Stormland is a robust FPS adventure made better by VR

Stormland is exactly what I want from a VR game: cool enough that I'd want to play it even without an Oculus headset, but much better because it's built to take full advantage of being in VR. In a short demo on the Oculus Rift, I stepped into the feet of a robot exploring small islands in search of another robot who's gone missing. Unsurprisingly, there are evil robots prowling around who I'll have to destroy to continue my search. It's a pretty straightforward setup for a shooter, but Stormland is really all about execution, and it feels great to play.

With the Oculus Touch controllers, I could aim guns and a small blaster on my wrist used to blow up stacks of ore to collect resources. Basic stuff. But Stormland also embraces the physicality of VR in some satisfying ways. Once I blasted apart some robots, I wanted to collect ammo and scrap resources from their guns, so I did what any super-strong robot would do: I held the gun with one hand, grabbed onto the top of it with the other, and ripped it apart. Physically, that action was as simple as bringing my hands close together and holding down the grip button on the Touch controller to grab the top of the gun, and pulling apart. Still, super cool.

Those scrap resources I collected eventually gave me what I needed to upgrade my arm, adding a stun blast to it that could short-circuit other robots. To upgrade it, I reached across my chest, yanked the arm off at the shoulder, and plopped it down on the table. It felt a little like being the Terminator. Again: super cool.

I only got to play around with a couple weapons, a rapid-fire SMG and a shotgun, but both had a nice sci-fi feel to them and one of the coolest alternate fire options I've seen this side of Perfect Dark. The guns can be fired one-handed, but if you bring your hands close together and use a two-handed grip, they take on a new fire mode. This gave me a zoom on the pistol that let me hit enemies at range, and it was also fun just to watch the weapon change shape and mold itself to a new grip. Morphing weapons really play up Stormland's sci-fi feel, and you can see a bit of Insomniac's Ratchet & Clank heritage peeking out here.

In another really physical interaction, I used the Touch controllers to scale walls, either hand-over-hand or by vaulting myself skyward. At first this was just part of exploring some pretty linear paths, but in one fight I climbed up a wall and used the height to my advantage, getting a better shot on some robot baddies hiding behind barricades.

From my brief time with Stormland, I picked up a major ability upgrade (climbing) that slotted into an inventory screen like a computer chip, and a couple lighter power-ups, like one that buffed my health by 10 percent. Equipping those made it look like there's a lot to Stormland, with many upgrades like those to find throughout its world. That world is comprised of these small islands peppered around a ground blanketed in clouds, which you can glide across. I recommend controlling your speed and direction by putting your arms out in front of you like Superman and really leaning into it.

I was excited by the potential of Stormland even before I learned that everything I played, which was compelling by itself, is the game in its most basic form. It's not going to be a linear adventure that's over in a few hours, though I'd happily play it in that form. Insomniac is planning for Stormland to include multiplayer co-op, and the islands will be rearranged and reformed to keep exploration fresh. It's not exactly a roguelike, but using the same idea to encourage you to spend more time in this world.

You can watch Insomniac talk in-depth about Stormland's design, including some mechanics like stealth I didn't even encounter, in a talk from Oculus Connect. Stormland is out sometime next year for the Oculus Rift.