League of War: VR Arena is now available for Playstation VR and delivers a fast-paced virtual reality approach to real time strategy to the platform. As a huge bonus, it also allows you to play with a second player who plays with a DualShock and the TV while you wear the VR headset.
I’ll admit right away that I’m not familiar with the popular mobile title League of War that this game is based on. I’m mostly a console gamer these days, but I played plenty of RTS games on PC back in the day so I was eagerly anticipating the release of League of War: VR Arena. It’s not exactly Command and Conquer in VR, but it certainly scratches that itch better than any other VR game I’ve played so far.
Essentially a hybrid between real time strategy and a tabletop game, League of War’s levels are much smaller than the ones in a regular RTS title. Battles play out on a large table, with you on one end and your opponent across from you. In single player, you play around AI generals who all have their own unique play styles – so their presence isn’t just cosmetic in nature. This also means that you’ll have to learn and adapt your own style to see which units and tactics work best against which general.
Battles are short (a matter of minutes) and make use of the usual RTS dynamics where certain units fare better against others – so you have to consider if you’re going to go airborne or send armored units in. There’s no fleshed-out story mode or expansive tech tree (you can unlock extra units though), so the focus remains firmly on the combat. Unit management is an important factor in this, since it takes time for units to charge and spawn – and more powerful units take longer. When do you send your men in? Are you pairing them up, or can you simply not wait for that helicopter unit to be ready? Instantly recognizable to RTS veterans, these mechanics provide a lot of ways to play.
In VR, you control the action using a pair of Move controllers, which are used to literally pick up units and place them on the map. They more or less control themselves once on the battlefield, so issuing new orders mid-battle isn’t an option. Choices are made when placing your units, not afterwards. This also applies to ‘resource management’ – in the form of how you want your units to spawn. This happens automatically, but you can choose to fast-track a certain unit at the expense of others – a trade-off that can come in handy when you’re in a pickle.
Multiplayer games support the use of “social screen”, which means that a second player can use the TV that you’re not looking at to play as your adversary in battle. It’s a feature I love in VR titles, because it always feels a little weird to exclude yourself from your audience by wearing a headset when you have people there with you. Obviously the use of a DualShock controller makes for quicker reaction times, so the game is slightly tweaked in multiplayer to account for this – gamepad players can’t place their units on the battlefield like VR players can, instead just selecting which units have to move out. Time will tell how well balanced the two are, but so far our multiplayer matches have been fun. If you’re more interested in online multiplayer, then League of War: VR Arena sadly does not support this (yet).
I really enjoyed League of War: VR Arena audiovisual presentation as well. So far my only RTS-like experience on Playstation VR had been Korix, and League of War features far more detailed graphics that are much closer to the likes of Total Annihilation than those in Korix – giving me that trusted RTS-feeling despite being a different kind of game at a different pace. I would still love to see a game like this at a larger scale with more game mechanics, but until then I’m perfectly happy to play as a VR commander in League of War: VR Arena.