Peaky Blinders: The King’s Ransom is set to release next year on March 9 for Quest 2 and Pico. Earlier this week, we went hands-on with a short preview of the game.
After releasing Doctor Who: The Edge of Time in 2020, The King’s Ransom is one of two VR projects currently in development at Maze Theory (the other being a multiplayer VR experience called Engram). Announced as far back as 2019, this original VR experience set in the Peaky Blinders universe is set to arrive on headsets early next year. The experience sees you team up with the two Shelby brothers (voiced by the stars of the source material, Cillian Murphy and Paul Anderson) and explore 1920s Birmingham, featuring iconic locations from the show. You’ll work through an original story, developed in collaboration with the TV series’ creator and writer Steven Knight.
It’s clear that Maze Theory have gone to considerable effort to capture the spirit of the show and give fans ways to feel immersed in its world. You can take a cigarette offered to you by Tommy, for example, and smoke it over conversation, resting it in your mouth as you please. Whenever you remove it from your mouth, your character will breathe out a plume of smoke. It’s a nice touch that helps you feel more immersed in the world.
Likewise, it would have been understandable had the game not been able to secure the rights to the show’s high-profile theme song, Red Right Hand by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, but it’s present and plays during the opening sequence, as you would expect. Again, it’s a nice touch and emblematic of the obvious care Maze Theory are taking to recreating details and locations from the show. While not show-stopping, the environments I moved through in the demo were atmospheric and aesthetically decent for standalone hardware.
In terms of gameplay, the demo only lasted about 20 or so minutes, running through the intro, some story beats, an interrogation and then a short combat sequence. The characters models aren’t terrible – you’ll recognise characters from the show, such as Tommy, even if they don’t look quite as dashing as their real life counterparts – but their accompanying animations were stiff at best and janky at worst.
The aforementioned interrogation sequence gives you a few basic options to gain information – shooting a gun in the air or punching the target’s head – and after he’s told you want you need to know, you can choose to kill or spare him. It’s perhaps a hint towards your actions having consequences across the course of the campaign’s narrative, but that remains to be seen.
The proceeding combat sequence was the most disappointing aspect of the demo, only offering incredibly basic gun mechanics and measly AI that stood around waiting to be shot, offering little to no challenge. Hopefully it’s just an early taste of what’s to come, with more complex and engaging sequences further through the campaign.
There’s still a lot we don’t know about The King’s Ransom and what I saw what just a small slice – we’ll reserve full judgement for the final release. The demo wasn’t nearly long enough to give any sort of judgment on the story yet, but the fact that it’s being written in collaboration with the show’s creator gives some hope. If there’s an engaging (and perhaps branching) narrative that offers a satisfying tie-in to the show’s universe, then there might be something strong for fans to latch onto. We’ll have to wait and see.
Peaky Blinders: The King’s Ransom releases March 9, 2023 for Quest 2 and Pico. It’s also available to wishlist on Steam for PC VR, with no confirmed release date. Maze Theory previously expressed interest in a release on PSVR 2 as well, but there’s been no recent updates on that front.
Keep an eye out for more news on Peaky Blinders: The King’s Ransom as we head into the new year.