When you think of VR, there are two types of games that come to mind as perfect genres. Horror games and space games. Why? Well, apart from the jump scares, it’s the immersive nature of horror that takes you in to a very uncomfortable place, a static place, where you are essentially prone to evil. In space, the same is true even if the arena is bigger. Not only can you see the massive majesty of open space and the cool comforting nature of your cockpit but you can also understand the fear, the endless nothing and the appreciation of the thin canopy that stops your body from instantly freezing in the extreme cold of the great beyond.
EVE Online has always had a stigma of being impenetrable. The truth is that it isn’t, but it is big investment in time and lore. Because of this, developer CCP have consistently attempted to make the game, or at least the universe, very accessible. In fact, their first attempt Dust 514 was only shut down earlier this year. Whilst there are elements of narrative place in EVE Valkyrie that are a bit deep if you have absolutely zero knowledge of EVE, it does very little to affect your enjoyment of the game. Speaking of which, allow me to give you this review’s strap line:
EVE Valkyrie is one of THE game experiences virtual reality was made for.
I first played this game in 2014 when it was announced as it’s current iteration, after previously being the EVE VR tech demo. Even then, with Oculus as the hardware and the Battlestar Galactica inspired launch tubes (along with BSG’s Katee Sackhoff voicing one of the games central characters), it felt like this was reason why someone thought it’d be a good idea to strap a mini motion tracked TV to the front of your face.
As you launch from the tube and the lights in your cockpit slowly flicker in to life, you can really see the depth of the cockpit, the distance of things and the closeness of objects in space once you’ve launched. It really puts you in to that cockpit, in to outer space and as the introduction comes to a close, you are probably sitting, mouth agape, salivating for what comes next.
What comes next is a series of missions from important events in the EVE universe. As as series of clones (EVE’s get around for death is that a new clone comes alive every time you die with their memories, etc downloaded to them) share their viewpoints of the events, you play as a fighter pilot carrying out their missions. These can be objective based missions like dropping drone, or even just straight dogfights. Sometimes its in open space, others its in a claustrophobic minefield or space station. As you fly around, you can manoeuvre like you’d expect in space flight sim. Those endless hours looping around in games like X-Wing and TIE Fighter now seem utterly relevant and, at first, nauseating.
This is one of the things that may make or break your experience of the game. Motion sickness is only a problem, I’ve found, if you expect to get motion sick. Then of course you will. If you’re silly enough, like I was, to immediately do a full barrel roll then you will feel utterly awful. But once you get used to the speed of the game, it’s not bad. You end up concentrating on other things than your movement and being able to look all around the cockpit and therefore the space outside allows you to focus on things other than your erratic movements. Then it becomes and absolute thrill ride when you’ve got a ship following you and you pull the space equivalent of a handbrake turn to flip around and blast your tail out of the sky.
The other option is multiplayer, which will see you dogfight against other players or complete objectives. It is incredibly seamless. I’ve had no issues at all with lag or anything that would take me out of the experience. In fact the only issues I’ve had has been what the point of the mission is. It’s a bit hard to work out exactly what to do and, like everyone else obviously has the same problem because they default to just shooting each other over the course of the game’s time. It’s still fun though so it doesn’t matter but once you do learn how to do things, you’ll see your XP climb very quickly. And as it’s cross play between PS4 and PC users, it’s always populated.
Control wise, the game is incredibly simple. Your head has free movement, so you can follow the HUD’s directions of the ships rather than staring at the scanner. Your analogue sticks control your ship movement axis, the L/R1 bumper control your roll, R2 fires your guns and L2 fires your missiles. To fire the missiles, you lock by holding the button and you fire by letting go. I’m not sure if I missed that during the tutorial but I had to learn that one myself. To slow down you press circle and to speed up you press X. That’s it. It’s so simple and intuitive that it doesn’t matter that you can’t see your controller.
The menu system is really fun too, being set in a hanger with a bar just behind you (you’d never know if you didn’t look). You use your head to look at the menu selection you want and press X. Anything with a selection carousel you move with the controllers, like your mail or ship selection. This is where the casual element beings to fade slightly. Outside of the selections of training, single player and multiplayer is your Quartermaster. This is where the arbitrary goodies that you pick up from your missions (along with XP and money) are to be spent on upgrades for your ship. As you level up, you unlock the greater upgrades and ship designs. You can buy cosmetics, trade for more currency, and even unlock more launch tubes so you can have a greater selection of ships during a mission. But then you get the microtransactions.
A little history here, EVE Valkyrie is £50 on PlayStation’s store but in it’s previous Oculus life it was free with the headset. So to make it a profitable model, it included XP boosters and currency bundles for quick levelling. It’s not pay to win but it certainly helps. Now when you’ve paid a large amount for a game, you don’t really want to have that be a big make up of the game and the cross play means that it has to be a parable of its PC relatives options. Now it’s not essential and there has been at least one double XP weekend since launch to offset that and it really doesn’t affect the game play at all. You do get a static PlayStation store logo so you know that this is the part where you pay for money. But it is there so just be careful.
My only other problem is that it is quite a singular experience for the price. The missions in single player are great but there was a chance to make a small story, like those of its Star Wars genre progenitors which would have been nice. The missions do have their own stories but the ability to creative a narrative and be that immersed in it would have been excellent. There are also many other ship classifications that have their own benefits like ship repair (healer) but these aren’t really explained outside of the tutorial and there isn’t a massive mission completion benefit to using them. Not that I’ve found so far anyway, which is a shame.
EVE Valkyrie is still the stand out experience on PSVR that has an extended game life. It started life as a tech demo but its grown and if you have the VR unit then this is an essential purchase. Worried? It’s on the demo disc so try it first, but you will be ready to launch from the tubes of a capital ship as soon as you do.
- A great space dogfighting game
- Easy to pick up and play
- The most stand out experience so far on PSVR
- More single player narrative would have been fun
- More clarity in the multiplayer objectives needed
- Microtransaction become more apparent as you progress