There’s been a lot of talk about how virtual reality (VR) can reach beyond videogames. It’s not just about entertainment; it’s about health care, education, training, military applications. All of this is true, but sometimes you just want to blast the heck out of alien fighter ships in space. And in the collective mind of Ozwe, there’s nothing wrong with that.
Anshar Wars is a space combat videogame from the arcade end of the scale, previously named Escape Velocity 2: Dogfight. It’s an immediately fun blast-a-thon that takes very little time to acclimatise too. There are tactics to be implemented here, but they’re hardly complex: weave and flank, line-up for repair kits and ammunition as you’re striking a new enemy, stay in range of the warp gates enemies spawn through so you’re not caught off guard. For experienced videogame players Anshar Wars is inherently familiar, which is exactly why it works.
Piloting your ship in third-person, the direction of your Gear VR head-mounted display (HMD) controls the direction of your ship. However, there is a delay between the change in view and the adjustment of your vessel’s trajectory. This allows you to quickly look in a direction and observe the action without pulling your craft off course, but it also allows you to pre-empt the angle of a turn. Just as in the classic Wave Race 64, the angle at which you need to enter a turn may be very different to the curved path you wish to follow. In Anshar Wars it’s not a straight track – you are free to fly anywhere on the battlefield you desire – but the area is littered with meteors, warp gates and both friendly and enemy vessels, so plotting a slow curve safely around a large object soon becomes second nature.
Despite the in-game suggestion that the craft can be controlled entirely with the Gear VR, VRFocus was handed a bluetooth control pad during this hands-on preview. The left trigger fired missiles, of which 4 could be stored and items containing three needed to be collected in order to replenish your stock. Missiles are very powerful, quick to lock and almost always resulting in a one-hit kill. The right trigger controlled your machine gun, which demands more accuracy and patience to use effectively, but still manages to keep the experience on the light-side of simulation. Machine gun ammo can also be exhausted and requires a different item pick-up to replenish. There are many times when you’ll be in combat with only one type of ammunition.
Bright colours and fast-paced combat are two things that we’ve come to not expect from space combat videogames, and yet Anshar Wars revels in them. This only further aids the impression that it is a casual experience. Enemy craft are easy to take down and are rarely fast on their trigger; when they are repair kits are in regular supply on the battlefield. Anshar Wars has been created with the ideal of being simple, immediate fun. It shows in every aspect of this short demonstration and while there’s still work to be done, even in it’s current form Anshar Wars is a kind reminder that VR is wonderful, but it doesn’t have to be serious in every execution.