Ever wondered what it’s like to be the Doctor? Well, Doctor Who: The Edge of Time won’t answer that particular question. This VR adventure doesn’t teleport you into the body of The Doctor, but rather a newfound human companion friend, thrown into the firing line as so many of her companions are, to overcome all the challenges put before you.
This is a new and original tale set within the current Doctor Who run with Jodi Whittacker reprising her role as the Thirteenth Doctor, just in video game form. In fact, from the sections of the game we were able to sample, The Doctor gets most of her small amounts of screen time on screens within the VR environment. There’s certainly elements of the modern classic Who episode Blink from this approach, putting the real onus on you, the human protagonist to progress and overcome the obstacles before you.
Maze Theory CEO Ian Hamilton explained, “[It came from] Reddit research within about the first week? We did a look at what fans really wanted, and basically a lot of fans don’t want to be the Doctor because that would be strange to them. How can you inhabit an alien’s form?
“It was basically looking at what fans want, and they want to a) pilot the TARDIS and b) be the Doctor’s friend. Nail that and you’ve got the basis of a really good Doctor Who game!”
Finding ourselves on a mysterious forested planet, we meander forward – The Edge of Time features both direct locomotion via analog sticks and teleporting, and either can be customised to suit your VR comfort. As we come to an encampment, suddenly things shift, the world around us transformed into a dark and hellish version of itself. This is the danger that’s threatening the universe, as a reality altering virus tracks back through time, making changes for the worse.
Pushing ahead and ghoul-like creatures haunt the edges of the small path you follow through the forest, warily watching you and springing occasional jump scare on you. What’s not so expected of the setting is the appearance of an underground bunker, with technological-based puzzles that will have you connecting up power cables in the right spots, redirecting lasers, spinning walls in mazes, and so on. It’s Doctor Who by way of Myst and it can throw up some real headscratchers. Not only that, but what’s going on with this whole forest and underground bunker, anyway? All is eventually revealed.
As the Doctor’s new remote companion, you’ll be hopping into the Tardis to visit a variety of different settings and time periods, each with their own particular threat. Coming in at around four hours, depending on how quickly you’re able to speed through the puzzles, there’s bound to be the distinctly episodic feel of modern Who through this, but they’ll all be thematically bound by this overarching universe-ending threat.
There’s moments with original creations, as in the forest sequence we played, but we’ll also be battling Daleks and facing off against the more recent terror of the Weeping Angels in a Victorian mansion. It feels like a greatest hits compilation.
Ian told us, “I think the first step for us was Mark, who’s the creative director on the project, took three weeks off and basically just watched almost every episode of the show. He sat there with his notepad going, ‘Would that be a good mechanic for VR?’ There was a lot of that early on, and we then recommended to the BBC a load of things that we wanted to do and had this sort of skeleton of a game.
“We’ve been lucky, because we asked them to have the Daleks and the Weeping Angels, and they pretty much agreed and let us do all of them. The Weeping Angels were an immediate thing that felt perfect for VR; You look away, they come at you, it’s amazing!”
Of course, without the Doctor to do the piloting for you, you’ll be trying to steer the Tardis to where you need to go. The spaceship has been recreated in all its modern glory and you’ll have full access to all the pulleys, levels, switches, wheel and gewgaws that adorn its central control console.
“We’ve basically made it as accurate as we possibly can, visually and spatially,” Ian said. “We’re using photogrammetry mapping to recreate it almost exactly – it’s even got the biscuit draw in and everything […] but obviously it does that annoying thing in VR where it’s not a real biscuit!”
But how do you actually go about piloting this infernal, unpredictable contraption? Well, the game won’t be sitting you down with an instruction manual for 73 aeons to try and understand it. “You can play with all the different pieces and there’s various things setting off steam, but when you get in there, there is actually a sequence where the Doctor shows you how to pilot it, and you follow certain gameplay mechanics to do that.”
With a selection of Doctor Who villains old and new, a time-hopping adventure and an accomplished step into the world of VR, Doctor Who: The Edge of Time could do more than enough to keep eager Whovians entertained while waiting for the TV series to start up again next year.