In 1998, Voltron: The Third Dimension premiered and attempted to bring the Voltron franchise into 3D. While the series was an admirable attempt, the technology just wasn’t there to truly render the Voltron characters and world in a realistic space. Fast forward to 2017 and Voltron VR Chronicles not only transplants the world of DreamWorks Voltron Legendary Defender into 3D but also lets you be a part of that world.
You can look around Zarkon’s throne room as he discusses plans with Haggar. You get to listen in on witty banter between the Voltron pilots. You can also pilot the one of the lions through an asteroid field and fight off Galra fighters.
Specifically the Blue Lion. So yes, you get to play the game as Lance.
Much like how Voltron Legendary Defender is the greatest show on TV, Voltron VR Chronicles is the greatest VR experience you’ve ever seen.
Production on the VR experience started over a year ago with Digital Domain producing along with key guidance from DreamWorks and the Voltron: Legendary Defender crew. Digital Doman was “extremely excited” to work on Voltron brand, according to Wayne Kennedy, Digital Domain’s Director of Creative Development.
“Everyone on the team is a fan of the show. We have toys everywhere.”
Digital Domain’s first goal was to come up with an original story for the VR experience but they experienced some difficulties when they learned their ideas were already being done by series.
“We thought we were geniuses and they would come back and say, ‘oh, this is season two. This is season three. This is season four.’ We had to do a few modifications to make sure we don’t do anything that goes where the show is going but is strong enough and stands alone in that universe.”
The VR experience takes place sometime in season two, with Shiro still in command of the Black Lion, Zarkon not in his coma, General Morvok making an appearance, and Lance in Blue Lion. Kennedy says they chose Lance as the POV character in the game because, “we felt he usually had some of the funniest lines.” He does however hint that, “later on there are other characters you get to play as in little sequences here and there.”
The game itself is a spot on in the depiction of the Voltron characters, which was helped not only by one of the writers from the series working with Digital Domain to get the right tone, but also by enlisting the series’ voice actors. That’s right, there’s no sound-alike’s in this game.
You hear Tyler Labine as Hunk in your ears as you fly through the fight. Bex Taylor-Klaus as Pidge gives you instructions on how to take out a power cell. Kimberly Brooks as Allura gives you advice on how to deal with certain aspects of the VR experience. Jeremy Shada as Lance shines with his reactions to the various challenges in front of him. You even get to see these character on screen, with little picture in picture visuals on the Paladins.
Chris Heatherly, Executive Vice President of Games and Digital Platforms, Universal Brand Development, is very proud that, “the humor, the comedy, the characters have all been brought to life in a way that feels really true to the franchise.”
Kennedy relates that one of their first challenges was taking the 2D designs of the characters and bringing them into 3D. They not only focused on modeling and texturing them but also shading so that they would still look like cartoons.
“We wanted people to immediately be in the Voltron world and feel like they’re in the Voltron show and it’s come to life. The size and scale was very important to us. We got the correct dimensions from DreamWorks for how big Voltron is, how big a lion is. You don’t really realize it until it’s right in front of you. That was really exciting.”
That scale is truly something to behold. At an early point in the game you can look up and see Blue Lion tower over you. When you see Green or Yellow Lion fly past they are appropriately gigantic.
While some may call Voltron VR Chronicles a game, Kennedy stresses that “it’s got game like mechanics and interactive elements but it’s a narrative immersive experience. Cinematic VR.”
Right from the start it feels like you’re a part of a Voltron episode, watching it all unfold. Zarkon gives orders to Haggar and while that dialogue is going on you can look all around Zarkon’s massive ship. When Lance lands on any icy asteroid you can see hundreds of asteroids floating all around you.
The VR experience itself, according to Kennedy, runs about forty-five minutes depending on how long it takes you to complete the interactive portions. While that doesn’t sound like a long time, Digital Domain wanted to make sure they maximized just how good the VR experience was.
“We had ideas for a simulator room and things like that but it would just water down the entire experience. We wanted people to really enjoy being a Paladin and really enjoying seeing the Lions and being in the Lions. We wanted to make those really strong. “
For Heatherly, Voltron VR Chonicles sets itself apart from other VR titles because it’s just like an animated episode of the series.
“Often times when you see a movie or TV series in VR it often looks so different from what you’re used to seeing on screen. (Digital Domain has) done a great job at being consistent with the TV show so it can live at that same level so it’s not just a marketing spinoff.”
If Voltron VR Chronicles proves to be a success, Digital Domain is ready to produce a sequel and that they’ve even been planning on one since the beginning of discussions with DreamWorks. During the development of the VR experience there were a lot of debates about what to include since there’s so much in the show so a sequel could give us even more of the Voltron universe. Perhaps even playing as Allura in the Blue Lion?
Kennedy can only say that, “Allura’s character is absolutely fascinating and grows a lot. That’s something you want to see.”
For Heatherly, a fan of the original Voltron when he was a kid, Voltron VR Chronicles is, “a childhood fantasy come true. I hope the fans love it as much as I did. Let us know if you want more. We’d love to give you more.”
Kennedy heaps nothing but praise on everyone who put hundreds and hundreds of hours into developing the VR experience.
“Everyone comes in early, leaves late. We want to make the best experience possible. For us it’s work but it’s play at the same time. We want the fans to really enjoy this and that we did them justice.”
Check out the trailer…
Pre-order DREAMWORKS VOLTRON VR CHRONICLES on the PlayStation™Network and receive a 20 percent discount on August 29, 2017.
The experience will be available for $14.99 on PlayStation®VR via the PlayStation™Network, HTC Vive and Oculus Rift via the Steam entertainment platform and Oculus Rift via the Oculus online store.
Shamus Kelley is ready to join up with the Voltron super force of space explorers. Follow him on Twitter!