So, you think you have what it takes to be an archer? Sure, you have played the rogue type that sneaks around picking off guards with well-placed shots. But, what if the stakes were a little bit higher? What if you had to endure the endless hordes of defenders, as you and a merry band of misfits carve a bloody path across their lands and towns? Step out of the shadows, SACRALITH: The Archer’s Tale from developers Odd Meter, is your new measure of bowmenship.
You will need to be ready to sacrifice the safety of the stealth and methodical movement that we so love in archery games. In its place, you will rely on split second decisions. Decisions that could cost your companions their lives, if not the lives of the entire kingdom. In this bloody world of combat, magic, and dragons, only one thing truly matters. That one thing is how long you can hold your controller out in front of you. without fogging up your HMD.
Song and a Dance
The Archer’s Tale revolves around you and your band of hooded do gooders, trying to recover a stone that has the power to control dragons. You find out that it is located at the Silver Castle, in the hands of a real jerk, so you set out to liberate the stone. One slight problem. You have a long way to go and they know you’re coming. This won’t be a slow and cunning journey. It will be brutal, with odds that will never be in your favor.
In The Archer’s Tale, you have to move quickly, exploiting every possible vantage point in order to cover your companions. Don’t worry, they are doing their part on the ground, but it will be your tactics and skills that see the mission through. At least until you get eaten by a dragon, or overwhelmed by elite guards, or let you fiends die.
The Thick of the Battle
Unlike most games where killing and killing alone is the order of the day, The Archer’s Tale is more about support. You’re going to be cracking off shots left and right, just to keep the number of enemies around your companions down. If they die, it’s game over. More often than not, your shots will include lots of arrows that are aimed at just slowing down the games heavy hitters. Fear not, you will be stacking bodies, but you do need to be smart about how you get to that point.
This game uses a combo point system based on how many consecutive hits you can score. After a few combos, you get a random temporary buff. This could slow time, boost your mates’ shields, give you armor piercing ammo, or even a skill point. Each one pops up in the air, with a nice little icon that says what type it is, then you shoot it to use it. Time them will to make the most of them.
The skill points unlock more permanent traits in one of three trees. One tree is focused on healing, one on damage types and buffs, and another on AOE effects and added support. Everything here is useful and tends to heavily impact your playstyle. As you progress through the game, the enemies you encounter will require you to react based on what skills you have at your disposal.
Rooftops and Body Shots
Controls can make or break an archery game. If the bow feels too sloppy, or the arrows feel auto aimed, the experience is going to blow. Luckily, this game does a solid job at the bow and arrow aspect. You get a good response from your draw and aiming is probably one of the truest to life I have seen in VR. That is to say, it’s freaking difficult, but rewarding. I would expect nothing less when trying to hit moving targets.
You can access your special skills you have unlocked, that are represented by arrows, by pressing the trigger on your bow hand. Doing this restricts all other actions, but also slows time and gives you a chance to make a wise choice. You can only access this once you have filled a combo meter and if you miss with the skill arrow, your shit out of luck. Nothing is worse than firing off a resurrection arrow on a corpse, just to miss because you got twitchy.
Movement is limited to teleport only. While your companions run around on the ground, killing what they can, you warp from point to point. I actually like this because the developers give enough of a variety of locations to choose from, that I still felt like I had difficult choices to make. Picking a good spot and knowing when to move is important in this game.
A Story Well Acted
It is really hard to describe how good this game looks with the settings maxed out. The amount of detail, the lighting, and most importantly the world around you, all on point. This is most definitely the best-looking archery game available at this time. However, one thing stands out above all the others when it comes to graphics. The characters.
Using real actors, with motion capture and quality voice acting, just makes for amazing characters. We get most of the story delivered to us at the start of each level and I was blown away at the quality here, every time. This is one area that can really be stunning in VR when it’s done right. This game just nails it.
The audio is right up there with the graphics quality. From arrows whizzing to swords clanging, you get all the sounds you would expect from a battlefield environment. The music has dramatic shifts at the right times, without spoiling the surprise through repeated use. The only time I had an issue with the sound, was in the final level where a coris of screaming was on a loop. It stood out in a bad way compared to the quality of everything else in the game.
So, what did I think of this latest entry into the VR archery arena? I loved it. It nails the feel of a bow and arrow without being too easy or inaccessibly difficult. It gives a nice, arcade style, combo system that ties in with an impactful skill tree system. Both give the player a chance to cater the gameplay to their own style.
The story, while short lived, is delivered expertly by quality acting. The frantic pace of the combat is something I hated at first, but quickly fell in love with once I found my groove. The only bad thing that I can say about this game is that its total playtime is under two hours. The replay-ability is definitely there and outside of the story mode we do get a practice and survival mode. If you are a fan of VR archery, your going to find yourself diving back in after completion simply because it is fun to play. But, seeing the quality of the story line just has me begging for more.
Okay, so I did find another negative to this game. It made me face the fact that I lack the stamina to hold a bow, or in this case a controller, in front of me for more than forty minutes at a time. Clearly, I have some work to do if I every truly want to call myself an archer. SACRALITH: The Archer’s Tale is due to launch May 17th on the Oculus and Vive. Happy hunting VR gamers!