In today’s roundup we enter the Warhammer universe in VR with Warhammer 40,000: Battle Sister, stay in VR for the PSVR release of Swords of Gargantua and take a look at brand new (and free!) DLC for Broken Lines.
Warhammer 40,000: Battle Sister – out now for Oculus Quest
There are few licenses, if any, that are as prolific in videogaming as the Warhammer brand from Games Workshop. Often associated with strategy because of their tabletop origins, it’s also been used for many crossover adaptations from action RPGs to first person shooters. A lot of that is undoubtedly due to a loyal fanbase and the overwhelming amount of lore that’s out there for all things Warhammer.
Diving into the Warhammer universe through VR was a first for us though, and reason enough to fire up the Quest 2 headset again. And as with any big franchise that goes the way of VR, the first thing you look for is immersion and whether or not they got the look and feel right. In that sense, Battle Sister certainly doesn’t disappoint, as it convincingly places you inside a 40K setting where you’re dropped onto a battlefield where giant titans are duking it out. After that, it doesn’t take long for you to be thrust into the heat of battle yourself and using motion controls to fight off your enemies.
Combat is straightforward enough if you’re used to VR, with motion controls letting you fire and reload your guns quickly. That’s just as true when you’re dual wielding weapons, which makes you feel especially powerful. All you need to do is press a button to eject your current ammo magazine, and moving the gun towards your waist is enough to refill it. Besides gunplay, you can also equip a Power Sword for a mix of melee and medium range combat, which is often the best option when considering the diversity of the enemies you face.
Battle Sister also features a couple of excellent setpieces, including a few where you’re aboard a hulking beast of a spaceship – which is of course quite impressive to experience in VR. The visuals (the game is a Quest exclusive) perhaps aren’t the best, but considering the wireless nature of the Quest it’s certainly impressive and the level design makes good use of the sense of scale that VR can provide. Weapon and enemy models also look detailed, and the main sacrifice in terms of visual performance lies with the draw distance and some textures that pop in rather late.
The audio is quite good as well, with voiceovers to help guide the narrative forward and a rousing soundtrack that fits the in-game action. As such this may be a game that doesn’t do much new in the VR space, but it does translate the Warhammer franchise to VR quite effectively – fans won’t want to miss it.
Swords of Gargantua lands on PSVR
At the end of 2020, we’re getting really curious about Sony’s plans for PlayStation VR. Sure, the hardware is compatible with the PS5, but we’re not seeing a major push for new hardware or first party games yet. Instead, the release roster this year was mostly filled with titles that first premiered on other platforms, perhaps with the exception of Iron Man VR. A recent example of a port to Sony’s headset is Swords of Gargantua, which we recently checked out and fits in nicely alongside other 2020 VR games that focused on melee combat.
But where pretty much every other melee combat title focuses on one on one scenarios, Swords of Gargantua emphasizes online multiplayer action, supporting up to four players at once. As such, it makes the game an unlikely and ambitious port for PlayStation VR, which of course is far from anyone’s ideal choice when it comes to moving around effective in a game world. Rather than thumb stick of roomscale movement, you have to use the Move’s face buttons to move, which takes a bit of getting used to because it’s not a conventional use for them. It ultimately works though, because Swords of Gargantua relies far more on motion controls than button presses.
This comes across in the melee fighting, in which you can cope reasonably well just swinging wildly at your foes but with a little practice you can also pull off combos by targeting specific body parts in order with the right moves. You also need to block and parry incoming attacks, and although positioning can be a bit iffy this mostly works quite well. On top of those basic combat moves, you can also dash to evade or attack or activate an extra damage mode once you’re filled up the matching meter. But while getting surrounded by enemies sounds like a potentially awesome situations to get out of, the limitations of the control scheme make this feel rather clunky and the best way to play this is by joining up with other players to help tackle your enemies from different angles.
Part of that is that Swords of Gargantua is a rogue-like game with little to no narrative to speak of, instead offering just over 100 levels (or waves) of enemies to fight. You’ll gradually gain new weapons, upgrades and permanent boosts that are useful if you have to start over again. Ultimately, however, things can feel grindy, and the experience is simply much more fun when shared with others. The upgraded mechanics certainly keep things fresh in single player as well, as does a good selection of weapons, but the later levels can feel unfair without the ability to effectively move and engage in teamwork to make up for it.
Audiovisually speaking, this is a bit of a mixed bag, with some okay audio and music but lackluster visuals that wouldn’t impress anyone who’s previously played games like Until You Fall or Swordsman VR – both of them also released on PSVR this year. If you’re planning on picking up Swords of Gargantua, do so with the multiplayer mode in mind. There are better games around if you’re interested in a single player experience, but playing with others (with voice chat enabled) is a fun experience that is tough to find elsewhere.
Broken Lines received free The Dead and The Drunk DLC
Broken Lines, developed by PortaPlay and published by Super.com, mostly flew under the radar for us but has been very well received by both fans and critics. Having finally played it, it’s easy to see why – it’s a blend of interesting characters in an alternative narrative-driven take on World War II with solid turn based combat mechanics.
Now, there’s a new DLC out called The Dead and the Drunk, and not only does it add about two hours of new narrative-driven content, it’s also absolutely free for people who own the game already!
The Dead and the Drunk certainly takes the alternate history angle of Broken Lines and runs with it, as it introduces undead that walk the earth again after a strange gas is used by your enemies. It’s a premise that reminds us a bit of Rebellion’s Zombie Army franchise, and the tone is certainly fitting as well – with a game that doesn’t take its setting too seriously – using booze as a game mechanic on top of the supernatural angle that the zombies introduce. At the end of the day, it’s a lot of fun and a good reason to jump back in – and did we mention it’s free?