This review was originally created in November 2018 for HTC, targeted to their Vive/Vive Pro (VIVEPORT). It is reproduced here without alteration.
Based solely on its title, you might think MasterWorks: Journey Through History is a virtual reality experience based around legendary paintings and sculptures. Instead, it’s a mix of virtual museum and onsite tours of four different iconic destinations.
You start out at Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota. At the site, you not only get to view Gutzon Borglum’s iconic presidential sculptures from the grounds like a typical tourist, but also get a unique look from directly in front. It’s also here that you learn about how MasterWorks: Journey Through History functions. While you’re free to teleport to and explore limited areas on your own, your main objective is to find and listen to artifacts and other hotspots that provide additional spoken history and information on the site and surrounding areas. Once you’ve looked around and found and listened to everything, you can go to the main museum, where you have access to all of the sites and some bonus content.
Besides Mount Rushmore, you can visit the cliff dwellings of Colorado in Mesa Verde, the underground tunnels of a Peruvian temple in Chavín de Huántar, and the ancient pagoda-filled capital of Thailand in Ayutthaya. The destination vistas consist of 360-degree views captured through an advanced photogrammetry process, where the actual environments are 3D scanned. Although the stitching process is not always perfectly seamless, particularly when tourists were inadvertently captured, and some of the textures are a bit lower resolution than one might like at times, the overall effect is still extremely impressive. You really get a great sense of scale and presence thanks to the power of virtual reality.
MasterWorks: Journey Through History is designed as a seated or standing room-scale experience for Vive or Vive Pro owners. You can use one or both Vive controllers to navigate with simple, straightforward controls that consist solely of pointing and clicking for both navigation and object or content selection.
Thanks to its by-design, bite-sized and fast-moving content delivery, as a purely educational experience, MasterWorks: Journey Through History, proves a bit shallow. However, being an information dump is clearly not this title’s main goal. Instead, it’s meant to provide visual insight into places you normally wouldn’t have access to, even as a tourist. So, in some ways, it can actually be better than being there in person. And of course, even if you are able to eventually go, or did go, to one of these destinations, this is a great way to prepare for or relive those memories in a unique way.
While there are countless virtual tourism applications out there, MasterWorks: Journey Through History, is able to rise to the top of this crowded field. Its interface is simple and intuitive, the chosen sites are eclectic and interesting, and it offers unique insight into areas normally inaccessible to regular tourists. Hopefully these developers can iron out a few of the minor rough spots of this experience and expand the number of locations in the future, either within this title or with future releases. It’s definitely a worthwhile investment.
Score: 5 out of 5 stars.
MasterWorks: Journey Through History is available on Viveport or with a Viveport Subscription.