There were many big guns trotted out at The PlayStation Experience earlier this month, like The Last of Us II and Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite. But one of the most intriguing games wasn't a big-name blockbuster: It was the indie-developed Vane.
The exploration-heavy game is set in the desert, but you'll find no guzzoline-obsessed warboys tearing along the roads of this dusty landscape. Just the desert winds, the serene sky and birds to keep you company.
It opens with a dark, iridescent-winged bird perched atop a sparsely leaved tree. You take flight with a tap of a button, feathers of the outstretched wings trembling as they catch the warm updrafts. Vane then lets you glide through the air at your own pace, exploring the landscape with a purpose that slowly becomes evident over time.
"Instead of a traditional form of narrative, we're looking at something more like an 'engagement perspective,'" said Matt Smith, one of Vane's eight developers at Friend&Foe in Tokyo. The environment, he says, lends itself to the story and encourages the player to investigate.
As you flit about, there are times that something might catch your eye: A particular shape or metallic glint of something in the hazy distance. Valleys and scars across the landscape beg to be swooped down into, often leading to discoveries of broken, weather-worn ruins of indiscernible ancient structures. There are also the titular weather-vanes, rusted and creaky, dotted across the deserts. These pillars offer a sharp contrast to the subtle, washed palettes of the low-poly landscapes.
But the game isn't just aerial exploration. You'll play some of it as a graceful bird, but take the form of a curious child in other bits which offer more traditional puzzle solving.
"We kind of went about the development in reverse, " Smith said of the visual style, "starting with a visual prototype first before working on the game story."
The game's look can be attributed to eclectic inspirations, including American architect Lebbeus Woods and Russian authors the Strugatsky brothers. It's these few motivations that helps Vane fit with the medium of video games as an "artbook to be poured over," Smith said.
While the game is still very much in its early stages, the team expects a mid-to-late 2017 release, with some consideration for a possible PC version.