Developed and published by Big Red Button, The Arcslinger is a wave shooter with roguelike elements that was just released on Playstation VR after earlier versions for the Rift, Vive and even Daydream. We never played any of those versions, so we were curious to try out the PSVR edition.
With its Western-inspired theme, The Arcslinger arrives a little late to the party on Playstation VR – which received titles like Cold Iron and Guns ‘n Stories in the not too distant past. Seen from that perspective, the game isn’t the breath of fresh air that it would have been two years ago or so, but it does bring a few new things to the table.
The Arcslinger isn’t entirely “old west”-themed, as there are sci-fi/cyberpunk influences as well. One of these is your very special firearm called the Archangel – which draws power from “the Arc”, a ring that surrounds the planet that the story takes place on. Together, these two turn you into the “Arcslinger”, which is more meaningful than it sounds when you look at the gameplay more closely.
Besides being your standard wave shooter action (controlled with a pair of Move controllers – the other one controls a regular gun), The Arcslinger comes with a fun twist that uses the Move’s motion control abilities in a novel way. After you equip powers to your gun (and you gradually unlock more and more of them), you can enable special attacks and abilities in-game by using gestures. It’s a bit like the spellcasting in games like A Mage’s Tale and The Wizards, only in a completely different setting.
The way the Archangel gun works is probably what sets the game apart from other wave shooters more than anything else. Instead of just having the usual “point and shoot” mechanic, using gestures is a fun way to break up an otherwise generic and possibly repetitive gameplay dynamic. What helps is that the Archangel isn’t just packed with the option to launch many different attacks and abilities, it’s also loaded with personality.
Even though much of the game is voiced (and the voice performances are decent), it’s the Archangel that really stands out. Your sidearm will talk to you and occasionally give you a hard time as well, turning a sidearm into more of a sidekick for the duration of the adventure. An adventure that is, I need to point out, somewhat on the short side – clocking in at about an hour. Not keeping the gun’s personality limited to the audio side of things, the Archangel also changes form when you enable different weapon types.
There is a roguelike element to The Arcslinger as well, since you keep your perks after every death if you decide to start over at the beginning rather than continue where you left off. It’s a nice choice to have when you hit that proverbial wall, and a fairly manageable one considering the game’s short length. There are five stages in total (with a different setting for every one of them), and they all come with three waves to complete.
Audiovisually, The Arcslinger follows the familiar VR pattern of going with cartoonlike visuals rather than realistic ones. The game’s graphics are surprisingly detailed though, with vibrant locations that are brought to life even more through the game’s extensive use of voiceovers. There is plenty of visual diversity between the different stages though, so this is by no means a lazy wave shooter but rather a very polished one.
Having said that, the inclusion of gestures and the fun audiovisual approach can only do so much, and under the surface this is still a fairly standard wave shooter. If you’re a fan of the genre, however, then you’ve got another solid choice for your PSVR headset.