Guardians is a unique hybrid VR game that melds shooter and RTS mechanics into one experience, complete with PvE and PvE modes. It’s out now on PC VR and Quest via SideQuest (App Lab submission pending) for $15, including crossplay.
We originally covered Guardians back in November and it already had a lot of promise back then. In Guardians you take on the role of an elite operative that’s responsible for protecting a galactic federation that’s mining for a powerful energy source on a strange new planet on the outer rim of the galaxy. You’ll fight off enemies not only by using a powerful arsenal of weapons, but also by setting up defenses and summoning robot companions.
One really appealing aspect of Guardians, at least based on the footage and store description, is the sheer variety of everything. There are lots of different weapons including guns and bows, as well as droids, drones, tanks, mechs, turrets, and more. Combat looks extremely hectic and reminds me a bit of Evasion. Not to mention solo, co-op, and PvP on top of it all.
You can pull out a datapad map to get a “tactical view” of the area which includes information about minerals and nearby enemies, as well as locations you can teleport to across the map. This will serve as a eagle’s eye view of the battle to manage your forces from while controlling the commander on the ground. There’s tremendous freedom of movement too including even a jetpack for hovering and gliding.
Guardians is technically in Early Access according to the Steam page and includes all primary game mechanics, six solo or co-op levels and two PvP maps across three PvP game modes. There’s also a tutorial and practice range already with seven weapons and eight enemy types.
Developers VirtualAge plan to keep Guardians in Early Access for approximately 4-6 months before flipping the switch for full launch. You can grab it for PC VR via Steam or on SideQuest for Quest/Quest 2 right now for $15. Full crossplay is supported and an App Lab release is pending.
The accessible VR RTS from Phaser Lock, Final Assault, is now out on PSVR. Check out our thoughts on the port in our full review!
When virtual reality arrived years ago, there were a few genres people often expected the tech to benefit most. We heard how horror, racing, and music and rhythm games would be revolutionized once they started to implement headsets, and in many ways they have been.
One genre I didn’t anticipate getting much of a boost from a VR headset is real-time strategy, but play just a few minutes of Final Assault, and it will quickly be evident how virtual reality can innovate even the most unexpected of genres.
Final Assault is a cartoonish take on the RTS genre. With its vibrant battlefields and exaggerated character models, it’s a game that looks as serious as something on Nickelodeon. The sound design is similarly lighthearted. This isn’t a harrowing war story. It’s an animated feature, set in a fictional WWII-like arena but never so much as flying an actual Nazi flag. But what this colorful setup hides is a respectable commitment to its gameplay, amplified in ways only VR can.
Across several game modes including two kinds of campaigns against NPCs, free play, and cross-platform PvP, Final Assault pits players in a tug-of-war for resources. With classic lane-centric map layouts skillfully organized to promote constant tactical considerations, the only thing childish about the game is its color palette. Each side manages a squad of their choosing, split among several Hero characters, and each of them provides a few variations on your available army. Resources must be managed carefully, with cooldown timers affecting strategy as much as enemy movement. Let your guard down too soon or mismanage your soldiers and you’ll be waving the white flag in no time.
A long list of troops, tanks, dogfighters, and more round out a fun roster of war toys and it’s up to you to decide who to deploy as well as where and when to send them into battle. Each unit serves a definitive purpose and part of the fun comes in experimenting to find the right combat strategy.
Have a fighter jet hit the skies and watch as it takes on enemies high above the battlefield. Send in an infantry truck full of soldiers and watch them storm the gates. Your soldiers are reliable enough to wage war on their own should you simply drop them into battle, but the more satisfying moments come when you lead them directly to where you want to focus your attack, even drawing their precise route with the VR controls. Conversely, it’s just as exciting to feel the good anxiety of the genre when the enemy is assaulting your side of the map and your resources are depleted, suddenly seeming agonizingly slow to refill.
These are staples of the genre, and seasoned fans may expect to find these same scenes in any RTS, but virtual reality truly does bring the whole experience to another level. With the headset on, you become the ever-present overseer of the entire battlefield. Combined with the cartoonish style of it all, Final Assault revealed its best but least expected attribute: it makes one feel like a kid with a toy box full of action figures.
Zooming in on over the shoulders of your heroes, dropping cars here, tanks there, hanging an airstrike right over the enemy base, it wasn’t long into my time with Final Assault before I felt like I had time traveled to 20 years ago, like I took a Saturday as a kid, turned my toy box upside down, and let my imagination run wild.
This is all made better by difficulty options that let you ease into the war as slowly or quickly as you want. It can be hectic at first glance, with individual battles happening all over the bombed-out streets, but I found starting on easy allowed me to not only learn the VR controls, but also worry less about my defenses, letting me take in each scene up close, admiring the excitement in every corner of the warzone.
Final Assault uses VR wands, and you can choose which handles troops and which navigates your resource menu, even swapping between them whenever you want to. It’s convenient in that way, but the actual movement may cause trouble. Typically I’ve only ever gotten nauseated while playing VR with first-person games where I’ve walked too closely to walls. But with Final Assault, the pinching and zooming across each map leaves me feeling sick after less than an hour each time. As always with VR, your experience may vary greatly from mine in this regard, but because these motion controls somewhat mirror my legacy issue of walking near walls, I’d caution that you may have a similarly queasy experience if that’s been your problem with VR in the past too.
Final Assault PSVR Review Final Verdict
There’s a fun focus on planning and improvising in Final Assault, making it an engaging, albeit somewhat less involved, entry for the genre even if it wasn’t on a headset, but in virtual reality, the RTS shines as an imaginative chest of colorful toys. Just make sure when you’re planning your attack to call in a supply drop of dramamine.
The day has finally arrived: Asgard’s Wrath, the massive new action-adventure VR RPG from Sanzaru Games and Oculus Studios is officially released for Oculus Rift. We’ve already played it and published our full review so this guide will specifically focus on tips and strategies to help new players get started.
Asgard’s Wrath is an incredibly dense game. It took me around 25 hours to finish the main story and that’s without venturing off the main path very often. Across the entire adventure it spans six different sagas, or chapters, and lets you take control of five different mortal heroes each with their own unique playstyle, gear, and special abilities.
We’ll assume that you’re jumping into the game pretty fresh at this point and run down everything you need to know, especially things we wish we had known, to get started.
Don’t Be Afraid To Experiment
Each hero will have a handful of “Hero Gear” items in Asgard’s Wrath that always return to them and are indestructible, such as Ingrid’s sword or Frodi’s staff. While these weapons are great to rely on, don’t be afraid to experiment. Sometimes the weapon that an enemy drops, although not indestructible, is still very powerful and good to use to make quick work of enemies. Later on in the game many of these dropped weapons will have status properties that do lightning, fire, poison, or some other type of extra damage.
It’s also just lots of fun to lop off someone’s head, grab their sword, then chop off another enemy’s arm all without skipping a beat. Definite badass material.
Parrying Is Crucial
If you’re playing on either medium or hard difficulty then you’re gonna need to master parrying very quickly. Enemies are generally classified in four different ways in Asgard’s Wrath: standard enemies with just a health bar, Runic Armor enemies that have extra shield bars, boss enemies that are large and pack devastating attacks, and full boss encounters (there are only three of these in the whole game.)
Standard enemies you just need to hit them to lower their health until they’re dead. That’s it. Parrying is handy to deflect attacks but not needed. The other class of enemies, the ones with Runic Armor (blue bars above the green health bar) are where things get tricky. You’ll need to parry, block, or dodge standard and heavy (red glowing) attacks to build up the enemy’s rage meter (thin red bar beneath the green health bar) to then trigger a Signature Attack (their eyes glow red and there’s a blue glow around the weapon) which must be parried to stun the enemy. Once stunned you can attack to remove the Runic Armor bar and start dealing normal damage.
If you’re playing on Easy however, you don’t need to parry but it will help speed up some encounters if you don’t want to chip away at health bars.
Pay Attention To Status Effects
Some status effects in Asgard’s Wrath like being frozen or on fire are tough to ignore, but I found the combat so intense and active that it was easy to miss the slow damage-over-time effect. If you look down with your eyes you’ll see your health at the bottom of the HUD and if you’re taking damage the number is, obviously, going down.
But on the flip side, you can use these against enemies too. Even if you haven’t broken their Runic Armor you can use status effects like poison and lightning damage to hurt their health beneath the armor directly. Some followers are particularly good at this, such as the owl, who can shoot crossbow bolts from a distance for a steady barrage.
Bond With Followers
You should always stay friendly with your followers. Keep them happy by regularly feeding them, making sure they don’t die, and giving a thumbs up, high-five, or fist bump — just typical stuff you do with any animal.
The benefit here is that if they’re happy they will discover random items in the environment for you and the stronger the bond, the better the items.
Gather Absolutely Everything
Leave no barrel unbusted, crate unbroken, or pot unsmashed. They almost always have crafting resources inside and every treasure chest has something useful. When you go back to the tavern just sell everything you don’t need (like body parts or weapons you don’t like) and store the rest in your stash.
Every time you visit the blacksmith or merchant to craft something Asgard’s Wrath will automatically pull from your stash as well as your inventory for all ingredients.
Craft Upgrades Early And Often
Speaking of which, you should stop by the blacksmith often. Don’t just wait until the end of a hero’s saga because at that point you don’t really need to play that hero again unless you want to do side content as them. But if you upgrade during the saga at every other checkpoint or so then you’ll steadily improve over the course of all of their quests.
Always Have Meads And Potions Handy
In a lot of RPGs I stockpile items until the end and just never use them. I encourage you not to do that in Asgard’s Wrath. Health does not recover for your followers or you, at all, other than by eating food and drinking potions. You can craft potions back at the tavern, but can only hold 10 at a time. I’d recommend saving those and if you hit your limit give extras to followers to keep them topped off.
Generally speaking I’d recommend crafting potions and meads as a first-priority every time you visit the tavern. Especially Frenzy Meads. When using these your follower activates their Frenzied state which enables their special ability. Hulda the turtle, for example, taunts all enemies towards her while raising her shield while the shark can do a corkscrew attack to shred through Runic Armor easily — this one’s great for boss fights.
Understand Inventory Navigation
There are three main inventory sections: consumables, weapons, and materials. They all have their own pages and own storage capacities. The other icons at the top are Hero Gear, key items, followers, and heroes. Hero Gear, as explained earlier, are the iconic and persistent weapons unique to each hero that you unlock. Key items are things like keys for chests, handles for levers, or various dragon horns that you can craft to bypass large creatures blocking paths — among other things.
Usually you don’t need to actually look through the inventory to use a key item, most of the time Asgard’s Wrath just understands what you need and lets you pick it out of the air to use in the moment it’s needed.
Always Solve Gnome Riddles (If You Can) To Upgrade Inventory Space
These little gnome fellas will pop up at various stages throughout the game with a riddle. If you can decipher it (usually the answer is a consumable or material found in that region) and you give it to him then you’ll get some cash and a golden needle. You can exchange golden needles for inventory space upgrades at the merchant back at the tavern.
Venture Off The Beaten Path
Asgard’s Wrath is a game just as much about exploration as it is defeating powerful god-like enemies. The main quest took me around 24 hours to finish, but I couldn’t help but venture off the main path every now and then. If you do so often you’ll find lots of valuable crafting materials for upgrades, tons of side quests and puzzles, and in some cases large, separate dungeons that are entirely optional with their own storylines and special high-profile rewards.
Since this is also heavily inspired by Metroidvania-style games, there is big incentive to re-explore areas after you get further in the game because new paths will become accessible as well as new content you didn’t see the first time through.
Avenge Fallen Players Every Chance You Get In Asgard’s Wrath
One of my favorite entirely optional bits of Asgard’s Wrath is the fallen hero system. When a real-life player dies in Asgard’s Wrath the game logs that location and stores it with a chance for other players to come across it in their game. When this happens a ghostly purple apparition appears, along with the player’s actual Oculus ID, issuing a challenge to avenge them.
If you complete the combat challenge you’re awarded Yggdrasil seeds which can be used to sprout faerie blessings back at Yggdrasil (the giant tree) that grant you permanent buffs. Some of them are super helpful like offering a chance to replenish potions when drinking one or lowering the relationship penalty for a follower’s death.
Read The Codex At Aegir’s Tavern
Back at the tavern there is a giant floating book hovering over the fire. If you flip through it then you can not only find out about some classical Norse mythology not specifically covered in the game’s narrative, but you’ll also find out new details like intel on enemies as well as what each of your follower’s like best as their favorite food. All followers will eat any food but feeding them their favorite heals for more health per item.
Reconstruct Totems In God Form At Altar Locations
Finally, each time you unlock a new God alter in a region and convert a new animal follower, spend some time in God form exploring. You might notice some things you otherwise couldn’t have seen from the hero’s perspective.
Specifically, you’ll spot broken wooden totems. There will be a base located somewhere near the altar with two broken, missing pieces within reach of your God form. Put those back together and then locate three animals skulls to adorn the top and voila, it’s reconstructed. This will net you extremely valuable crafting materials that are crucial for upgrading hero gear back at the blacksmith.
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If there’s any genre that absolutely deserves more recognition in the VR scene right now it’s real-time strategy titles. We’ve seen a handful of gamers release over the past year or so between all of the major headsets, but nowhere near as many strategy games have come to market as other genres such as wave shooters and competitive multiplayer action games. Luckily, League of War: VR Arena, a recently released strategy game for PSVR from MunkyFun, is aiming to change that.
We’ve played a bit of League of War: VR Arena since it released and it feels a little like a MOBA-lite with some macro-level strategy game elements. Each player picks a different commander that has different troops which can spawn during battles. In this way it feels a bit like Advance Wars. But instead of being a turn-based strategy game everything happens in real-time. You can see some gameplay, along with an interview, in the video below:
Each player has to spawn troops and send them off to fight the enemy on the other side of the map. Once a unit is spawned you can place where they go using the PS Move controllers. What makes League of War unique however is that you can play local multiplayer with a user watching the TV screen outside of VR. They lose the ability to pick up and place units, but they can act much more quickly, which balances things out.
The objective is to destroy your enemy’s turrets and base at the end of the lane and it results in a long-running game of rock-paper-scissors between your foot soldiers, tanks, fast ground vehicles, aerial crafts, and more. It’s exciting and a bit overwhelming at first, but eventually the rhythm of gameplay will set in.
Let’s get it out of the way up front and early: HoloGrid: Monster Battle from HappyGiant and Tippett Studio looks similar to the hologram chess scene in Star Wars because the same guy that created that scene also created the monsters in this game. Phil Tippett (Jurassic Park, Star Wars, Dragonheart, Willow) is an Academy Award-winning visual effects designer with decades of experience creating monsters and visual designs for some of the most iconic film franchises of all-time.
When I visited his studio last year to see a pre-release preview build of HoloGrid in action, he also showed me the real-life models of the creatures from the game that he created first. After making those, they were then scanned with photogrammetry to construct the grotesque and articulated character models you see in the final game. It’s a unique way of building a game world and the results are extremely satisfying visually.
After getting funded on Kickstarter to the tune of over $100,000, the game is now finally released for both iOS and Android devices. The app is available for free, but in order to play you also need to purchase the card packs as well. The card packs are sold on Amazon for $30 and come with two stands for phones or tablet devices, along with a rule sheet, and two decks of cards. This way you can play with a friend locally even if you only purchase one box.
Each deck includes three champion creatures, nine minions, five spells, and a board card used to display the game. Since this is a hybrid card game and augmented reality (AR) holographic board game, you’ll use your device in conjunction with the cards to enjoy the experience. Although if you want, you an disable the AR features and just play it like a standard mobile game.
At the main menu you select to either play against the A.I. alone, with a friend locally or online, or play a random person online. From there you construct your deck by placing cards in front of your device’s camera. Each game deck consists of a single champion, three minions, and two spells. Since you’ve got more than the needed amount in each category, you’re afforded a bit of customization flexibility.
Unfortunately, that seems to be all there is for cards. In the realm of most card games like Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh!, or digital excursions such as Dragon Front or Hearthstone, decks consist of at least twice as many or more cards. When your entire deck is only 17 cards and there are only six different total options of those cards that can be used in any individual battle, it feels limiting.
Luckily the animations are wonderful and the attention to detail afforded each creature really shows through. As a technical marvel, it gets the job done. As a deep, immersive, and engaging card game with AR integration, it isn’t revolutionary.
The goal of each match is to destroy the opposing player’s champion. Every turn, you’ll receive five mana points, which are used to summon new creatures, move monsters, cast spells, and attack with your summoned monsters. In this way, everything you do is part of the meta-game of resource management.
Monsters take the form of one of five different class types, ranging from either Champion, Fighter, Shooter, Specialist, or Tank. Crafting a diverse army is recommended to address whatever your enemy throws at you. Each unit has a defined health pool, attack value, and movement points.
When playing your creature cards, you can only summon a monster in a square that is adjacent to another friendly monster you already own. All attacks provoke counter attacks, unless the attacked monster is killed by the initial attack. You can also swap a card from your hand to your deck.
Each card has some sort of special attribute as well that helps it stand out from the rest. In the case of the Carnifex champion, he buffs all adjacent monsters with extra attack power. The Strut is a ranged shooter minion that attacks any monster located in a straight line in front of it, regardless of distance. Then the Vanguard gets a bonus to its attack if it doesn’t move, making it a great tank minion.
One issue that I found is that you can only see a monster’s health, attack, and movement stats if you scan it into the game. The physical cards themselves don’t actually display any information other than their special ability, name, and class type. It doesn’t impact gameplay, but it seems like an odd stylistic omission. The image below shows the digital cards — the physical ones don’t have the information at the bottom. This could be due to the need for balancing patches and updates that may alter stats slightly.
Final Score:6/10 – Decent
Overall the gameplay gets the job done and the novel aspect of HoloGrid combining both the digital and physical world together is enough to make it a fun distraction for fans of the genre, but it lacks the depth and diversity to really keep you coming back for more. I’d have liked to have seen at least twice the number of cards to build a deck from, some expansion packs of some kind, or at least a bit more tactics in the strategies. If you’ve got someone to play with locally that loves card games, it’s worth checking out.
I’m kind of a sucker for board games in VR. The sheer visual spectacle of seeing the entire game world before you coming to life in vivid 3D still wows me, so a game like 5 Min Lab’s Toy Clash has instant visual appeal. It’s less of a board game and more of a tower offense/defense experience, but still has a distinct small world charm.
A very small world in fact, since the focus is on toys attacking each other. In Toy Clash, you play one faction of toys trying to defeat another. There might be some kind of plot here in this single-player affair, but it didn’t stick with me. Essentially, two sides square off, sending in units of various types to destroy the enemy forces and base.
Toy soldiers, elf-like tennis ballers, hopping clockwork knights, bat-wielding thugs, and several more units are unlocked and upgradable through the game. Bazookas, off-road buggies, and other weird weapons keep the tone incredibly light. The colorful, bright art looks excellent and suits the nonsensical toy action just right.
The tower offensive nature of the game centers around the goal of destroying the enemy’s tower on the opposite end of the screen. Once their home base is destroyed, you can move to the next level. Conversely, your home base (an old tank for some reason) is fair game for them. If it gets destroyed, it’s game over.
These home towers have offensive abilities as well and can even be upgraded to be stronger and more lethal. In fact, everything in Toy Clash can be upgraded once enough points are earned. Points are the game’s currency, earned based on your level performance, and you can upgrade each unit individually.
The same is true of spells earned over the course of the game’s 36 levels. Spells include nifty high-power attacks like a great ball of fire or ice and some more practical uses like being able to pick up your units and move them around the map. These effects are particularly useful when dealing with clumps of enemies, but aren’t quite powerful enough to be tide-changers for the most part.
Toy Clash is all about timing… well, to be precise, mostly waiting for time to pass. This isn’t a large-scale battle game. Most of the time, there are less than ten units on the board at once. Rounds only last a few minutes, but much of that time is simply spent waiting for ever-recharging bars to reload to be able to create a new unit. The more powerful the unit, the more energy it takes to make them, so there’s a constant trade-off between waiting long enough to get the energy for a higher end unit or simply throwing out lesser units because it’s quicker.
What’s odd is that once you make a particular unit, the ability to make another has to recharge as well, independent of your overall energy recharging. There ends up being a lot of waiting for such quick matches and it frequently feels as if the AI opponent can make units a lot faster than you can, which is a bit frustrating.
On the plus side, this system can add a distinct sense of franticness to the action, but it feels like things are artificially stacked against the player in some cases. Even still though, Toy Clash is charming enough to be fun for the most part. The head-tracking based interface of the Gear VR is completely intuitive. To interact with things, you just look at them and tap the touch side panel. Mechanically, Toy Clash couldn’t be simpler to control.
Final Score:6/10 – Decent
Toy Clash provides enough good-looking VR action to be worth a look for fans of the genre. While the pacing is frequently off, the flaws aren’t grave enough to make it a wash. The diversity of boards, quaint toy theme, and overall fun nature of watching these clockwork battles unfold gives the game a distinctly gimmicky appeal for a short time.