As we start to leave the summer behind, things are starting to cool down and it’s more appealing to start wearing a VR headset again. Time for a VR roundup where we check out three recent releases you can pick up and play right now: Interkosmos 2000, Eolia and Altair Breaker are reviewed below.
Interkosmos 2000 review (Quest)
We had never played the original Interkosmos when it launched back in 2017, as we were still firmly focused on PSVR as a platform back then. We’ve since embraced the Quest, which happens to be the first VR platform to receive the sequel, which was once again developed by Ovid Works.
Interkosmos 2000 is an alternate reality kind of game that takes place inside the confines of a Space Shuttle in the year 2000. Though it presents a fictional storyline that involves US and Russian forces both trying to influence your actions, the game’s somewhat grounded in reality as well. This can be seen in the elaborate interior of your ship, with tons of buttons, dials and equipment to operate. And while a big chunk of the game is of the escape room/puzzle variety, the complexity of staying alive in space can also be experienced through survival elements that prevent you from just focusing on the game’s plot and puzzles.
If you’re not into survival elements, these parts will feel like padding, stretching the game to its four hour runtime when it could have been completed faster – though this would have hurt the game’s ‘realism’ angle. What’s interesting is that the game managed to engage with a story that’s four hours long even though the action almost exclusively takes place inside a small spacecraft, which you navigate in your moveable chair while sometimes making sure that stuff doesn’t go flying in zero gravity. It’s pretty immersive, although small visual glitches saw us clipping into the environment at times.
A lot of the in-game mechanics are explained in a good sized tutorial, which pretty much is a crash course in how to stay alive in space. It’s surprisingly in-depth when you consider that the game itself only has three main missions to complete, which even though they’re rather lengthy is a low number and you’re going to wish there was more content once you’re done with it. Between troubleshooting things on the ship and progressing the story forward, the game does a good job at keeping you engaged with things to do, and it doesn’t overstay its welcome despite the relatively small confines you find yourself in.
Some of the busywork that gets thrown at you involves piloting the ship though, and these sections (at least with the Touch controllers) are too finicky for their own good – which luckily isn’t too much of an issue when operating the many buttons and switches instead. Those are generally nice and large, so the game is pretty forgiving in those cases. Those who want their experience to be a bit more streamlined will certainly appreciate this, as it’ll allow them to get on with the entertaining story more easily. It’s a short and interesting experience, and it’s made us curious about the first time – which is on our ‘to play soon’ list now.
Eolia review (Quest 2)
If Eolia sounds familiar to you, you’re probably right – it’s the follow-up game to Rhythm of the Universe: IONIA, which we reviewed about a year ago. But while Eolia takes place in the same universe and has a similar title and approach, it’s a standalone game with its own story, in which you play as Conga Dholak, hoping to save the world from a storm-fueled disaster.
The opening moments introduce us to a fantasy setting that takes us to the village of Kundar, which is pretty much the hub in which the narrative unfolds through conversations, a bit of platforming and a few puzzles, which like in IONIA are often music-based. It’s a nice diverse approach to gameplay design, though not all elements are as polished as they could be – often because of clunky or unresponsive controls. The game world that you explore feels very rich in detail and lore as well, so there were times where we wished the developers had gone with a more condensed and focused approach, especially when objectives felt vague and we had to spend some time figuring out what to do or where to go.
Eolia is certainly ambitious in its scope, which also shows in its control options – it’s one of the rare games that supports hand controls while also letting you interact, move around and even engage in a bit of platforming. It’s cool to try out, but also a testament to the fact that the tech isn’t quite ready for such an involved type of game – making the regular Touch controls a far better option as it simply felt like there was too much going on at once for hand controls – and having to simulate a thumbstick with your hands isn’t any more immersive than using a Touch either.
With its ambitious world building and scope, it’s no surprise that Eolia took us over five hours to complete, which is good for a VR title at this price point. The same can also be said for the audiovisual presentation, with a standout soundtrack, good voice acting and decent (though far from groundbreaking) visuals for a non-first party title on the Quest 2. If you enjoyed IONIA, this is a solid choice if you’re looking to continue your journey through its game world.
Altair Breaker review (Quest 2)
Out now for PC-based VR headsets and the Quest 2, Altair Breaker is a sword-fighting game that’s VR-only and was developed by Thirdverse, who previously gave us Swords of Gargantua. With quite a few sword-fighting titles out there already, we were curious to see what this one brings to the table.
Altair Breaker is set in a fantasy universe on a floating island called Vastus, which is filled with remnants of magic but is now controlled by a humanoid AI called Stella. The place is under attack from an army of LAWS, which are Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems, and it’s your job to fight back. It’s quite an epic setup for a VR game, so we were surprised to find that Altair Breaker’s story is almost non-existent. Instead, you immediately get thrown into the action and there’s little to no time spent on story development beyond that initial premise.
The actual fighting mechanics are solid, showcasing that this was made by a studio with experience in the sword-fighting genre. You have a shield to defend yourself, you can dash and dodge, and you can even turn your attacks into mid-air combos. It’s a good array of moves, and they’re run to chain together – but you hardly ever need to. The enemies in Altair Breaker don’t throw up a whole lot of challenge and go down without too much of a fight, so while it’s exciting to throw down some flashy combinations we quickly found ourselves just waltzing through enemy after enemy on our way to the final boss.
It’s a shame, because with the addition of free locomotion, a few climbing sections and even the ability to glide through the air this one has a lot of potential for a solid VR action adventure. It feels like the game got pushed out a little too soon perhaps, and could get a lot better with some post-launch refinement. You can also see this in other features, like a super bare bones character customization tool. With a lack of variety in environments and enemy types, there’s a lot of untapped potential here in a game that’s more repetitive than it should have been when you look at its combat mechanics.
Another thing that we’d love for the developer to reconsider is the game’s requirement to always be online. With a headset like the Quest, you want to be able to take the headset on the go and play in a hotel room or when visiting friends, but that’s hard unless you’re able to connect to a strong wi-fi connection – and that’s not even talking about servers possibly not being able in the future. Multiplayer support is nice, but online shouldn’t be a requirement as most people don’t have a wide group of VR-enabled friends. A game with good foundations, but held back by a lack of content, challenge and a few design decisions.