The space opera genre was big with Wing Commander back in the late nineties, and is looking to make a big comeback once Star Citizen’s Squadron 42 is released. First up, however, it’s Space Rift – a story-driven space opera that was designed from the ground up for VR.
While many VR games out there today limit themselves to doing one particular thing (be it driving, adventuring or shooting), Space Rift tries to create an interactive movie experience. The bulk of the game is, of course, space-based combat, but you don’t leave the VR experience for any of the story-driven sequences either.
The story itself sees earth utterly destroyed after a meteor shower and the remaining population moving to Mars. There, a story of oppression and conflict unfolds, where you assume the role of a lone pilot ready to take on the powers that be. It’s pretty formulaic in how everything unfolds, but it’s a fun ride while it lasts. The events are told not just through cutscenes and briefings, but can also been seen and heard mid-mission, since missions are scripted and tie in to the story very well.
The game doesn’t last too long though, as the credits start to roll after about two hours – followed by a ‘to be continued’ message. Since the release, the game has been renamed to include “episode 1” in its title – but that didn’t make it any less of an unpleasant surprise when the game (or episode) was suddenly over during our initial playthrough.
So what Space Rift did poorly is manage our expectations (and possibly that of other gamers as well) – but let’s assume for a moment that the game was always meant to be episodic and had been marketed as such. In that case, we probably would have loved episode 1 and would have eagerly anticipated episode 2 – no hard feelings. The fact of the matter is that the game itself is actually a lot of fun and a great sci-fi virtual reality experience. A bit like virtual reality meets Wing Commander, but at a smaller budget. Nevertheless, don’t let the absence of Hollywood stars fool you – this is still a good looking VR game.
Although episodic when we didn’t think it was, Space Rift shows great promise and we can’t wait for the next episodes – or at least some information about what to expect now. Let’s hope the expectations match the product next time, because it would be a shame if this game got overlooked because of it.