Preview: The Horus Heresy: Betrayal at Calth – The Emperor Would not be Happy

Steel Wool Studios has already made its mark on the virtual reality (VR) scene releasing two decent videogames so far, Quar: Battle for Gate 18 and Bounce. As the former is a turn-based experience it was exciting to hear that the studio would be creating a Warhammer 40K title with VR support. With impressive looking screenshots and gameplay video expectations for The Horus Heresy: Betrayal at Calth were high, unfortunately at this early stage it wasn’t meant to be.

The standard PC version of The Horus Heresy: Betrayal at Calth puts you in an overseeing, god like viewpoint, much the same way a lot of real-time strategy (RTS) videogames work. The same could’ve been done for VR, as titles like Brass Tactics and Moss easily do. Instead Steel Wool Studios wants to put VR players in the action, right down on the battlefield. And this is a great idea, allowing you to be part of the firefights makes the entire experience much more visceral and exciting.

Or it would if everything worked according to plan. As with any Steam Early Access title the videogame is still in development so it can be hard being too judgmental when there are still months of work still to go. However, if it’s been deemed to be ready for Early Access then it is in some way still playable to a degree, The Horus Heresy: Betrayal at Calth – in VR at least – was far from it.

On the minimum spec PC that VRFocus uses loading times were a long drawn out affair – easily time to make tea or coffee – which can be quite frustrating when you’re standing up. Trying the title either sat or standing the latter was certainly the better option once things had loaded. Controls were formed by your basic teleportation method on the left trigger, while the right touchpad had the main controls for your team, commands like shoot, move, hold, advance, reform and more.

You play a tech-priest of the Adeptus Mechanicus who teams up with a small band of Ultramarines as they battle against their traitorous brethren, the Word Bearers. In certain scenes and at particular moments all looks well, especially at the start when you step outside and see two Titans stomping through the city. As you move through the ruined metropolis you can move your team to various tactical spots, behind cover or into a crater for example. And certainly feels like you’re in this futuristic city, happily teamed up with a bunch of Space Marines.

But then you’ll notice that some of the menus or HUD displays appear at weird angles and the sound tends to glitch out at points, just coming for one headphone. The kicker for VRFocus was after the first two missions which teach you the basic gameplay rules, how to command your team and so on. This mission is where you get to try out what you’ve learned, well that would have been the case if the frame rate didn’t suddenly drop to unusable levels and then the image flipped upside down, yeah no word of a lie upside down, it was definitely time to stop (or be sick).

Even with that being said VRFocus is still looking forward to seeing how The Horus Heresy: Betrayal at Calth develops over the course of 2018. Being RTS fans there were certain elements that looked promising, having the potential to create a unique VR RTS experience. At the moment though The Horus Heresy: Betrayal at Calth is difficult to recommend without better optimisation, if you have a super powerful PC then by all means give it a shot, if you don’t then stay clear for now.