Fast Travel Games - Plenty of exciting VR titles on display at Gamescom
From realistic swordsmanship to multiplayer for one, the VR-publisher Fast Travel Games continues to build its diverse portfolio.
Before arriving at the Fast Forward Games booth at Gamescom, I had only ever played about five minutes of VR, and about four and a half minutes of those had been spent the day before trying (and failing) to grab a virtual backpack off the floor.
I didn't have high hopes then while being ushered in to the meet the first of three VR-developers in the space of a little under two hours at the publisher Fast Travel Games. Yet, with some developer guidance I actually ended up having a pretty nice experience, which I think speaks volumes about how intuitive VR experiences can be, when you really lose yourself in the digital realm.
The first game I tried was Broken Edge from the Canadian developer Trebuchet. It was probably a good place to start, as the sword fighting game ditches complicated button inputs and only uses motion controls, almost like a Kinect or PlayStation Move game. What really sets the game apart from most other sword fighting games - motion controlled or not - is the speed or rather lack thereof.
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In Broken Edge you are not slashing away killing dozens of enemies as is usually the case. Instead, the game favours a methodical playstyle that rewards careful movement and precision. If you just swing away, you might still hit your opponent, but the damage will be negligible. To make any real impact, you will have to move in certain patterns and time your special attacks in what I can imagine, in some respects at least, mimics real life swordsmanship.
In my case, since I was playing as a Barbarian, it was all about swinging in wide arcs, not unlike making golf strokes or slugging at baseballs. This adds a real weight to the combat which isn't easy to achieve in the VR playfield, creative director Guillaume Perreault Roy explains:
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"In VR it can be hard to register impact as nothing physically stops your swing or your motion. So, we made flashy animations where the swords break on impact and your character takes a step back, as it automatically will make you do the same. Or at least that is the intent."
Colourful visual effects when landing a hit certainly leaves an impact and helps maintain the illusion that you are carrying a heavy two-handed sword. The whole game is kept in a simple, but quite distinct art style with simple pastel colours. It's not just a stylistic choice though, as some of the hardware's capacity has been reserved for handling the online sword duels that probably will be the games' major selling point when it launches for the Meta Quest 2 in Q4 2022.
The next game on my list was quite an intense one. EverSlaught Invasion from the small German developer MobX is all about frantic co-op action as you and a friend tear through wave after wave of undead enemies.
This was my first time moving freely in a virtual space, so it was quite a dizzying experience. To make matters worse (for me at least) the game runs at an extremely high pace. An intentional move as the developers aim to create the feeling of an old school shooter.
Fortunately, my waves of discomfort receded just as the waves of enemies started flowing through the first level, which looked like a strange Arabian city straight out of Assassin's Creed or Prince of Persia - only with bloodthirsty monsters of course.
"The overall inspiration came from games we were used to playing as kids, like for instance Diablo. But instead of going into this medieval European style, we decided to go more for a Middle Eastern vibe as it hasn't been explored a lot in video games, as far as we know," explains art director Matan Gantz.
During the tutorial I was quite impressed with how accurately the game registered damage based on the trajectory and speed of my swings. None of that helped me when the monsters started spawning, as everything moved way too fast for me. EverSlaught Invasion is clearly meant for experienced VR gamers. That being said, the controls are very intuitive, and I had no problem switching to my hand cannon and dispatching enemies that way while one of the developers hacked away at the remaining monsters.
"We are trying to get the replayability high with providing new options for increasing character skills, getting gun upgrades, and choosing among the three classes. You can also find new weapons in the levels and get upgrades that change the abilities of your weapons. For example, we have elemental features that let you freeze enemies, shock enemies, or bind enemies," says lead game designer Niklas Wirths.
I can easily imagine Everslaught Invasion becoming a co-op hit when it launches for the Meta Quest 2 in early 2023. Whether it will have enough content for solo players remains to be seen.
We Are One
After all the fighting, We Are One proved a nice change of pace. The debut title from Salzburg-based Flat Head Studio is a rather unique puzzle experience where you must work together with the most reliable partner of all - yourself.
"You are in a time loop and have to play the same time loop over and over again, but at a different place. And everything you did in the last run is now replicated by a clone of yourself. So, you have to work together with your past selves and your future selves," level designer and co-founder Philipp Sigl explains about the rather unique concept.
Levels begin with you standing atop a tree and looking down at the environment. You have a time limit and a certain number of seedlings you can grow into plant-like people or clones.
In an early level I had to eliminate two enemies by shooting them. As they were well-covered by a fallen tree trunk, I had to switch between my clones to defeat them, the problem being that I only had one gun. That meant that I couldn't kill the second enemy right away, but instead had to wait for my first clone to finish his job. Unfortunately, I had carelessly thrown my gun away after dispatching the first enemies, meaning that now I couldn't reach the gun with my second clone. The mistake was easily fixed by replaying the first segment, but still illustrates how careful you must be, when working in the time loop.
Like any good puzzle game, the simple mechanics are expanded further providing a challenge with a little bit of action thrown into the mix, as shooting the enemies requires real precision. There are also enemy attacks to avoid along the way, which adds further intensity. "In the full version we are planning to have over 50 levels, so that probably means around two and a half to three hours of content. And we are planning to add a level editor after release where players can create and share their own levels," reveals technical lead and studio co-founder Daniel Wiendl
Having only played a couple of levels, it's too early to say if the tiny seed will blossom into an elaborate puzzler, but there is certainly a lot of potential. When We Are One releases on the Meta Quest 2 is yet to be confirmed.