The sun is setting, and the dense trees are casting long shadows across the forest. My fire is fading, too, its light flickering in the gloom. From the bushes, I hear a growl, low, and hungry.
I have one question. How do I survive the night?
That’s the same question we at 17-Bit want you to ask yourself while you’re playing our brand new VR survival game, Song in the Smoke, coming to PS VR in 2021.
Song in the Smoke’s world is a beautiful, yet deadly one, but fortunately, it also gives the player a range of options to keep themselves alive for another day. I cycle through them quickly as the monster in the bushes comes closer.
I could craft a stronger weapon. I have a tree branch, and could take my knife to it, carve it down into the perfect shape for a new bow, before stringing it with sinew that I dried yesterday. Or should I break the wood, snapping it in two with a motion of my hands, before burning it for vital warmth, hoping that the flames last all night and keep whatever is stalking me at bay.
Or I could turn the tables by trying to hunt what is hunting me. I can hide from the beast, and then find it by tracking its scent and following its footprints, taking the time to crouch and sharpen my senses in the cover of long grass, before lining up a shot with my bow and loosing an arrow into its heart.
Or maybe I should explore, try to find a new camping spot before the sun goes down. I saw a strange green glow on top of a cliff yesterday, but night was closing in and I needed to get back to the warmth of my fire. There’s still some daylight, I could climb that rock face and uncover its mysteries, taking a torch to light my way and scare off the beasts of the night.
Survive or die
The first priority is always survival in Song in the Smoke. That means hunting and scavenging for food to stave off hunger, and it means choosing safe campsite locations to sleep at to avoid exhaustion. It also means concocting antidotes and healing tonics for poison and injuries, as well as staying warm, crafting clothes and building fires as I move from forests, through plateaus, to frozen peaks.
It also means defending myself against attacks from the predators that share this world with me. Song in the Smoke’s beasts move with a weight that’s only possible in VR, and their attacks feel like being hit by a furry train. But while they’ve got their teeth and claws, I’ve got a weapon of my own – a crafted club – that I can use to block and parry their attacks. Facing down 200 kilograms of angry lion isn’t easy, but if I time my deflection just right, I can disorient the beast long enough to escape his attention. Or I could even strike back, swinging my club with my Move controller to send him running for safety with his tail between their legs. If I’m really lucky, my blow might take him down for good, allowing me to plunder his corpse for trophies and other valuable resources.
It’s a dangerous world, but thanks to PS VR, my survival is put into my own two hands. I eat by bringing food to my real-life mouth; turn herbs into tonics by mashing them with tools and pouring them into containers, and carve wood by taking a knife to its surface. When I need to defend myself – or hunt for my dinner – then I can also rely on human instincts. Firing a bow feels natural: I pull the string with my Move controllers, line my eye up with the arrow, and release. If I’ve aimed it right, then my target is hit in its heart, and I’ll eat tonight. If I miss, then my prey will be spooked, and I’ve wasted an arrow.
If I want to eat properly, I’ll need a fire. After I’ve built a pit, I’ll smash two rocks together, hoping for the spark that lights my kindling, before building my precious campfire slowly, tending its embers to become a roaring flame. With enough fuel, I can keep it burning through the night, warding off the creatures that call the dark their home, and ensuring I can wake up fully rested.
Are you afraid of the dark?
When I’m feeling braver, I can capture some of that fire with a torch, and venture out into the dark. Some of Song in the Smoke’s most valuable rewards can be found under cover of darkness, but I’ve got to be careful. Night, as it was to our distant ancestors, is a real danger, and I’m not the only one padding through the depths of the forest far past my bedtime. Predators lurk in the gloom, watching from the shadows cast by my flickering torch. They’re joined by something else, as well – something truly primal – that stalks the midnight hours.
But as I explore my environment, start to learn its secrets, track down its items, and battle its predators, I can do more than survive – I can start to thrive. I can craft better weapons, build tanning and drying racks to upgrade my items, and outfit myself with warmer and stronger clothes. When I’m ready, I can start to make plans to move on to the next zone, towards the mysterious giant tree in the distance, spurred on by visions of a strange shaman who seems to dwell in another world.
At first glance, the world of Song in the Smoke is like our own, but spend some time in its starkly beautiful spaces and the strangeness becomes apparent. Deer drink at watering holes alongside dangerous purple-feathered bipeds; odd weasel creatures frolic through foliage before disappearing into the undergrowth, and venture further in your journey and you might catch a glimpse of a beast so large it looks more like a lumbering boulder. Your journey may seem like a solitary one, but if you’re lucky, you might also spy some friendly souls to guide you on your path, or the remnants of people who may have come before.
Every time you play Song in the Smoke, we want you to be asking yourself these same questions. Should I craft a new bow, or make do with old faithful? Is this the perfect campsite, or should I pack up and move into that cave on the cliff side? Am I ready to fight that strange shimmering monster that I saw stalking just over the ridge line?
And most importantly of all: how do I survive? In Song in the Smoke, the choice is yours.