Preview: Augmented Empire – Coatsink goes tactical for this mobile RPG
XCOM meets VR in another possible win for the developer.
If you could name a developer that knows how to make good mobile virtual reality (VR) titles, Coatsink would likely be up near the top. Having launched Esper and Esper 2 for Samsung Gear VR – both of which have seen positive reviews – the studio has now moved away from the first-person perspective with its next title, Augmented Empire, and to good effect.
Augmented Empire is a top-down, turn-based strategy title instantly reminiscent of the recent XCOM franchise. Set in a futuristic sci-fi world, you control various characters across the island of New Savannah, itself split into three tiers depending on where citizens are ranked in society, the grim streets for those deemed ‘unsavoury’ while the top levels are reserved for the upper echelon of society.
For the demo Coatsink showcased there were a couple of areas to work through, giving the basic outline of gameplay. The first was essentially a training mission in the streets while the second took place in a graveyard, with complete freedom to experiment with the layout. If you’ve played titles such as XCOM you should be instantly familiar with Augmented Empire’s tactics. From the starting point your character can move a certain distance, you can choose to move them into a wide open space (very unwise) or select some suitable cover to move to depending on the enemies present. The control layout for this is point and click, quick, simple and effective, just highlight where you want your character to go and hit the touchpad.
As the title is turn-based you can then select attack or reposition to flank your opponents – this will then benefit you when shooting. Shooting is this genre of videogame has usually boiled down to percentages, how well the character can see an enemy, their current equipment, stats and so forth, taking away direct control of the mechanic itself, simply telling you if it’s a hit or miss. Coatsink has taken a more interactive approach to the concept, enabling you to have a much greater degree of control over the whole process. While attributes like those previously mentioned do come into effect, you also have a moving bar to control. This moves from left to right, with highlighted areas in light blue and dark blue. Pressing the touchpad whilst in the dark blue area will score a hit, while the much smaller light blue area will gain you a critical hit, miss both and you fail. You have to be quick, but it’s a system that works really well and keeps you involved in the action rather than just being an overseer.
This process has also been implemented for enemy attacks and you must be even more astute if there are multiple hostiles. Their attacks can come in rapid succession and if you’re unlucky can easily wipe out your character if you’ve not managed to avoid them.
The second mission gives you control over two characters, opening up the tactical possibilities of the game. In the final version of the videogame you’ll be able to choose three to take on missions out of a possible six, for now though just two were playable. To increase the difficulty three hostiles needed dispatching, with one of them a much more heavy, durable unit. This was a far more exciting mission to play through, as the chances for failure were greater with better flanking opportunities.
Even from this short demo the whole feel of Augmented Empire felt taught and engaging. Nothing glitched or suddenly didn’t function, and the mix between action and strategy was spot on. If Coatsink can make Augmented Empire into a sizable title then its sure to attract a lot of attention from Gear VR users. Then there’s the added functionality of the new Gear VR controller to contend with, which could open up more possibilities.