Device: Gear VR
Control: Bluetooth controller, Touchpad, Gear VR Wand
About the developer
Coatsink, Has been developing games since 2009, with titles spanning across multiple platforms. PC, PS4 and PS Vita, and Augmented Empire is their third release For the Gear VR. The other two games? Oh, none other than Esper 1&2 easily some of the best puzzling games in VR, for the first years of the Gear VRs Life span. I remember playing Esper on my s6 and being tickled at the ingenuity of using my mind to control objects. Coatsink are VR veterans at this point and have been producing quality titles the whole time. And Augmented Empire is no exception.
Augmented Empire is a Turn based Strategy game, think Xcom, based in a cyberpunk world where you control a team of misfits, from your arm-chair through an augmented reality tabletop device. There are six members of your team and each has strengths and weakness. And only though careful preparations, and ingenuity will you be able to make it to the end of the game. The game has over 10 hours of storytelling, with 26 missions to complete, with over 60 different environments or maps to navigate. You can also upgrade your weapons and abilities adding a RPG elements into the mix.
Story wise you are a guy who can’t talk due to a vocal cord augment problem, you and your android partner who reminds me of a mix of claptrap from Borderlands franchise and the Securitron robots from Fallout: New Vegas, Help guide a girl named Willa Thorne, who’s has ascended to a level ten, the most distinguished position in her society. When Willa’s big day comes to accept her reward, Willa’s mom, who had disappeared several years ago, returns.
It turns out that Willa’s mother is a wanted terrorist now, and is fighting for the liberation of all mankind!! Whoa.. I got a little carried away. But Momma does get arrested in front of Willa, And gets shot in the ensuing struggle. Willa intervenes and becomes a wanted criminal herself, losing her status as a level 10. And gets caught up in her mothers rebellion.
Willa Meets a group of “criminals” fighting against the largest augment tech company Duesoft, who is using all types of corrupt behavior enslaving the lower classes to make profit, and further degrading humanity and its quest for power and money.
Some of Willa’s new friends include
You: the strong and silent type, you help guide the team through loads of peril while watching all the action on an augmented reality screen while sitting on your couch at home.
Hartman, a your robotic companion, who acts as your voice in the game, until you get a working voice augment that is. He looks like he is a cross between a securitron robot, and Claptrap, but he also helps guide Willa and company from the comfort of your apartment.
Archi, is a sharpshooter. An underground resistance fighter, he is great at making long distance shots and taking out heavily armored bad guys up close by taking out huge chunks of life with every shot.
Chris, who is a computer programmer who, in a fit of clumsiness shot himself in the head, but replaced the damaged parts of his brain with augmented brain parts. And now has the ability to control robotics with his augment, taking over turrets and other hacky type things.
Margot is an old Movie star, who’s love of fame pushed away her family and friends and still clings to her youthful beauty by augmenting her skin, it just so happens that augmented skin came with an added bonus, it also has Camouflage abilities that render her invisible. She can sneak in undetected and attack enemies and then get away stealthily.
Ambrosia is an 80-year-old woman, that has incredibly fast augmented legs which allows her to speed around and attack and then seek cover.
Noot, he’s the tank/muscle. A former mobster, sick of the selfish mob ways, decides to join the crew after his boss flakes on a deal he made with Willa. “They used to have standards, and help people. Now they don’t care who they hurt.”
Game play Mechanics
The game play is quite simple, you have a certain amount of action points you can use per turn, if you choose you can move and then attack your target. Or evade and get better positioning, then the enemy has their chance to maneuver and flank or attack you. Some characters have abilities like extra spaces you can move, or weapons that have a higher range of accuracy, invisibility, Grenades, throwing knives and many other enhancements called Augments.
After you move, or choose to attack in enemy, a power bar slider will pop up. This can either make an attack happen by clicking, or tapping the button within the, for the lack of a better term, tolerance area or you can miss it entirely if you aren’t paying attention, causing your attack to miss. There are also Critical hit chances available they have a smaller tolerance area, and can enhance or break a turns effectiveness entirely. but if you have played similar games like this before it’s all similar, and offers little that will surprise you.The main hype is that you can experience this style of game play in VR. Which works very well and is enjoyable. Despite some of the maps having difficult spots to manage due to the tilt angle. But its a minor gripe in an over all fun game-play experience.
There are also conversation choices, you usually have a few options on how you need to handle Willa as she dives deeper into the seedy underworld. You can gently guide her with soft-spoken kindness to urge her forward, or blunt commands. I’m not sure how each speech choice affects the actual story. Since I’ve only played through the game once, and I usually felt sorry for Willa and never tormented her, maybe I will torment her through the next play-through and find out.
VR Comfort Level
The VR comfort level in Augmented Empire is high due to the nature of the game. There isn’t swooping motions, or First person moments where you feel like you’re not grounded. Even though I think at times this would have been cool due to some story moments where I truly thought it would swoop in and get closer to the story cut scenes, Augmented Empire stayed true to its heritage and kept the game firmly planted in one spot.
With so many different control options, and each one a viable way to line up shots and evade enemy fire, I can’t say one is above the other. Which is rare in a VR game.. And even more so in a mobile VR game. Which speaks volumes about how the VR design was laid out, Everything is pretty straight forward. Each level is really big, and you can easily get lost, but thankfully there are big blue arrows on the ground that help me navigate the world in between and during missions it would be super easy to get lost. I hate wandering aimlessly around looking for the next person to talk to, or building to walk-in to progress the story along. And I love how every time you get onto the subway, there’s little conversations that help you get a better understanding about each character.
The graphics in Augmented Empire are very good. Which does not surprise me coming from the makers of such beautiful games such as Shu and A Nights Sky, The levels are fun to look at, inventive and tactile at the same time. The character designs are fitting for the SteamPunk genre, and the way the city was brought to life is incredible. More than once I just sat back and enjoyed the scenery and the depth of the maps I was looking at.
Music/ Sound effects
The Voice over work for Augmented Empire is excellent, it helps push the story along and it’s fun to watch. At times however it becomes a little too much talking and not enough game play, not Metal Gear length, but I did find myself at time thinking.. Okay.. okay.. I only have 20 mins to play right now, let’s go!
There’s very little music throughout the game, but when it happens it works beautifully to enhance what going on in the story.
The ambiance throughout the city is Extremely well done.. From the rain to the hum of engines in dark underbelly of the city, you will quickly be immersed within the Augmented reality world.
Augmented Empire, is a must have for the Gear VR. The quality is superb, and really shows off what the Gear VR can do in terms of Graphical eye candy, to the sound and immersive quality. The only thing that might turn off people is the style of game-play. I’ve never been a huge fan of the turn based grid style of game-play. Like final fantasy Tactics, or X-com, Or even Ghost Recon for the Nintendo 3DS. I’ve played all of them, and tried to like it, but it never has been my favorite style. And for newcomers, this isn’t the type of game anyone can just pick up and become instantly comfortable with. It takes some time to get used to it, but if you love this style of game-play you will Love! Augmented Empire. I guess I’m more of a run and gun type of guy. And if that’s you as well, I would recommend Gun Sight, or Gunship Battle 2 VR, because they are both non stop gun-toting action!
- Graphics are incredible
- Voice acting is superb
- Over ten hours of game play!
- Too much story?
- Over heating problems