While once prolific in the 90s, real time strategy games have ebbed in recent years. Controlling multiple units while managing resources, maintaining map awareness, and researching new weapons of war is a daunting task when armed with a mouse and keyboard, and nigh impossible anywhere else.
Yet I was blown away by how well Phaser Lock Interactive’s VR real time strategy game, Final Assault, captured all the fun of a real time strategy game while streamlining all the messy bits, creating an immersive virtual tabletop wargame.
At PAX South 2019 I was able to get some hands-on time (and heads-in for VR) with the 1v1 PvP mode for Final Assault, on the Hill-512 map.
I was immediately pleased with the aesthetic and size of the battlefield. Final Assault smartly keeps the World War 2 battlefield small and intimate so you don’t have to spend any time jogging around your living room or slowly pulling yourself across the contested war zone.
The cardboard and plastic art style is very reminiscent of the classic Army Men toy soldiers, or popular miniature wargames like Memoir ’44, giving the entire game an enjoyable tabletop vibe. Several times during the demo I was so distracted by the detail of the units, animations, and buildings that I fell behind in troop deployment.
“We used train sets as references. It’s amazing how detailed those train sets can get,” says Michael Daubert, CEO, Phaser Lock Interactive. “We wanted to make it a compelling and beautiful environment. It helps as well with performance and being able to build big environments and run at 90 frames per second.”
“One of the things I like about our maps is that if you look off into the distance, it doesn’t look like you’re in a fake world. I feel like I could go look and see what’s on the other side of those hills,” says Todd Bailey, Creative Director.
There are no resources to mange nor fog of war to worry about. A single currency level gradually ticks up, creating quick decisions on which units to buy, or to wait and unlock more advance units. Supply boxes will periodically air drop onto the map, granting a quick boost of money to whoever gets there first.
“Originally we created an entire RTS game, and it was crazy. There was way too many buttons, but when we took that out, you were waiting too long for stuff to build up. When you’re in VR you want to get into the action as quick as possible,” says Daubert. “What we did is focus more on the combat itself. We took away base building and tech trees. I wanted to focus on the faster gameplay of what an RTS can be. We’ve created a happy medium between RTS and MOBA that gets the player in as quickly as possible without the mental fatigue of trying to manage everything.”
A console-based strategy game is going to live and die by its control scheme. Final Assault’s drop-and-drag system worked perfectly to quickly get units out on the battlefield and into the fight.
The clipboard UI looks and feels great. I hold my tech tree catalog in one hand and simply grab the unit I want, like a biplane or tank, and plop it onto the map. Final Assault uses the lane-based combat of MOBAs to provide an easy way of handling multiple units. If a unit is dropped into one of the main lanes on a map, they’ll automatically follow it, engaging enemy forces along the way.
Infantry will constantly spawn and push the lane, creating a constant tug-of-war. It’s up to me to purchase and deploy the right units, and set them up in strategic places. Bombers can soften up tanks, while anti-air guns will help prevent an aerial ambush, and artillery can bombard fortifications from afar.
The demo ended as I deployed my Axis forces’ ultimate weapon – a V-2 rocket. I watched in gleeful satisfaction as it physically launched from my base and soared toward my opponent’s to the warning sounds of klaxons.
I came away really impressed with how quickly I was able to grasp the controls and flow of the lane-based warfare, despite having very little VR experience. Final Assault already looks and plays great, and is shaping up to be a worthy competitive experience for any VR general.
Final Assault is coming to Steam Early Access on February 12, with a full launch later this April on Oculus and Vive. It will launch later this Summer on PlayStation VR and support cross-platform play. The final game will feature a single player campaign as well as online multiplayer PvP with 14 maps at launch, and more factions to arrive as post-launch DLC. It’s rated E10+.
EA and BioWare have released the first in a planned series of gameplay videos introducing different elements of upcoming cooperative action-RPG Anthem. The video introduces more of the setting and…
In an update this week Psyonix has officially announced a highly requested feature for multiplayer sports-car game Rocket League: Cross-platform support for PlayStation players. The PlayStation Cross-Play Beta is live now for Rocket League. Players on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch can matchmake and play with each other, regardless of platform.
Rocket League had previously supported cross-platform play between Xbox, Switch, and PC. Sony was notoriously the last holdout, refusing to support cross-platform play even while other companies, like Microsoft and Nintendo, played nice. Leave it to the incredible popularity of Fortnite to finally change Sony’s stance last fall, as they started the PlayStation Cross-Play Beta program.
The Cross-Play Beta is enabled by default in Rocket League. To double check, head to the Options section of the main game menu to ensure that Cross-Platform Play is checked off.
Cross-platform play is supported in both random matchmaking and private matches. Psyonix is planning on releasing a cross-platform party system as their first update of 2019. The party system will allow for players to team up with friends across any platform.
“Today’s announcement is an important one for us here at Psyonix, because we know how much our community has wanted full cross-platform support for quite some time,” states the announcement post. “It’s because of you, our fans, and our generous partners on all systems and services that have made this possible in the first place. On behalf of the entire team, thank you for your passion and persistence as we continue to do our best to make Rocket League the best experience we can.”
Rocket League is available on PC (Win, Mac, Linux), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Switch. It originally launched in 2015 and remains a popular multiplayer sports game, replacing traditional soccer players with customizable cars. It’s rated E for Everyone.
Bungie, best known for creating the Halo series and more recently the Destiny games, has announced they are splitting from parent company Activision after eight years. As part of the deal, Activision will transfer ownership rights of Destiny to Bungie, who will become an independent publisher.
“We have enjoyed a successful eight-year run and would like to thank Activision for their partnership on Destiny,” states the official update post. “Looking ahead, we’re excited to announce plans for Activision to transfer publishing rights for Destiny to Bungie. With our remarkable Destiny community, we are ready to publish on our own, while Activision will increase their focus on owned IP projects.”
Bungie has a history of independent development as well as partnerships with large corporations. After developing PC games in the 90s, Bungie was acquired by Microsoft in 1999 after showing its new first-person shooter, Halo: Combat Evolved. Halo became an Xbox exclusive and was instrumental in catapulting the new console’s success throughout the early 2000s.
In 2007 Bungie split from Microsoft, but Microsoft would retain the rights to the Halo franchise. Bungie continued to develop Halo games for Microsoft, releasing Halo 3: ODST and Halo Reach.
Then in 2010 Bungie announced a 10-year publishing agreement with Activision, which included letting Bungie keep the intellectual property rights of any new games. The Destiny series was born from that agreement. “We had a vision for Destiny that we believed in, but to launch a game of that magnitude, we needed the support of an established publishing partner,” states the post.
Destiny and its sequel, Destiny 2, have enjoyed critical and commercial success, with numerous content updates and DLC over the years. Bungie promises to continue this trend as they resume life as an independent developer. “We’ll continue to deliver on the existing Destiny roadmap, and we’re looking forward to releasing more seasonal experiences in the coming months, as well as surprising our community with some exciting announcements about what lies beyond,” states the post. “We know self-publishing won’t be easy; there’s still much for us to learn as we grow as an independent, global studio, but we see unbounded opportunities and potential in Destiny.”