I'll admit that I'm a sucker for Steampunk. Gears, whistles, pipes, clocks, and sundry are my go-to for aesthetics, so I was already sold when Nux Studios gave me the chance to demo their newest build for Wands, a steampunk VR game set for release soon on the Gear VR. This year's Virtual Reality Los Angeles brought many new game experiences to the table, but Wands was something that brought a little more finesse.
I'd like to be up front about an issue in VR that has been a technological hurdle. Movement in VR is not the easiest hurdle to jump. There's always the question of how characters in first-person move forward, since we are physically bound by the limited space of, well, the world. I'd love to have a square mile of freedom to dedicate towards virtual reality room scale, but it's sadly the case that we can't quite do that (yet). So we are grounded in our entertainment efforts to explore VR in a limited capacity, either by standing in one spot or defining where we can roam around so we don't bonk our heads to oblivion. With that said, the developers at Nux Studios have rolled out a movement scheme for Wands that works really well. It's a fluid movement mechanic that isn't jarring (and I've had my fair share of jarring movement mechanics in VR games). Teleportation in Wands is the key to the game, but there's much more to it than that.
Wands pits the player in the shoes of a wizard against another wizard in a battle to the death. Players are placed in an ancient arena where they must use their powers of teleportation and wizardry to attack the other player. Before the match, they hand-pick four "relics" to attach to their wands to cast certain spells. There are 6 spells to start with and another 10 to unlock during the progression of the game, meaning a total of 16. They can be combined over a thousand ways per player on three different levels, which means that battles will always be different. When I played, one of my favorites was "Stone Demon," which conjured a stone beast upon a teleportation point that fires at the other player upon seeing them. The drawback is that spell drains all of a player's mana, so they can't teleport or cast other spells until their mana recharges.
It's this resource management that's key to winning matches. Should you cast a spell and drain mana, or use your mana to teleport around the level to avoid other attacks? It's a simple concept that's effective in this framework. Spells have their own strengths and weaknesses--as before, Stone Demon installs a massive totem that fires off projectiles to nearby enemies at the cost of all the mana. Smaller spells fire off directed projectiles, but save mana resources so players can stick to a defensive style of play. One of the strongest aspects of this game is that it runs smoothly on a Galaxy S6 with limited resource loads--a relief since I've been the victim of the "phone freeze." To add, lower resource pull means less battery drain and more playtime!
Content is unfortunately a little light for the game right now, but the developers from Nux plan to release some updates to add more relics and environments. We'll provide gameplay footage soon for Wands, as the spectator mode allows anyone to see what the players experience in their headset (which means Twitch.tv streaming). We're anxious to dive into the full build and try our hands at defeating other players (and maybe the devs too!), so stick around if you're interested in seeing more steampunk virtual reality wizardry here. Wands launches August 18th. Check out the trailer below to see more goodness!