, I was forced to replay the same part I just replayed a half dozen times or more. That includes listening to the same unskippable dialogue.
It’s not just object manipulation that’s a problem, though. I played Flow Weaver on the Oculus Quest 2, and it feels like the controller wasn’t meant to be used with the game. That can’t possibly be true though, since Flow Weaver says it is only compatible with Oculus headsets. Not only that, but since Flow Weaver can only be played from a sitting position, there were some objects that were actually outside of my stationary boundary that were hard to reach while just sitting—and I have long arms!
Production-wise, Flow Weaver looks great. I never expect much from my Quest 2, but it constantly impresses with solid framerates and good visuals—Flow Weaver is not the exception here. However, the voice acting, especially from the main protagonist, leaves a bit to be desired. It isn’t exactly bad, but it sounds a bit amateur, and some of the lines of dialogue are hard to understand due to mumbling. By far the most annoying set of voice acting was from the faerie dimension—it’s horrible, and even a little annoying.
Flow Weaver was a mostly miserable experience for me. It felt like nothing worked correctly, and it was hard to even get into the puzzles themselves because I literally spent hours restarting my save to undo bugs and attempt to get to the actual gameplay. I’ll probably revisit Flow Weaver in the next few months to see if these issues have been ironed out, but for now, I’m going to stay in my own dimension.
Flow Weaver is available tomorrow for Oculus head mounted displays.
If you like the video game, tabletop, or other technology content that Third Coast Review has to offer, consider donating to our Patreon. We are the only publication in Chicago that regularly reviews video games, and we cover lots of local Chicago-based events and more. If you want to contribute to our coverage of Chicago’s video game scene (and more) please consider becoming a patron. Your support enables us to continue to provide this type of content and more. Patreon.com/3CR
You can also catch us streaming games we’re reviewing and staff favorites on our Twitch channel.