The problem with VR, at least, as far as I’m concerned, is that despite having been the latest, greatest thing in gaming tech for a little while now (in tech terms), it still hasn’t really provided a variety of experiences. For the most part, you basically get to look around some kind of environment, pick things up with a button press, and then, in some cases, maybe shoot some bad guys.
That’s pretty much the content of most VR titles at the moment. Fortunately, it’s not the content of Augmented Empire, the new X-Com-like strategy title from Coatsink Software.
The majority of Augmented Empire puts you not in the shoes of the human characters you are, in fact, controlling (or cyborg, hence “Augmented”), but actually in the role of a robot helper who is providing tactical guidance via security cameras you’ve taken control of. This allows Coatsink to create some incredibly detailed environments which you get a constant top-down perspective on, and the developer neatly ties this into the narrative of the game.
This perspective also allows Augmented Empire to be a surprisingly deep tactical action game while only using the single button that a Samsung Gear handset provides. You essentially use the cursor as a mouse pointer, turning your head to see where you want to go and then clicking either directly to move or attack, or through a quick menu to use a character’s special skills. It takes a couple of turns to get used to this gameplay, but once you do there is a really enjoyable experience here, and easily one of the most original I’ve seen on any VR system.
Of course, it helps that the game is visually very striking, with an art-deco-meets-cyber-punk design that put me immediately in mind of the original Batman animated series and the way Gotham City was depicted like a 1930s prohibition town that was also swimming in modern technology.
This is all the more impressive when you realize the effect has been achieved on a phone. Remember, this is a game coming out for Samsung Gear, not the Oculus Rift or PlayStation VR, so ultimately everything I played, saw, and enjoyed so much was running on a device most of you probably have in your pocket right now.
Augmented Empire managed to reignite my interest in VR. Ultimately, that’s probably the best endorsement I’m able to give but you can see for yourself if you’ve got the kit; the games out now!
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