When BONEWORKS launched for PC VR headsets in 2019, there was a sense that it was the start of something big. It was the first time players got a sense of what full-locomotion, physics-based virtual reality could be. While it wasn’t a AAA game, it felt close enough to be representative of what VR could become in the hands of big-budget publishers and developers.
With the sequel BONELAB anticipated to launch late this year, there’s no better time to experience it for yourself. I’ve pumped countless hours into the game myself, and once you get the hang of things, it’s a thoroughly rewarding experience.
Given that this is a particularly demanding VR title, it pays to go in with some prior knowledge. This guide will cover everything you need to know to get started.
Bottom Line Up Front
This guide covers everything you need to know to get the most out of BONEWORKS. Rather than reading this guide all at once, I think it would be best to go through the ‘core mechanics guide section’ first to get a handle on how the game works.
Be sure to also check out the ‘before you begin’ section to make sure both you and your PC are ready to take on the game, use the following sections on the story, characters, and weapons to refer back to if you get stuck at any point.
Before you Begin
Ensuring your PC Hardware is Up-to-Scratch
Understandably, the specs for BONEWORKS are pretty high. This guide will assume your PC is at least capable enough to run VR. Here are both the minimum and recommended specs:
- OS: Windows 10
- Processor: quad-core 3.0ghz minimum
- Memory: 8 GB RAM
- Graphics: GTX 1060 / 970
- DirectX: Version 11
- Storage: 20 GB of available space
- OS: Windows 10
- Processor: Intel i7 7700k or greater, 3.3ghz+
- Memory: 16 GB RAM
- Graphics: GTX 1080 / 2060 Super or greater
- DirectX: Version 11
- Storage: 20 GB available space
Getting Used to Full-Locomotion
It’s no secret that VR can be physically and mentally demanding on the player — particularly for newcomers.
You might have heard people talk about having their ‘VR legs’. This means that they’re comfortable traversing a VR environment without feeling sick. Many VR games have the player seated or standing in one place: these games are considered good titles for newbies to get used to being in a virtual space.
Beyond that, a game that utilises ‘full-locomotion’ enables the player to move in any direction. These games use traditional first-person controls as you will have used with a controller or mouse and keyboard.
In this way, the player uses the left analogue stick to walk and the right to control the horizontal camera aspects. Because this method of control gives the illusion of actually moving through a virtual space, it’s easy to see how it can be too much for some players.
BONEWORKS is a full locomotion VR experience — in fact, it pretty much wrote the book on it!
As a VR beginner, you have two options: jump straight into BONEWORKS but start very slowly, or spend some more time in simpler VR titles. I’d recommend SUPERHOT VR or Pistol Whip for the latter option: both games are shooters like BONEWORKS, but they keep you grounded in one position and are not fully locomotive.
Perhaps you’d rather the first option or you already have some VR experience. In this case, I’d recommend simply spending some additional time in the game’s menu space. You’ll be greeted with a full tutorial when you start a new game, but before you do, BONEWORKS boots you into a small, non-threatening room.
From within this room, you’re able to get used to moving around in full locomotion, and you have the option to play around with an array of physics objects to get a feel for how things work in the game. With no goal pushing you forward, it’s a good idea to use this space to find your feet.
Story: Important Concepts
There are a few concepts you’ll do well to learn about first to understand the game’s story. BONEWORKS has a story that’ll leave you scratching your head, so treat the points below as a helpful reference guide when you inevitably get confused!
There are a lot of terms thrown about with very little explanation, so let’s briefly cover those first before moving on to our small cast of characters and entities.
If you’re interested in the lore, I highly recommend checking out Greased Scottsman’s series on YouTube : he breaks down the entire thing in an easy-to-understand manner.
When you read references to ‘the voidway’, they refer to an alternate dimension.
How this dimension works — and what exactly is contained within it — is unknown. This realm is the source of void energy: an incredibly powerful and dangerous quantum particle which is of great interest to both Monogon Industries and Gammon.
Myth OS is the virtual space in which the game takes place. Built by Monogon Industries, it is intended to be a fully functioning virtual space for inhabitants to live, work, and play. At the time the game takes place, it is still under construction.
As well as sharing the same name as the title of the game, BONEWORKS refers to a virtual framework created by Monogon that powers Myth OS. The system was built in the late 1990s and utilises void energy to power the simulation.
Arthur is our protagonist. Officially, he works as an employee for Monogon Industries as the Virtual Security Director. At the start of the game, we see that he is also working as a double agent for rival company Gammon. His true intentions are unknown, but what we do know is that he wishes to harness to power of void energy.
Heyes is a close associate and colleague of Arthur. As a fellow security expert, he monitors Ford’s actions from outside of the system and contacts him through a variety of computer monitors. He is depicted as an ally, but we get the feeling he doesn’t know the extent of Arthur’s plan.
Similarly, Alorah is another of Arthur’s colleagues who contacts him through the monitors. Aware of Arthur’s successful attempts to hack into Myth OS and boot everyone but himself out of the system, she has only one request — leave a way in for the rest of them.
Monogon is a technological conglomerate operating in the field of hardware, software, and A.I. They are also heavily involved in scientific research in the fields of medicine, nutrition, and energy conservation, as well as having an interest in energy conservation and housing. They developed Myth OS — the game’s fictional setting.
Gammon is the main rival company of Monogon Industries. Their motives are not entirely clear, but we do know that they helped Arthur hack into Myth OS by providing him with a specific USB drive. They are known primarily as a video game hardware manufacturer.
A private security contracted to work for both Monogon and Gammon. Their involvement in the story isn’t very clear, but they are thought to be involved in Monogon’s deployment of the Omniprojectors.
Null bodies are the most commonly encountered enemy in BONEWORKS. They were created as mindless workers to maintain Myth OS, but due to the corrupted state of the software, they have become both sentient and hostile.
Crablets are A.I.-driven virtual reality headsets. Walking around on four mechanical appendages, they’ll attempt to pounce on the player and couple with their head.
Omniprojectors are holographic antivirus soldiers sent into Myth OS by Monogon to eliminate anomalies. They travel on rotating, motorised balls and are armed with assault rifles.
Zombish present as zombie-like creatures that attack the player on sight. Some variants can also fire electrical shock charges. Without delving too much into the lore, these creatures are thought to be alternative versions of Arthur Ford himself.
Turrets are small, automated ballistic weapons that attack the player on sight. they scan the room using a green laser and will fire on anything in the line of fire.
While they’re more abundant towards the end of the game, assault rifles are the least common weapons. There are only two of them (the M16 and the MK18), but you’ll find many have different attachments such as scopes and laser sights.
Slightly more common than pistols but less common than Assault rifles, SMGs (sub-machine guns) pack a serious punch in BONEWORKS. There are the MP5, MP5K, and Uzi to choose from, and reloading works similarly to assault rifles: after inserting a clip, retract the protruding leaver on the side of the weapon.
Pistols are one of the most abundant weapons in the game. There are several different models, but all function the same way: insert an ammunition clip from the bottom and pull back the barrel to load.
Melee weapons come in the widest varieties of all, and the implements you’ll find come in one of two varieties. There are one-handed weapons (including knives, cleavers, hatchets, and hammers), and two-handed (including swords, sledgehammers, bats, and buttons).
Core Mechanics Guide
The most complicated aspect of BONEWORKS is getting to grips with the controls, but there are also some unique mechanics expressed in each level. Let’s investigate these now.
Picking up Objects
Almost any object you’d be able to pick up in the real world you can pick up in BONEWORKS: everything reacts realistically due to the meticulously implemented physics engine.
In this sense, heavy objects can be unwieldy and usually require both hands to shift appropriately. Conversely, you can toss light items about with ease. During a developer interview, Stress Level Zero expressed the importance of role-playing in BONEWORKS.
Of course, you’re not actually picking anything up in the real world when you interact in the game, so lifting a heavy box with the same care as you would in real life wholly enhances your immersion.
Due to the weighty feel of a sledgehammer, your movements should be appropriately slow and heavy for the physics to feel realistic. This is one of the most important aspects to bear in mind when playing this game, and this is a necessary mindset whether you’re stabbing an enemy with a sword or stacking heavy boxes to reach an inaccessible area.
It’s important to approach the gunplay in BONEWORKS with similar finess as melee weapons and hand-held objects: each gun behaves differently regarding recoil, firing patterns, and weight. Enemies also act realistically to being shot.
Shooting an enemy in the head is usually an instant kill, and shooting their legs will hinder their ability to walk. There are a ton of different guns to choose from (pistols, assault rifles, and sub-machine guns), and there exist variations of the same weapons with different scopes or firing mechanisms.
Currency and Vending Machines
Rather uniquely, ammunition is this game’s currency, and this is why it’s important to explore your environment thoroughly. Ammo is the most abundantly hidden resource in the game, and you’ll need it to purchase weapons from the vending machines located throughout each level.
Each vending machine contains six different purchasable weapons, and some slots also house surprise gift boxes. You won’t know what each box contains until you’ve bought it and opened it, so while they’re usually the cheaper option, it’s a big gamble.
It’s worth noting that, providing you’re investigative, you will find weapons throughout the game regardless. It isn’t essential to buy from the vending machines, but they often present just the right weapon for the job at hand!
Be warned — there is no traditional auto-saving in BONEWORKS. Instead, saving is handled by strategically placed podiums, and usually, you can’t miss them due to their brightly coloured appearance.
All you need to do is walk straight up to them and grip the two handles protruding from the device. An audio jingle will play and our main character’s face will appear in the centre: this confirms your game has been saved.
In more than one way, BONEWORKS resembles the gameplay mechanics from Valve’s Half-Life series, but this is perhaps most notably the case with how the game handles puzzles. As should be expected at this point, the majority of puzzles are physics-based: they require a high degree of physicality from the player through moving objects, turning leavers, and clambering over ledges
Another important component are keys. You will often be presented with a locked door that will only open when the correct coloured key is inserted. The keys are usually hidden behind some sort of challenge — be it parkour or combat-based.
Usually, locating and using these keys is a requirement to progress, but there are also extra key-dependent rooms with secrets inside. Be sure to always be on the lookout for a key’s signature neon glow!
There are a total of five slots available in the inventory, and with practice, you’ll get used to swapping items and weapons with ninja-like speed. Having opened the inventory, you can equip and rearrange the slots as you please.
It’s worth noting, however, that you don’t need to pull open the full inventory every time you want to access it. The slots represent positions on your virtual body — points at your hips and over your shoulders. As such, reaching and grabbing from this area will equip the item in this slot. It’s something you’ll develop a strong intuition for after playing a while.
One of the coolest features of BONEWORKS is The Matrix-style bullet-time ability mapped to the controller. The feature enables the player to slow down time for precise and satisfying attacks. The more times you press the bullet time button, the slower time will become.
This can come in handy if you get overwhelmed by the combat — and it also makes for a lot of fun in Sandbox Mode!
Reclamation bins are circular pits stationed at the end of each level. When certain items are thrown inside, they then become available for use in Sandbox Mode.
Re-claimable objects are present in the form of bouncy orbs that are usually hidden in special crates throughout a level. These crates are square, wooden boxes with the inscription ‘BONEWORKS’ on the front as well as a black skull and cross-bones. Locating these boxes represent the most challenging ‘treasure hunt’ elements of the game, and finding them is so satisfying!
In the aforementioned interactive main menu, you can view all the items you’ve currently collected — as well as everything you have left to find — in a cylindrical display case to the right of the room.
You’ll also find square modules on your travels: these enable you to unlock new Sandbox game modes, and again, they’ll need to be taken to the end of a level and thrown into a reclamation bin.
Tips We Wish We Knew
I didn’t realise you could efficiently vault over ledges. By crouching while handing onto a ledge, you can lift your in-game legs up and onto the ledge in front of you. It’ll take some getting used to, but practice makes perfect!
Always Carry a Thin Melee Weapon
You can use these types of weapons to open locked doors without wasting ammo, so it’s always a good idea to have them at hand. Achieve this by sliding the weapon to the front of the locked gate or door, and then bashing the lock until it breaks.
Getting the Drop on Enemies
If you’re high up and see a group of enemies below, don’t waste your ammo. Instead, jump and land on them; landing on an enemy’s head is usually an instant kill, and you’d be surprised at home many times this situation presents itself.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
Don’t Spray and Pray
As we divulged earlier, ammo is this game’s main form of currency. This means you’ll need to straddle a balance between disposing of your enemies and keeping an eye on how much you’re spending. I paid no attention to this when I first played through, so I spent a lot of time looking longingly through the glass of each vending machine.
The game doesn’t tell you this, but some of the best items in the game are only available through the vending machines. To explain those items would be to spoil the game’s secrets, but if that premise intrigues you, don’t be so trigger-happy!
Forgetting about Bullet Time
During my first play-through, I forgot about the bullet time feature almost entirely. Having read a few threads on Reddit, I noticed many other players had done the same! In the heat of battle, it can be difficult to remember that you can slow down time and methodically pick off your enemies, but it’s a really important ability for new players.
Combat can be especially overwhelming for newbies, so practice using bullet time and develop an intuition for hitting that button when things get rough!
Skipping the Story
People either seem to love or hate the story in BONEWORKS, but you should at least give it a chance! It’s abstract for sure, and a lot is left up to the imagination; but if you want to delve further, I found the large, interconnected world spanning multiple Stress Level Zero games very interesting.
Games like BONEWORKS
Alyx is considered not only the best VR title ever made, but one of the best games to release on any platform in recent times. It’s a must-play for any fan of full locomotion VR.
SUPER HOT VR
Featuring similar concepts and story elements as BONEWORKS, SUPERHOT VR is a familiar yet subversive experience for the VR FPS fan.
Resident Evil 4 VR
The VR port of RE4 has only just launched, but it instantly became a favourite. Whether you’re a horror veteran or new to the series, you won’t be disappointed.
Question: Can I Play BONEWORKS on Quest?
Answer: BONEWORKS is technically a PC VR exclusive title, but thankfully, there are several ways to play it on Quest. You could use the Oculus Link cable to tether your headset to your PC and play that way.
You could also try the official Air Link feature to stream your PC wirelessly (providing your internet connection is strong enough). For more information on the Oculus Link ecosystem, check out our full breakdown here. You can also learn more about Virtual Desktop in this article.
Question: Can I Play BONEWORKS as My First VR Game?
Answer: While it’s recommended that you have some experience with other games under your belt, it’s not essential. Not everyone gets nauseous playing such a game without experience, and even with those that do, it’s possible to overcome it by taking things slow. If BONEWORKS is your first VR game, spend a lot of time in the menu to acclimatise yourself, and take a break every 10-15 minutes or so.
Question: I Haven’t Bought my VR Headset Yet. Is There One in Particular that Works Best with BONEWORKS?
Answer: Any Valve, Oculus, Windows Mixed Reality, or Vive headset will work with BONEWORKS, and the differences in your BONEWORKS experience between them will be negligible. Make sure you research your decision thoroughly to decide whether matters of the resolution, comfort, FOV (field of view), and other pointers matter to you most.
Having said that, the Valve Index may offer the most technically immersive experience due to its knuckle controllers — these allow the ability to control every one of your fingers. The Index is also one of the most expensive headsets available, however.
Question: When Will BONELAB be Released?
Answer: All we know so far is that BONELAB is set to release sometime this year. Stress Level Zero has not confirmed the official release date yet.
While it’s true that this is, arguably, the most demanding VR game on the market, it’s nothing you can’t handle. If you master the mechanics here, you’ll also be set for any other full locomotion VR title you want to play in the future. I also highly recommend joining the BONEWORKS board on Reddit.