Bonelab was the most hyped VR game of 2022, but does it live up to its expectations? Let’s look at how good the physics-based VR game is and justify the attention it is getting. The main reason we decided to delay our review of Bonelab was so that we could observe a significant part of the game, modding.
For the last few years, VR gaming has been quite stale, with the last major game with relative success being Half-Life: Alyx. Beat Saber was also quite successful, but it isn’t exactly a game. Fortunately, after years of waiting, Bonelab is finally offering an excellent AAA VR experience like no other.
The game is an experimental physics-based VR action game with various weapons, enemies, puzzles, and game modes. According to Alex Knoll (co-owner/creative director), the game’s content comprises 33% user-generated content, 33% sandbox, and 33% plot. That’s why we have considered user-generated content and mods when reviewing the game.
Bonelab will undoubtedly become a popular entry point for many new VR users. The game is available on PC, Meta Quest 2, and Meta Quest Pro. It is simply mind-boggling how the developers managed to run the game on the limited hardware of Quest 2 without any significant downgrades.
Bonelab Quick Facts
- What Is It: Bonelab is a physics-based VR game with a short story and an interactive VR sandbox to mess around.
- Platform: PC (SteamVR), Rift, Quest 2, Quest Pro
- Release date: September 29, 2022
- Developer: Stress Level Zero
- Game Engine: Marrow1 (Physics-based engine)
- Campaign Length: 5-8 hours
- Price: $39.99
Bonelab Story Is Short Yet Fun
Boneworks wasn’t exactly known for its story, and the same is true for its sequel. New players will find it hard to follow what is going on without having any backstory of the game. If you are new to the series, I highly recommend watching a recap video for Boneworks before playing the game.
However, those who have played the prequel can fully appreciate the lore behind the cryptic campaign. The story follows a villager NPC (The player) from Fantasy Land in an alternative universe called the Void. The game’s story is a bit meta, considering how the player is technically inside a game world in the Void.
Players can also find clipboards all over the game with some backstory about how the developers abandoned the game and left the sentient NPCs to their own devices. However, it is very easy to go through the entire game not having any idea what the story is about.
At the start of the game, the player character is sacrificed by the villagers to appease the developers (a bit meta). However, they are saved at the last minute by an anomaly known as Jimmy. After that, the players discover a hidden route to the game’s central hub, The Lab.
The Lab houses various game modes and can now be accessed directly from the main menu. It is also the part where every player gets stuck wondering how to progress the game’s story. After players check out all the different minigames in The Lab and solve a simple puzzle, they can continue the main campaign.
Boneworks Deja Vu
The main campaign more or less serves as a tutorial for the game’s mechanics. It is a relatively short campaign, beatable in 5-8 hours, depending on your playstyle. Each level features the same combination of puzzles, combat, and platforming. But it still feels like the game’s main campaign was made as an afterthought hoping that the sandbox will pick up its slack.
There are a few WOW moments spread throughout the campaign, like The Lab puzzle, meeting Jimmy, and the entire Level 14. These moments are usually accompanied by an amazing soundtrack that seems to have been underappreciated.
Bonelab Combat Sandbox Review
Bonelab is made in the Marrow1 game engine that powers all the physics-based interactions in the game. The game improves on the physics-based sandbox of Boneworks but doesn’t add anything new to the formula. However, it is still the best VR sandbox game, similar to Blade and Sorcery.
The game features many different weapons for many combat scenarios. The gunplay felt really good and overpowered, whereas the melee combat could use a little work. Of course, I immediately compared the melee in Bonelab to other melee VR games, but it felt awful due to weird enemy hitboxes and colliding assets.
The enemy combatants had a rigid body structure that didn’t react well to melee hits. The physics engine was also frustrating when climbing ledges, ladders, or any platforming. It was also annoying to repeatedly have body parts stuck inside a wall or some weird geometry.
However, the same physics engine also allows for unique interactions within the game. Unfortunately, only after completing the campaign would players be able to appreciate its value. The developers at Stress Level Zero have made it into the most interactive VR game out there, but at the cost of its user’s comfort.
However, the newest feature of the sequel is the Avatar system. Each avatar has its strengths or weaknesses based on specific stats like strength, speed, height, weight, etc. Players would need to switch these avatars often to solve puzzles and fight enemies to progress in the campaign.
Bonelab still more or less feels like an extension of Boneworks rather than a sequel. The levels also resemble Bonework’s soulless corporate environments and abandoned research facilities. So it feels a bit similar to its predecessor for returning players.
Bonelab: Mods Review
Modding is a huge part of the game and the main reason we decided to publish our review of Bonelab later. Since Bonelab’s release, modders have added more than 4000 mods to the game. The VR game was made with modding in mind and shipped with a Bonelab SDK to make it easy for modders to import custom avatars, maps, and other items. Modders can even add new avatars without limitations on their size or build.
A few standout mods have even added avatars like Iron Gaint, Hulk Buster, and many other famous characters from other franchises. It is exciting to see what the modding community of the game has to offer. For more information, users can check out our guide on downloading and installing Bonelab mods.
In the future, modders might even be able to add features like teleportation, automatic vaulting/climbing, and sitting interactions. These kinds of mods will improve the general player experience and make the game more accessible.
Modders have even added multiplayer to Bonelab, which is an amazing feat in and of itself. Another modder is trying to bring the entirety of Boneworks to Bonelab through a custom map. However, modders are limited by the tools at their disposal. Fortunately, the developer has promised to expand support for mods over time.
Bonelab Review: Is It One Of The Best VR Game Of Recent Times
The game’s main star and primary focus are the sandbox, game modes, mechanics, avatars, and mods. The mods, in particular, will drive the game’s shelf life for a few years. These user-generated mods offer a high level of replayability by offering tons of new and replayable content.
The developers at Stress Level Zero have also outdone themselves by releasing the game on both PC and Quest 2. Despite a few performance issues on Quest 2, Bonelab runs smoothly unless there are a lot of assets on the screen.
However, the game might not be for someone new to VR as it severely lacks comfort settings. But if you are not prone to motion sickness and want to experience the apex of VR gaming, then Bonelab should be the first game on your bucket list.
Bonelab is probably the most intuitive VR sandbox, similar to its predecessor. However, it still suffers from the same issues that plagued its prequel. Most players would breeze through the short but fun campaign in 4-5 hours. The game’s extensive mod support opens the door to a whole new level of possibilities and gameplay.
Let us know your thoughts about the game in the comment section below.