Review: Apex Construct

Caught in a war between two AI on a ruined but beautiful world turns out to be lots of fun.

It’s a welcome change to see an in-depth, story-driven videogame that has been designed and built from the ground up for virtual reality (VR). While we’ve seen some huge titles in VR over the past few months, the majority of them have been converted from non-VR. Not so with Apex Construct, which aims to deliver a complex and in-depth experience.

Apex Construct begins with you floating in an odd voice before a strange voice addresses you and pulls you into a ruined but oddly beautiful world populated by robotic animals, most of whom want to kill you quite dead. The Ultron-like male voice belongs to the AI Fathr, and you discover that you are inadvertently caught in a war of two AI, with Fathr apparently trying to protect you and his opposite number, Mothr trying to kill you.

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It quickly becomes apparent that not all is as it seems, however. A number of questions pop up as you discover that there was someone who proceeded you and left behind voice logs detailing what happened to them, leading you to question Fathr’s motives. For instance, Fathr tells you that your snazzy new robot hand is the result of a glitch during transport, why then, did the previous inhabitant also get given a robot hand? The mystery grows and deepens the further you go into the story.

The first time Mothr contacts you has shades of SHODAN from System Shock, highlighting the general good quality of the voice acting throughout. The artwork is of a similarly high standard, having a vaguely Art Nouveau watercolour feel that at times just makes you want to stop and admire it.

Your primary weapon is a futuristic bow which can also generate its own energy shield. A critical skill to cultivate early on is the timing between deploying the shield or firing off an arrow. This is trickier than it seems, as there is no targeting reticule, so you are entirely reliant on your own aiming abilities. This can be a cause of frustration as the arrows have an arc, so unless you learn how to compensate for this, you find your arrows often going wide of the mark, resulting in your swift death.

Apex Construct does not go easy on your at any point. You are given a path to follow, but for the most part you are left to your own devices on how to proceed. If you take this opportunity to explore, there are a number of rewards to be found for doing so. At the end of each stage you return to the safe house to upgrade your gear and also unlock areas that were previously inaccessible, making backtracking rewarding.

The controls work well enough despite the limitations of the PlayStation Move, especially the nice drawing action of the bow and how teleport moving and turning are handled in a way that quickly becomes natural. There is even a lefty option, which is wonderful for those of a southpaw persuasion. The only real issue is when trying to use the keyboards, which work much like keyboards in the real world, but trying to use the PlayStation Move to type feels quite clunky due to the lack of precision that is a sad fact of the ageing Sony motion controller system.

Despite some minor gripes, its clear that Apex Construct represents the way forward for VR videogames, an absorbing, intriguing experience that draws you in with a rich world complete with its own history and mysteries to be unravelled as well as a fluid combat system. Apex Construct is the standard by which future VR titles will be judged, and an indicator that VR has stepped up its game.

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