If you’ve been into VR gaming for more than a month then you’ll surely be familiar with at least a couple of VR bow and arrow shooters. They make for popular games in the virtual realm because of how well the movement and tactile feedback can be translated into VR, to create a truly immersive experience. Also because, and I’m assuming here, we’ve all wanted to be like Legolas at one point in our lives.
Well, today my ‘elven eyes’ see a new dawn for bow and arrow shooters. One where the core mechanic of simply shooting at waves of oncoming skeletons, barbarians, demons, or zombies is a thing of the past. We’ve progressed to a point where virtual reality is more than standing in a spot, firing arrow after arrow until your arms start aching. At least, that’s the new dawn that first-person shooter Apex Construct encapsulates.
You might have heard of Apex Construct before now, since it’s been garnering quite a following and it also released for PSVR last month. Now it’s coming to HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Windows Mixed Reality too, so we got a chance to go hands-on with the game and see what all the fuss is about. I tried Apex Construct using a Vive and have to say that my first few minutes in the game left me awed at the amazing atmosphere Fast Travel Games managed to create for their game. However, some of its core mechanics left me frustrated at times and wondering if more time was spent on the environments and – albeit brilliantly intriguing – story, than the actual gameplay.
Check out my gameplay video below to get a quick view of the first mission:
Apex Construct plops you down in a shattered future where all humanity has been wiped out and only robots and two powerful conflicting AI remain. This post-apocalyptic world isn’t your usual dark and gritty affair. Fast Travel Games put a lot of effort into creating an abstract but entirely beautiful setting full of lush environments and a ‘softer’ atmosphere. Which contradicts the ominous pace of the story, as well as the fast-paced action the game offers.
The adventure starts with you being summoned by an AI called Fathr who accompanies you throughout the adventure as he uses you against his nemesis, Mothr. Unfortunately, Mothr has an army of spider-like robots that crawl all over the facility and environments you’ll explore, which is where the bow and arrows you discover early on in the game come in mightily handy.
In my opinion, though, the detailed world and storyline are where Apex Construct really shines the brightest. The constant comments from Fathr reveal much, but there are notes scattered throughout the world that reveal an underlying current of ominous truth. All of which culminates in a magnificent ending hours later. That being said, a VR game is more than it’s storyline and mechanics play an important part towards creating an immersive experience as a whole. So while the game feels very detailed in its aesthetic and atmosphere, the gameplay feels comparatively oversimplified.
Simple Gameplay Does Not A Bad Game Make
Apex Construct offers both teleportation and smooth locomotion options, which you can switch between at will. Overall, the movements and interactions with the game’s environment feels smooth and polished. However, getting around in the game was immersion-breaking at times. While the teleportation worked just fine – and was definitely needed to get across certain areas, smooth movement was another story altogether. It felt like a late addition that wasn’t properly implemented. At times I would find myself in the air when walking past a vending machine or box for no apparent reason. The smooth movement also felt much too slow for the urgent pace of the game sometimes. All of which leads to me simply sticking to teleportation – something I would rarely do when given the option of an alternative.
Shooting and moving at the same time is extremely tricky (especially if you’re holding the bow with your left hand) which leads to halting, awkward combat every time. Plus you kind of need to move during combat to avoid blasts from the robots or lose experience points which is a frustrating mechanic at times. Though I feel that it also adds another layer of challenge to the game because you’ll have to go back to a mission to earn more points in order to upgrade your weapons for the harder missions. This whole mechanic would have been better though had I not felt like a blundering newborn gazelle trying to move around during fights. I get that the developers wanted to keep the controls simple, but it ended up making things harder.
The other game mechanics in Apex Construct are equally simple and mainly revolve around finding passwords and canisters to open door mechanisms. While fun at first, that paired with the reused environments for different missions did make things feel a little tired after a while. But not so much that I got tired of playing the game because the action and interesting story kept me going.
Then there’s also the whole experience points system I mentioned earlier which lets you upgrade your bow, arrows (including standard, shock, and explosive arrows), and shield. The upgrade system is also fairly simple and straightforward, with the option to upgrade your weapons to the next level until all the levels have been unlocked. So yeah, simple but also not frustrating. It lets you get on with the game and the story instead of having to rack your brain, trying to figure out which upgrade to choose or which branch of upgrades to go into. That being said, I would have loved a little more freedom of choice here through different upgrade options.
Still, there are areas that could be improved. At times the bow and arrow mechanism felt awkward and I definitely noticed arrows going through or just bumping off of enemies at times. Things like that would make anyone rage if said enemy just got enough shots in to kill you (it takes about 4 in normal mode), making you lose all your XP for that level.
A Full Adventure
Apex Construct does a great job of offering a full action adventure in VR. It pulls you into the strange story and wonderfully crafted environments and takes you on an action-packed journey. But there are definitely elements of the game that could have been improved, or at least more effort put into.
So if you’re looking for an engaging virtual reality game that doesn’t overcomplicate things with lots of different mechanics but rather focuses on creating an experience then Apex Construct is the one for you.