Caliban Below is an amazing interactive short story that can now be experienced in AR (augmented reality) on your iPad and iPhone. Just like its VR counterparts, the iOS version, amazingly, is completely free.

The game is set in the same world as "The Abbot's Book" from Blackthorn Media, also a free VR-based short story currently not playable on macOS nor in AR on iOS but we certainly hope Blackthorn Media releases all of the episodes in both VR and AR for both macOS and iOS.

About the game

Storytelling in VR is very effective. It feels like you've been transported into a new place and time. How does this type of storytelling translate into AR on a simple iPad or iPhone view screen? Surprisingly well! As far as Caliban Below is concerned, the sense of presence is enhanced by a wonderfully detailed backstory based on the imaginative writing from author Michael Galen Conelly. As per Blackthorn Media's description:

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"The sun will not rise, just endless moons - and you, Caliban, must try to learn why you have become trapped in a dream. It is 1680, Northern Italy. You are the last heir of a noble lineage, struggling to understand your dark inheritance. Explore the ruins of the family estate, and the incredible realm below, seeking clues to your past, and to the events that severed you from your family long ago. The darkness below reaches back centuries, and your place in this story is about to become terrifyingly clear."

The transition to AR

If you have a VR headset and have tried the VR version of Caliban Below, the story might not be new, but the experience is still engaging and immersive. I had my doubts with the VR to AR transition but at key points in the interactive story, I experienced all of the chills and all of the intrigue in all of the right places.

There are benefits of being fully immersed in a VR headset, especially for this type of interactive storytelling. However, there was one aspect of the portability of my iOS device that trumps even the VR versions. And that's moving around in real time. With your iOS device, there is no tether. You can move about as freely as your space allows you. Although Blackthorn Media has enabled an ability to tap on your screen to "teleport" you as a participant to various places in the beautiful world, if you have enough space, you can actually walk in the real world, to various places in the AR world. The tracking on your iPhone or iPad is THAT good! I was literally climbing my stairs in my home and that movement translated into vertical movement in the AR application. So cool.

Final comments

I am frankly amazed at what the programmers at Blackthorn media were able to do with the hardware Apple has designed. I have spent thousands of dollars to get the best possible experiences in VR. Paying extra for wireless capabilities. Buying the highest end components. Now, anyone who has a recent generation iPhone or iPad can get a pretty close approximation to what full VR has to offer and in some respects, go beyond what dedicated VR hardware can do by using the AR capabilities built into your portable iOS device. What a time to be alive! Let us know your thoughts on Caliban Below AR in the comments! Please, no spoilers!

See Calidan Below on the App Store.

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