Ever since he was old enough to form thoughts, my son has loved swords and daggers of all kinds. For years, he toted around a plastic dagger toy that he’d keep in his belt, and today, he’s got quite the collection of toy weaponry for when his friends visit. So imagine his elation when BlackForge debuted seemingly out of nowhere, letting him recreate his favorite Random Hands weapons from our living room.
Like most kids, my son loves watching YouTube. But he doesn’t like to watch other people play games or unwrap toys — although we enjoy watching Mr. A-Game together for the memes and good times. Instead, he often tunes in to a YouTuber from Pakistan, Random Hands, who is a modern-day blacksmith.
In his weekly column, Android Central Senior Content Producer Nick Sutrich delves into all things VR, from new hardware to new games, upcoming technologies, and so much more.
See, my son is still too young to be able to go to welding school or become an expert blacksmith — despite his innate drive for these coveted professions of old — but it turns out a Meta Quest 3 was all he needed for the time being.
The free BlackForge demo is available right now for Meta Quest on SideQuest or on Steam. If you haven’t sideloaded a game onto the Quest yet, here’s how to get SideQuest installed until the final BlackForge game launches on the Meta Quest platform this Summer.
Money is no object
Last year, we surprised him for his birthday and took him to a Renaissance Fair, complete with a blacksmithing lesson so he could wet his whistle. It was a brilliant experience, and it gave him a taste of what it would be like to be a real blacksmith: the forges were blazing hot, the tools were heavy and difficult to wield, and it took a lot of strength and power that a kid under 10 doesn’t typically have.
But while this experience was amazing, it was very expensive. Definitely a birthday gift and not something we could do more often than that, which brings me to my main point.
Other than a lack of blacksmithing skills on my part, the idea of buying a workshop full of tools and materials to use is financially impossible for us as a family. These are two of the biggest reasons BlackForge is so wonderful. It allows us to practice what feels like a long-forgotten art and provides unlimited materials and the tools needed to match our imaginations.
As you might expect from a blacksmithing simulator, you’ll be cutting wood and shaving it down into handles and other usable parts of tools. Metal is smelted in a giant vat, then poured out into a block so it can be molded into whatever you’d like.
There’s even a magical hammer that can summon the power of lightning to weld all the pieces of your weapon together — take that, Thor.
While all the tools and stations you get to use are downright amazing, my absolute favorite part of BlackForge is that you’re never confined in what you can do. It encompasses the best of virtual reality by not putting players on rails or making them complete simple templates.
In the game, you’ll grab various jobs from the job board, each describing the weapon or tool that needs to be forged. A general silhouette of the idea is provided on each job card, but you can pour as much of your personal style into these creations as you’d like.
In many ways, the game’s design echoes what Andrew Eiche of Job Simulator fame told me earlier this year: “[it] allows you to be the character you want to be without forcing oodles of backstory or narrative on the player.”
This simple yet timeless trait is what makes games like Blade & Sorcery and Job Simulator infinitely popular despite the wide chasm in each game’s respective design and play style.
As you’d expect from a game where you can forge literally anything you can dream up, there’s a level of mastery here that you’ll only achieve after putting some time into it. My son has already put a few hours into the game despite us only having it for a few days, and I can already see the improvement in his skills from the initial play session.
To round things out, this game isn’t all serious business, as you might have guessed from the Mjolnir-style lighting hammer. A fire spirit dwells in the forge waiting to be fed and pet, giving my son a fun little sidequest to complete while running between the lathe and the smelting pit.
The old man who teaches you how the game is played provides a bit of comic relief as he hauls his cart to and from the market, and while he’ll occasionally sigh from boredom, the game never pushes you along at an unrelenting pace.
You can even grab hot metal with your hands without being burned, although it’s probably more fun to play along and use the tongs as you would in real life.
Virtual job fair
I’m so happy this game exists, if for no other reason than the fact that age is currently a barrier to my son’s ambition. We found a few places near where we live that will teach similar skills, but most of them require kids to be at least high school age (or older) to participate.
Now, he can hone his skills without someone being worried about getting sued if he were to get injured.
This got me wondering about other professions or hobbies that would benefit from VR. There’s certainly no shortage of simulator games in VR. PowerWash Simulator is a ton of fun, and the upcoming Lawn Mowing Simulator certainly seems like it could cheer up a dreary winter day.
But I’m not just looking for a way to experience something domestic. I want something fantastic that might otherwise be too time-consuming or expensive to simply try out in real life, and came up with a list of potential candidates for future testing:
- KingSpray Graffiti
- Cooking Simulator
- Lost Recipes
- Car Mechanic Simulator
- Zombie Bar Simulator
- Bartender Simulator
- PowerWash Simulator
- Lawn Mowing Simulator
- Thief Simulator
I’ve already talked about two of them, but many of them would fit the bill for someone interested in trying out some kind of profession. Yes, even if it’s a silly version of a profession, like serving food and drinks to zombies in Zombie Bar Simulator or trying not to kill your patient in the wholly unrealistic Surgineer or Surgeon Simulator VR.
But something like Lost Recipes by veteran VR developers Schell Games might actually be closer to what I’m looking for. It offers up the ability to cook recipes from several cultures worldwide, all of which are either “lost” because of their ingredients or the amount of work it would take to make one in real life.
Plus, the game offers the ability to go at your own pace, something I really love about BlackForge.
If you’ve got a suggestion for what we should play next, hit me up on X (Twitter) or email me and let me know. Until then, I’ll be hitting the forge to see what I can craft.