This review was originally created in August 2018 for HTC, targeted to their Vive/Vive Pro (VIVEPORT). It is reproduced here without alteration.
Although your first thought about World of Diving might be the act of jumping or falling into water from a platform or springboard, it’s actually a game with a lot more depth. While a virtual reality experience about that type of recreational diving sounds like it could make quite a splash, this game is actually about exploring diverse underwater locations.
Gameplay consists of a range of mission-based activities, side objectives, and scenarios, including locating and salvaging shipwrecks, collecting treasures, and taking photos. Of course, once you get through enough missions, you can start exploring the watery depths on your own. You can also not only fully customize your appearance and gear, but also design and share your own content and underwater layouts. As with the missions, though, most of the good stuff has to be unlocked first.
While the underwater world is mostly original, you can eventually explore real-world wrecks at specific dive sites. These sites include the U352, a German submarine from World War II, the Bismarck, a German battleship from World War II, and the SS Yongala, an Australian passenger ship from 1903. And for good measure, there’s even a community-created wreck included, the HMS Tranquility.
A major hook with World of Diving, at least in theory, is that besides offering a robust single player experience, it also supports online multiplayer with up to four other people. A nice feature of this multiplayer aspect of the game is that it provides this support across all the platforms it’s been ported to, including non-virtual reality, and all of the various control schemes, including gamepad and mouse and keyboard. In theory, this wide-ranging cross-platform play greatly increases the chances of finding others to play with, but, as with most online-enabled games like this that aren’t blockbusters, that still doesn’t mean you’ll have any luck doing so. During my testing, for instance, I was able to find no other players available.
World of Diving can be played either seated or standing and can make use of the Vive controllers or a gamepad. Movement or grabbing objects is intuitive with either control scheme and pop-up radial menus help to keep item and feature selections quick and easy. Using the Vive controllers can make you feel a bit like Superman as you point your right controller in any direction you wish to move underwater.
Of course, this type of freedom of movement is not necessarily the best for sensitive stomachs. It can also be rather jarring when playing standing and half of your body ends up below the virtual floor. That’s not too surprising however, as your avatar is supposed to be swimming mostly horizontally, which is not a position you yourself can typically pull off when playing.
Visually, World of Diving impresses. While the character and sea life models are generally well done, it’s the environments, both above and below the sea, that really steal the show. There’s a level of detail here that you don’t typically see with this type of game.
Audio-wise, you’ll hear a lot of the expected environmental sounds, like seagulls when above the surface and the gurgle of water when below. Just as with real diving, you’re not going to be hearing much otherwise.
As far as virtual reality experiences go, it’s hard to top a game like World of Diving. It simulates an experience that a lot of us won’t get to do much, if at all, in our lifetimes, and then adds tons of extra play value on top of it. Although not perfect, World of Diving is the type of ambitious virtual reality experience we need to see more of. Hopefully this game, which was initially released back in August 2014 in an early state and updated multiple times since, continues to grow and evolve. It deserves to fulfill the full potential of the excellent foundation that’s already in place.
Score: 4 out of 5 stars.
World of Diving is available on Viveport or with a Viveport Subscription.