In Death Game Review – An Archery Based Workout

In Death is a Roguelite archery-focused shooter game created exclusively for virtual reality by Sólfar Studios. It’s beautifully designed in a surreal medieval setting. Players enter the game in Purgatory, where they encounter a variety of demonic monks, evil knights, and “abominations.” If you manage to stay alive using your bow, a growing quiver of arrows and your shield, you’ll eventually fight the boss, Anakim the Abominable. Each time you play, you’ll earn achievements that help you progress against increasingly adept enemies.

Preparation:

Due to health problems that have damaged blood flow to my legs, I play VR games seated. Since most players prefer to play standing, however, I conducted two separate 30-minute tests so you’d be able to compare the results. I used a Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro to track my progress.

Intensity – 4/10

Overall, In Death should not be considered a cardiovascular workout. Although I was able to reach my target heart rate (95) for some portion of the game, it was difficult to keep it at that level. If you are looking for a game that will hold your interest while allowing you to exercise at a lower intensity, however, this is it.

  • Workout duration: 30 minutes (seated)
  • Calories burned: 174
  • Average heart rate: 87
  • Max heart rate: 106
  • Workout duration: 30 minutes (standing)
  • Calories burned:  168
  • Average heart rate:  120
  • Max heart rate:  169

While the results might seem a bit puzzling, they are correct. I’ve done several fitness tests on various games and although my heart rate is substantially higher when I play standing, I consistently burn more calories when I play seated. Based on research into the reasons, the only thing I can deduce is that I do move my legs a lot when I’m seated. I constantly move them around, fidget, etc. so apparently this is resulting in a slightly higher calorie burn even though it’s not helping raise my heart rate much!

Arms – 7/10

Despite the fact I only played for about 30 minutes during my first encounter with this game, the next morning my triceps and biceps were aching! It took me a few minutes to realize that they were sore from shooting virtual arrows the day before. If you watch the short clip of the game below, you’ll see how frequently I draw arrows and it’s obvious why my arms were hurting!

Legs – 4/10

Movement is done via an archery-based system. You simply shoot a teleportation arrow where you want to go. It’s a fascinating, unique system that’s better for long distance travel. There are two other options for movement, neither of which require you to use your legs. You can toss a glowing shard that will teleport you where you throw it. This option is meant more for short distances. Finally, you can change settings to “smooth locomotion” and use the Oculus touch controller to move around in the game. While this is only rated 4/10, I’ll share some tips in just a moment on how you can increase your leg workout!

Core and Balance – 5/10

I would say core and balance is about average in terms of overall fitness rating. You can dodge, duck behind something or move quickly out of the way to avoid arrows or swords. Most enemies appear in front of you so you have little need to turn quickly, but they are there sometimes so developing the habit of turning around frequently will help your core and possibly save your life. You will definitely use the muscles in your back and shoulders for repeated shooting of arrows.

Time Perception – 9/10

Time progresses quickly in this game! Enemies – whether alone or in groups – are perfectly spaced so that you feel a persistent challenge and you just want to make it to the next room alive. You’re also enticed by loot boxes that increase in number the more you play. Additionally, the scenery is so beautiful that it would be nice to stop and just enjoy the crumbling castle at times, if your life weren’t on the line. You just have to keep going!

Replayability – 7/10

The map switches up each time you play. You will encounter new enemies, arrows and powerups (such as “Holy Armor”). Occasionally they have limited-time-only areas, such as the “Pit of Anguish.” With that said, since it’s a single-player game with the same goal each time – to beat the boss – it does seem like replayability might decrease the more you play it.

Fitness Scalability – 4/10

You could add a weighted vest for an additional challenge in your workout. This allows you to improve fitness scalability as the vest provides a safe way to keep resistance near your core and incrementally increase the challenge. Read more about Adding Weights to Strengthen Your VR Fitness.

In order to scale up your workout, you can also try these tips to receive the maximum fitness benefits:

  • Jump to the side to avoid arrows rather than using the shard.
  • Practice dodging attacks and defending with your shield. This will incorporate your legs, arms and upper body.
  • Turn around frequently to make sure no abominations or other evil creatures are sneaking up behind you! Again, you’re engaging your core.
  • Use the teleportation arrow to travel because this requires you to use one hand to hold the bow and the other to draw arrows so there is greater engagement of your core and upper body.

Lack of Nausea – 9/10

With the various movement options (teleportation arrow, the shard, free analog stick locomotion), users can choose the option that works best for them. I would avoid using the stick locomotion because it does cause nausea, but since teleportation works great with no nausea, I’m giving this a 9/10.

Social Competition

There are no multiplayer options for In Death at the moment. There is a leaderboard, but it’s mostly for your own benefit since you don’t interact with the other players. This would be a wonderful game to have a multiplayer options and kill the enemies with a friend or two.

VRFI Fit Score – 6.1/10

In Death Review
Game Review Badge by VR Fitness Insider

Before I summarize the good and the bad about this game, I’d like to point out that the VRFI Fit Score is an average of numbers from each category. While In Death might not be as intense a workout as some other games, it is addictive. You’re certain that the next time you play the game, you’ll shoot your arrows straighter, you’ll dodge the knights more briskly and you will not die as quickly. The fact that it’s such a well-made game truly makes you want to play more, which ultimately results in longer fitness sessions.

The Good

Some games, particularly those that require a lot of cardio effort, are difficult for people who are out of shape. In Death can be a great workout for people who are just beginning their fitness journeys or it can be used as a warm-up / cool-down game for those who already have a solid fitness foundation. It also provides a good arm workout. The best part about In Death is simply that it’s definitely an engaging game that makes you feel like you’re truly a rogue hero fighting a life or death battle in a setting with beautifully created artistic details.

Additional note:  In Death was launched in early access on February 1, 2018. While it’s currently available to users of the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Windows Mixed Reality headsets, Sólfar Studios announced that they are working on a Playstation VR version of the game as well.

The Bad

This game doesn’t provide an appreciable cardio workout, particularly if your target heart rate is over 100. You might reach 100, but it would be difficult to sustain that level. Additionally, while there are things you can do, as mentioned previously, if you don’t have a weighted vest, there is not a great amount of fitness scalability.


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