PAX South 2019: Final Assault VR hands-on preview

Phaser Lock has been tinkering away at its VR RTS Final Assault and I donned a virtual reality HMD to see what the battlefield was like.

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Games like Brass Tactics have done a great job delivering RTS experiences in a form that resembles table-top battles and the miniature figurines coming to life. Final Assault and the team behind wants to utilize VR for a different type of immersion: Making players feel like they’re looking in on a skirmish in a bigger war. At PAX South 2019, I met the Phaser Lock team and was given an opportunity to try the game. After the tutorial, I was tossed right into the fire and faced off against one of the game’s designers on a two-lane battlefield.

I’ve played a plethora of strategy games, from incredibly complex wars on PC to simplified conflicts on mobile platforms. Final Assault flies somewhere in the middle, simplifying the input without sacrificing on experience. Input is confined to managing one unit at a time, but battles take place in the air and on the ground. For those interested, I played the demo using an Oculus Rift HMD and Touch controllers.

final assault virtual reality vr pax south 2019

Once the match started, standard ground troops filtered into the two lanes much like the minions in a MOBA. There are towers along the way and a target base at the extreme ends, also like MOBA games. That’s where the similarities to that genre end, though. From here, I could summon various units and direct them toward points on the battlefield. The idea is to reinforce the lands and support the soldiers as they attack the towers, but there were off-lane spaces that offered strategic advantages as well. For instance, I placed artillery units toward the center of the map so that they could reach both lanes when needed.

There’s only one resource to manage and it gradually increased over time, so I had to balance summoning lower tier units and waiting for higher tiers to be unlocked. The development stressed that they didn’t want any units to be treated as “throwaways” and that ideal is definitely reflected in the cost of summoning.

Every unit has the potential to make a major difference in Final Assault, so I had my work cut out for me trying to manage them. I scrambled around trying to grab every single unit and give them their individual marching orders, but there was a form of input that I neglected in my first competitive match. To move units, I grabbed them with a Rift control and drew a path that they were to follow. If I wanted to keep those units on a loop, I just need to retrace that path. Since I didn't fully grace that type of input, my match was a constant scramble to manage the individual units. Even then, I enjoyed myself a great deal.

Phaser Lock is working hard to deliver an RTS that not only takes full advantage of virtual reality, but provides an authentic and competitive real-time strategy experience for new players and enthusiasts that decide to give Final Assault a chance. It launches into Early Access on February 12, 2019, and fully launches sometime in spring. Stay tuned to Shacknews to see what we think once we get to spend more time with it.

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Charles Singletary Jr keeps the updates flowing as the News Editor, breaking stories while investigating the biggest topics in gaming and technology. He's pretty active on Twitter, so feel free to reach out to him @The_CSJR. Got a hot tip? Email him at Charles.Singletary@Shacknews.com.

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