The lights are on
Oculus has announced its massive launch lineup of 30 games arriving alongside the Rift on March 28. We had a chance to go hands on with some familiar and new games hitting alongside the hardware, and played a number coming later in the year.
Developer: Carbon Games
Release Date: March 28
Comfort Level: Comfortable
When we saw AirMech in December for our January Year of VR issue, it was still a rough demo. We had the chance to play a simple tower-defense game with a frustrating camera. What I played earlier this week wiped away any concerns I have for the competitive Herzog Zwei-like RTS.
AirMech: Command is a rarity in the game industry. It's a free-to-play game gone premium. Instead of in-app transactions, you'll earn currency through playing to unlock skins, units, pets, and other cosmetics. The setup mimics a broad miniatures tabletop experience. You'll see your allies and opponents across the table as avatars and your units moving across the battlefield from a dynamic god's-eye view.
Zipping around the map, selecting units from a floating toolbar above the map, directing forces, and pushing toward the enemy base looks and feels fantastic. Because the setup is handled like a board game, it's entirely comfortable. The trickiest part is managing the camera, but after a few minutes it became second nature.
As you fly closer or farther away, you'll hit a bounding wall that automatically refocuses the camera on your transforming champion character. It's far better to manually zoom in and out using the bumpers or re-centering using both at the same time.
I'm delighted that AirMech has gone premium for Rift, and I expect I'll be spending quite a bit of time playing this come the end of March. Not only does it perfectly capture the PC and Xbox 360 experience, but the war-table presentation is both charming and effective.
ChronosDeveloper: Gunfire GamesRelease Date: March 28
Comfort Level: Comfortable
Gunfire Games' Chronos was one of our favorites when we put together our January Year of VR issue. Our adoration is cemented after seeing more of the game this week.
When we played a few months ago, we got a distinct Dark Souls vibe. Combat is a tactical dance of rolling, blocking, and striking when the moment is right.
Were that all Chronos had to offer, it would be a great launch title. However, we've now come to understand that the 12- to 14-hour game is a deeply woven tale of two worlds, an Infinity Blade-esque live-die-repeat mechanic, and contextual storytelling that is captivating even in the small snippets we've experienced.
Chronos' opening sets a haunting tone. Our world has been ravaged. Humanity has been scattered, and we live in small tribes. The tribal matron tasks you with going into the world of the beasts to slay the dragon leading them.
The game doesn't begin in a fantasy realm. Instead, you wash up on the shore of a rusted military installation. Through a brief series of puzzles, you'll learn more about the world and open your first portal.
Should you die on the other side, you'll be spat out and a year will go by before you can try again. Aging has a variety of consequences. Strength and agility are easier to level up in your youth. Arcane, tied to your wisdom, becomes easier to enhance as you become older.
You'll also unlock traits as you age, giving you an edge as you plunge into the world of beasts over and over. This has the effect of making the game harder the better you are.
Chronos is one of the games launching alongside Rift that defies the minigame/tech-demo trap that many feared would be the hallmark of early consumer VR software. So far, it seems enthralling, comfortable to play, and stunningly designed.
Elite Dangerous: Deluxe Edition
Developer: Frontier Developments
Comfort Level: Intense
Price: $59.99Also on HTC Vive
Elite Dangerous feels like it was always meant for virtual reality. The game's complex design is predicated on a number of contextual displays for navigation, communications, weapons systems, and more.
When playing with a gamepad or flight stick, you need to toggle free look to move your pilot's head in the direction of these displays. Using an eye-tracker approximates the benefit of VR, by allowing you to freely look at the consoles or track objects as the blow by your cockpit.
However, the sense of scale and speed coupled with the natural sensation of moving your head to look at the surroundings is where Elite truly comes together. Combat can be tricky in Elite Dangerous, but I had no problems tracking enemy ships, locking on, and turning them into space dust.
While EVE Valkyrie will deliver pure dogfighting action, Elite Dangerous offers other modes of play. Cruising the galaxy can be extremely calming, and while the comfort rating is listed as intense, I expect it will also be a soothing experience for some.