Developer E McNeill is synonymous with making virtual reality (VR) strategy titles for the Samsung Gear VR, with past projects including Darknet and Tactera. If you’ve played either of these you’ll have noticed a stripped back design theme featuring blue and yellow neon colours. None of this has changed for the indie developers latest experience Skylight, which expands the ideas from these earlier projects into another must see title.
Unlike its forebears Skylight is a turn-based strategy experience that cuts back lots of fluff usually found in this type of genre and tasks you with one solid objective, choose your team and destroy your opponents. There’s no secondary objectives or extras to be found to gain more points, annihilation of the enemy is what it’s all about.
Matches are one-on-one space battles, where you select from a choice of capital ships, frigates and smaller fighters. Depending on the gameplay mode you select you’ll be able to choose a certain portion of each class, each equipped with its own advantages and disadvantages. This is where you must implement the first part of any strategy, are you going for pure defence with lots of armour, massive firepower but lower health, or mixing up your ships for a bit of everything.
Skylight has three gameplay modes available, Campaign, Skirmish and Multiplayer. The former is the best place to start as you’ll quickly learn what ship does what, across three difficulty levels. The easiest campaign will generally have you fighting with a larger armada of ships than the AI opponent, so you shouldn’t have too much difficulty. The mid level campaign will be evenly matched in terms of numbers, while the hardest campaign will always find you at a numbers disadvantage. The AI doesn’t seem to get that much harder in general, but wars of attrition are definitely unwise in the latter levels. Skirmish on the other hand lets you set up battles however you wish. Up to a set quota (3 capital, 12 standard) of ships, you can select your own and your opponents, again another good way to learn the finer points of gameplay. This all essentially leads up to Multiplayer, which is the purest test of your skills and know how. You pick your team without being able to see your opponents and hope you’ve chosen wisely. All three modes maybe standard videogame fare, but for an essentially free VR videogame add up to plenty of gameplay hours.
The entire videogame is set on the deck of a spaceship, playing out as if you’re a commander controlling troops on a giant holographic display. Being a Gear VR title you can’t get ‘into’ the battles, you’re always on the sideline, but McNeill has thought of this. While everything does take place in front of you, swiping up/down/left or right on the touch pad will maneouvre the entire battle field in said direction to allow for a better view point. It’s a great little addition that just aids the whole experience.
Just going back to Skylight being free. You can download it and start playing without paying a penny, which is great, then a payment is required to unlock all of the experience. This idea of mixing up the mobile free-to-play idea with VR means that you can appreciate the effort that the indie developer put into Skylight, then delve deeper if you wish to. The small fee unlocks four more ships for 12 in total, as well as 20 missions – only 10 are freely available.
If you own a Gear VR, enjoy strategy titles and want something that’s methodical and challenging then Skylight is definitely worth a look. E McNeill has shown once again that he knows what he’s doing when making a mobile VR videogame. It may not feature in your face action, but it doesn’t need to, as Skylight has been perfectly formulated with engaging gameplay, quirky visuals and hours of entertainment.