Preview: Final Assault – When an RTS is not an RTS

Following the success of Final Approach comes another light-hearted-yet-chaotic affair from Phaser Lock Interactive, with Final Assault set to deploy to virtual reality (VR) head-mounted displays (HMDs) later this year. While Final Approach looked towards a fairly modern genre for inspiration – using the mobile template of Flight Path as its inspiration – Final Assault is definitely digging further back in videogames’ history with a view to adapting the real-time strategy (RTS) genre for VR.

Designed for two-player competitive action, Final Assault takes its cues from the RTS genre in the deployment of troops and their various abilities. A complex take on a rock, paper, scissors formula, players start with basic tanks and scout vehicles as they attempt to push towards the enemy base. The ultimate goal is of course to destroy said base, and the resources available to do so are evenly balanced between players.

Each player’s bank balance builds at an even pace. There is no resource gathering and no base building to be had; instead Final Assault is founded upon the idea that the skill involved is once of clever use of resources rather than an understanding of the economy used in the gathering of them. There are multiple tiers of units, each not only more expensive than the last but also requiring financial investment to unlock, so the decision between numbers and firepower is not necessarily an easy one to make.

Taking further inspiration from the MOBA genre, each player’s base will continuously spawn a number of foot troops which automatically follow one of two ‘lanes’ direct to the enemy base, engaging any opposing units they meet upon the way.  While moving automatically, other units can have courses plot for them or set to directly attack specific targets in a similar fashion to Final Approach. The basic foot troops are of course very weak and are best used as a distraction or delaying tactic for larger units you may have on the way; planning a strategy around these basic troops is an ill advised tactic.

Final AssaultThat in itself however is the crux of Final Assault; in even less than a single play session two members of VRFocus were able to establish opposing strategies making use of different unit types to take the upper hand. The ‘lead’ was taken back-and-forth multiple times, with the victor not determined by brute force or experience with the RTS genre, but rather through the pacing and diligent use of the resources available.

Phaser Lock Interactive has designed Final Assault to walk a fine line between deeply tactical RTS and newcomers to both the genre and VR. However, in doing so the team has to be careful not to alienate the existing VR audience; it’s no secret that early adopters of VR are core gamers, and as such eliminating key aspects of the genre in favour of more instant gratification may be seen as too great a turn towards a more casual style of play. Final Assault looks set to be a hugely engrossing VR strategy experience, but convincing audiences that this isn’t simply a case of ‘dumbing down’ will be the hardest task Phaser Lock Interactive have ahead of them.