While we wait for our Quest 2 to arrive so that we can dive into the new and improved experiences for that headset, we take a look at a few other exciting VR releases, with a brand new release in the shape of Star Shaman and a bundle of three excellent indie titles that just came out on Steam.
Now that the Quest 2 has been released, we’re seeing an influx of new games for the platform along with updates for existing games to make use of the more powerful headset. Star Shaman is actually a brand new title, and (like every other game in the library) is also compatible with the original Quest headset.
Developed by Ikimasho, Star Shaman features a gesture-based control scheme for casting spells – but rather than use spellcasting in a fantasy setting, this one plays out in the sci-fi realm. There’s a ton of story dialogue about evil architects and their desire to turn the world into a collection of geometric shapes and about how you’re a wizard with a mission to stop them, but ultimately you see very little of that reflected in the gameplay.
Star Shaman plays like a typical wave shooter at first, where you’re stationary and start off with a brief tutorial, which explains how to either dodge or deflect incoming attacks – pretty generic stuff in VR land. It’s when you go on the offensive that the game comes into its own though, since you’re in possession of a magic sphere that you can use to conjure up your spells and weapons, something that adds a novel motion-controlled twist to the gameplay. One hand accesses offensive spells, the other one defensive ones – and you unlock more and more as you keep playing, though you can only equip seven at a time.
Spells are on a cooldown, and can only be used once per section of the game (which has a few levels before you continue to the next section and are awarded new spells to equip). Before too long, equipping your spells and firing them makes you feel like a stage magician, with your hand movements seemingly wielding immense power. Tie that to the fact that Star Shaman has a very uplifting soundtrack full of groovy and melodic music, and this is a game that’s easy to get lost in.
A rather challenging amount of difficulty is a bit of a wall on your way to that enjoyment though, and failing a level means getting thrown back and playing through all-too-familiar levels again and again. This wouldn’t be that big of a problem, but (as many Quest games do) Star Shaman has some pretty long load times. I wish there was something like a Zen mode for me to just get lost in the stars and do my thing to the beat of the music, but Star Shaman’s (currently) only mode is of a more hardcore variety – something I wasn’t expecting from the colorful visuals and comic book style characters that the intro presented to me.
Part of what makes Star Shaman too challenging for its own good is the fact that the enemies you face require different strategies to beat. This isn’t just true for bosses, but also for the shapes that come towards you, and it takes quite a bit of practice before you’re able to instantly switch tactics because you recognize the shape and the counter-attack that goes with it.
Nevertheless, when Star Shaman “clicks” it flows wonderfully well – the gestures you make as you move around and take out enemies to the beat of the music almost feeling like a flowing kind of dance, even though this isn’t a rhythm game like Beat Saber or Synth Riders – the latter of which also has “gestures” and feels somewhat similar when Star Shaman settles into its own groove. I’m hoping the game will be a bit more streamlined in future updates, because this could well be one worth coming back to.
The Perfect Hit VR Bundle releases on Steam
If you have your VR headset hooked up to Steam, then a new bundle just came out that should be on your radar. It’s called the “Perfect Hit VR Bundle” and it’s made up of three of the best indie VR productions out there: Eleven Table Tennis, Thrill of the Fight and Synth Riders. All three are heavy on motion controls and give players a good opportunity to work out, but with a lot of gameplay diversity between the three of them.
Synth Riders is a title we’ve covered a few times already, with its flowing music-based gameplay and constantly expanding roster of tracks. It’s been a hit for us and hasn’t left our Quest since we first installed it, so we can’t recommend this one to Steam VR players enough.
Eleven Table Tennis is, as you’d expect, a simulation of the sport. Much like games like Racket Fury and VR Ping Pong Pro in that sense, but while those were hit and miss, Eleven Table Tennis has been very well received since it came out a few years ago, and continues to be supported with updates – a major one went live earlier this year. Having played other table tennis games in VR before, we’re pretty confident that this one has the best physics models out there and it’s a joy to play against an AI opponent. Online multiplayer is also supported, so we’re going to be setting up a few matches to try that out in the near future.
Last but not least is Thrill of the Fight, which – as that one Survivor song combined with that one movie suggests – is all about boxing. Hardly a unique proposition in VR with games like Knockout League, Creed, BoxVR and Boxing Apocalypse already out there, but Thrill of the Fight takes a different approach. While other takes on the sport all had a focus on ‘gamey’ elements or fitness, Sealost Interactive’s game aims to provide a true simulation of the sport. As a result, you can’t just go in and wildly swing your arms around, but will learn to move, dodge and punch effectively against a variety of fighters and styles. It supports roomscale as a requirement as well, so it’s a lot like actually being in the ring with someone as long as the size of your playing area supports it. In terms of lasting appeal you could say that not actually getting punched in the face by someone built like Ivan Drago or Mike Tyson is certainly a good thing as well, and in the process of playing you’re also getting a great workout. Thrill of the Fight demonstrates that boxing is about a lot more than just swinging your arms at the other guy, and if you don’t already own one of these three titles then this is a bundle well worth checking out as each single game here is excellent within its own genre.