Review: Hunters Gate
Climax Studios' Hunters Gate makes for a welcome Google Daydream debut.
Following the success of Bandit Six, UK developer Climax Studios has been aggressive in their support of mobile virtual reality (VR) videogames. A sequel to the aforementioned debut, a scrolling shoot-‘em-up that adapts traditional gameplay to the new medium and now a launch title for Google’s Daydream: Hunters Gate. This fourth release has plenty in common with Gun Sight as it resides within a genre most gamers will have experienced, but delivers the formula in a fashion few could have predicted.
Hunters Gate is keenly inspired by the likes of Diablo and Baldur’s Gate. Starting calmly, it soon builds to a manic 3D shoot-‘em-up with a levelling system adapted from deeper console and PC based action role-playing games (ARPGs). Players will tackle numerous constantly aggressive foes as they collect loot, which can then be spent at the end of each mission on various upgrades.
Two characters are available: a heavy hitter (Forge) and a more agile demon hunter (Payne). Each plays differently enough to warrant the player developing both and interchanging when playing in co-operative mode. It is slightly disappointing that co-operative gameplay is limited to local wi-fi only, as the videogame is very well pitched for quick sessions with any player you can find. Regardless of who hosts the game, both players can export their rewards for development of their single-player characters.
The control system has been well designed for introductory Google Daydream use. Using the touchpad as a virtual analogue stick, the player sits at an almost isometric viewpoint and commands their character’s movement directly. The aiming and firing at enemies is conducted by aiming the controller’s cursor in their direction by default, though an alternative gaze-based targeting is available and, in VRFocus’ opinion, significantly more successful.
Coming from a studio now well versed in the limitations of mobile VR hardware, Hunters Gate’s most impressive design choice is arguably in that of the construct of its levels. Many different maps are available featuring a commendable amount of detail and alternative routes, and in order to prevent mid-level loading times or having to lessen the visual fidelity, Hunters Gate will remove components on the fly. An area in the distance might fall away into the abyss if you choose to venture down a visibly marked more difficult route, again returning once you move within range. This isn’t simply fogging or any other ‘cheat’, it’s a visual technique perfectly in-step with the world Climax Studios has created.
Having chosen a genre that is not only championed by some blockbuster releases but also commonly represented on mobile formats (in wildly varying quality), Climax Studios has chosen a fairly difficult starting position for Google Daydream. Thankfully, there’s enough inventiveness in Hunters Gate not just to offer a worthwhile rendition of the genre in VR, but also impress on a brand new format. The level selection is varied enough to constitute a campaign of decent length, the progression system is basic but appealing and the co-operative mode is a welcome icing on the cake.