There are very few games out there that offer the huge variety of content that Rec Room from Against Gravity offers and there are certainly none of them that offer it for free. That and the amazing community that has grown up around the game makes Rec Room a must have for any VR owner.
Update November 2018:
Rec Room is now available with a screen mode. Screen mode allows you to play Rec Room without a VR headset on any PlayStation 4. This gives you the chance to play with friends who may not have bought aVR headset yet. Rec Room is still free to download, all you have to do is choose screen mode when you first start the game and you will be able to control it with your DualShock controller.
So what is Rec Room?
Put simply Rec Room is a First Person social game set in a make-believe Rec Room — you know the kind, a huge building with small areas for playing cards and ping pong and a massive outside area to play team sports — the type of places you used to go when you were a little one after school until your parents got back from work. It is filled with little things to do in the main social hub like darts, basketball, table tennis and even some couches for chilling out on and catching up with friends.
And boy is it easy to make friends in the Rec Room. Because everyone has proximity chat enabled you can start a conversation or ask if people want to team up for one of the many games and quests available. Just a handshake in the game will add the person to your friend's list and a fist bump will set you as a party, it is the least game-breaking way I have seen to make friends. It's so good.
Like Roblox and Minecraft, graphically, the game itself is fairly simple. It isn't going to be winning any art awards any time soon, but it doesn't need to. What makes the game so fun is the interaction between you and all the other visitors to the Rec Room and the games you can play there.
What can I do there?
you can do an awful lot right now with more to come and those things are separated into three categories, soon to be four, so let's tackle them one by one.
Rec Royale is the latest addition to Rec Room following on the heels of the insane adoption of Fortnite. It is going to feature a wilderness map for up to 16 players to battle it out for supremacy using the latest arsenal of.. Paintball guns — it's a family friendly game people, we try not to let people be killed in Recreation Centers if we can avoid it — and with the addition of a backpack to load your gear in you are good to go.
Sean Whiting, Against gravity's community designer, and a huge presence in the Rec Room Community is practically giddy over this new addition. He had this to say about the new loot system:
The landscape holds summer camps, mountains, forests, outposts, ravines, lakes, and tons of loot for scavenging. To hold all of that loot we've added a new backpack system for quick swapping and storing multiple weapons and power-ups.
The backpack is a welcome addition to Rec Room as before you could only hold one or two things maximum, it should make Rec Royale much more entertaining, and a little more tactical. Rec Royale will be available as an open beta the weekend of May 25th including Friday and will come in full to all platforms on June 7th. This section is still sparse right now but we will update this post when we know more.
Update 05/29/18: After spending most of the weekend playing the Rec Royale Alpha I thought I would give you an update. The game itself is extremely fun, bringing in some of the best qualities of other Battle Royale games — having a variety in the areas you battle as well as a variety of weapons, including frying pans! — as well as bringing the unique visual style and friendliness that comes from playing in the Rec Room. There are still lots of bugs, this is an alpha release afterall — the gondola that takes you over the island is janky as heck, and if you spin around on the handglider you can't get a handhold on it again — but the Rec Room team are fantastic at finding and destroying bugs and i'm confident that the beta version will be miles better and the final release will be awesome.
The Backbone of Rec Room is the team sports you can play inside the Main Hall. By passing through any number of doors you are taken to a variety of crazy simple, yet endlessly entertaining games to play — Paintball is a firm favorite of mine but I get a lot of enjoyment from the kickball, it's like Rocket League but with people — and there are always people willing to team up to play. Another neat matchmaking trick, the game puts you into balanced teams as you walk into the game, and as there is no skill progression you have as good a chance as anyone else to win the game.
The Paintball game is a prime example of what makes Rec Room so fun. You step through a door in the Rec Room and you are whisked away to the outside area with old containers as buildings and hay bales as shield walls when there are enough players, the game starts and your capture the flag game is afoot! the aim is simple, steal the flag and get it to the goal line and if you get shot, well you respawn at the start and try again. It's extremely fun and light-hearted combat made all the more fun by the proximity chat and all the people laughing at you losing the flag two feet from the goal!
Quests are the adventuring side of Rec Room — instead of just playing a team sport you get to team up and seek out adventure — with four quests to choose from there is plenty to keep you going. Using just you and three others you have to take on trolls and goblins or killer robots or even scary pirates! All set to the Recreation Center feel the whole game has. Go behind some of the scenery in the quests and you will see they are just cardboard on wooden frames, probably made by the naughty kids who don't want to play with others.
My favorite quest is The Quest For The Golden Trophy — yes I know not all the words need to be capitalized but it's quest so it deserves some pomp — in it you play an archer or a classic sword and board fighter and your job is to work together to grab the chalice and be claimed, victor! Beware though, many a clockwork goblin on wheels is seeking to wipe you out and they will succeed, often. Another charming way the game makes it all feel very friendly is how your team revive each other. Simply high five your friend's ghost and poof, back alive to fight again.
The game just oozes fun times and happiness, a refreshing change from the doom and gloom of a lot of games these days. The quests are generally very tough and require teamwork and skill to survive, making them one of the very best VR experiences I have had to date, including Skyrim and many other AAA titles.
Private and Customs rooms are the secret delight of Rec Room. In private rooms, you can use all the features above — except the Rec Royale, they haven't figured that out yet — but in a closed environment that you control. You control who can come and play in your room as well what kind of things you want in it. In each private room, there is a sandbox machine that lets you pull out furniture, weapons, games, and other miscellaneous items to help make the room your own.
With the use of the sandbox and the closed nature of the private rooms you can create a space for you and friends to meet and have fun without the need to interact with strangers, making it an anxiety-free way to meet your friends in VR, Of course if you want to show off your skill at creating games and spaces you can always make a custom room.
Custom rooms are the crowning achievement of the customization abilities of Rec Room. You can, with a little effort make impressive areas for you and anyone else who knows your room name to play in — they even have circuits that allow you to build complex systems to bring a unique feel to every room, and then show them off to the world. I spent a little time making the Mobile Nations fans a custom room called ^MoNaClub that you can access from inside the game, making it with a podcasting area for Russell and Rene along with a Dungeons and Dragons cave hiding in the back. It's not finished yet but is still a great space for fans to meet up, and I will keep making it better as I learn more about the game.
So should I get it?
If you are into VR at all then you should give Rec Room a try. With the new Rec Royale mode coming soon and all the other ways to enjoy the game, it seems like a no-brainer to pick it up, especially as it is completely free. When I say free I do mean completely free, no purchase cost, no loot boxes, no hidden fees, just enjoyment from minute one. Try it I think you'll like it.
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