Review: Tethered (PS VR)

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Developer: Secret Sorcery
Publisher: Secret Sorcery
Platform: PlayStation 4 (PS VR)
Genre: Strategy
Rating: E
Price: $32.99
With every new platform, there are developers out there who try to fit a square peg into a round hole. Like Microsoft’s Halo Wars, the team at Secret Sorcery has decided that peg would be a strategy game on a console. As it turns out, sometimes it’s hip to be a square. As someone who picked up my PlayStation VR on a whim, I hadn’t done much research into the upcoming games. When I came across Tethered while researching upcoming titles, I was immediately struck by its art style and the action in the trailer promised something that could be unique and engaging. As a platform exclusive and a fan of strategy games, I knew I had to check out the game.

Content Guide

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Spiritual Content
You are a “Spirit Guardian.” For the peeps on your floating sky-island, you are effectively God. It’s your job to wake the other spirit guardians by controlling the weather and earning enough spirit energy. You’ll have to order the peeps around, giving them purpose. If they lose their purpose, they’ll become hopelessly depressed and commit suicide. Hey, they game may be cute but it actually contains some pretty harrowing material.
Violence
There’s cute cartoon violence as your peeps battle crystal slugs with little clubs.
Language/Crude Humor
No Language/crude humor
Sexual Themes
No sexual content
Positive Themes
Tethered will force players to learn resource management and puzzle solving.

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Review

Needed Gear: PlayStation 4, PlayStation VR headset, PS Camera, PS4 Controller
In terms of raw mechanics, Tethered is incredibly easy to pickup and play. You only need to be able to look at something and hold the “X” button before looking at something else. Doing this effectively “tethers” the first object to the second. While that sounds simple on its surface, tethering two objects together actually makes for a remarkably intense context-sensitive strategy game you’ll come back to time and again.
Say, for example, you want one of your mogwai-like peeps (your followers), to collect mushrooms for food. You would simply need to tether the peep to the mushroom grove and he’d get to work. As your population grows, though, and you have more resources available to you (lumber, food, stone, and ore), you’ll be able to build and upgrade different structures. Now Terry the Peep can built and cultivate a pumpkin field. Did you a build a moot house? Now you can tell Terry to specialize as farmer so he gets better benefits in his ability to harvest his crops.
You get the basic gist, but the rabbit hole can go deeper still. Terry’s pumpkin field will eventually run out of pumpkins. You’ll have to force the sun to shine on Terry’s field to regrow his pumpkins. Similar mechanics exist for each force of nature and resource in the world. On top of using weather to regrow resources, you can use them to give individual peeps benefits or combine them for even more specialized effects.

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The game even has combat mechanics, and this is where the complexity of Tethered really starts to come to life. During the day, you’re just building up your economy and making sure the needs of your peeps are met. When the sun sets though, vile slugs full of crystals crawl from under your island to consume your resources and attack your peeps. Any peep who fights a slug will stop whatever task they were assigned to and fend off the attacker. This forces them to forget the task you’ve assigned them. If a peep goes without having a task assigned for too long (or gets too hungry, etc) they’ll go into a depression. Fail to cure the depression before the peep reaches the edge of the island, and they’ll turn their big, sad eyes to the heavens, take a deep breath, and plunge themselves off the side to their doom.*
While the game itself can get hectic, it’s a lot of fun when everything is clicking. With 13 levels, each taking 30+ minutes to complete, there’s plenty of meat here to keep players busy, and with leaderboards, you can come back time and again to improve your game. I just really wish there was a solid story with cutscenes and a cohesive narrative throughout.  
Tethered is a beautiful, engrossing experience. Bright colors, a wonderful cartoon art style, and fantastic attention to detail play together marvelously. All of that is amplified by Secret Sorcery’s implementation of virtual reality in relation to the game they’ve created. Do I believe the core mechanics of the game could’ve existed without it? Sure, though at times I felt like it may have even made controlling the peeps somewhat easier. But ultimately, Tethered owes much of what it is as an experience to its virtual reality aspect. It’s a great visual ride that would forfeit much of its appeal without the feeling of being there.
The attention to music and sound effects has not gone unnoticed, either. While I may not go out and purchase the soundtrack apart from the game, it does a fantastic job tying the action to emotion on the back end. Hearing each of your peeps as they harvest, fight, and build is a real treat, too.

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Overall, Tethered is a great strategy game that gives players a palpable sense of being in the struggle with the beings the player is caring for. Gorgeous landscapes and a beautiful, inviting art style combine with charming sound effects and a solid supporting soundtrack to give players a wonderful audio-visual experience. The core gameplay fits the mantra “easy to pick up, hard to master,” ensuring everyone from the casual to hardcore strategy fans will find something here to enjoy for hours. I really hate the lack of a cohesive narrative, but for anyone with a PlayStation VR and interest in strategy gaming, Tethered is a game that certainly belongs in your library.
Review product provided by Secret Sorcery
*What some may take as a simple game mechanic, I believe to be a much deeper dig at society. We all have our purpose. When we feel like we lose our purpose, we can fall into a depression. Sadly, those who see no hope give in to their despair and forfeit their lives. Even more than that, the combat disrupts everything else. Those antagonists life throws our way completely get us off our rhythm and drag us down. This is where I believe the strongest Christian allegory I’ve ever seen in a video game comes into play: While we are like Peeps trying desperately to hold it all together, we were created by a perfect God who loves us and wants us to know that (Romans 8:37-39). He sees when we’re hungry or hurt. He sees us teeter near the edge and He wants to save us all. (2 Peter 3:9). We are imperfect gods trying to give all of our peeps purpose. God is a perfect God who has already given us purpose (Exodus 9:16).

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The Bottom Line

 

 

Joe Morgan

Husband, gamer, software developer, animal lover. When he's not writing for GeeksUnderGrace, he's probably fishing or working on content with his wife for Coffee and Adventure, their YouTube channel

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