Preview: Orion13 – Skynet Gets a Dose of Colour

There are some great examples of virtual reality (VR) sword fighting, from Asgard’s Wrath to Blade and Sorcery, where you can engage in expert melee combat, parrying and attacking as though your life depended on it. If that all sounds a bit controlled and boring, preferring an arcade adventure with more hack’n’slash gameplay then Metro VR Studios upcoming Orion13 might be just the ticket if you can get past some of the design choices.

Orion13A neon-drenched sci-fi experience where you play a robot called Orion13 who has recently become self-aware, believing her memory implants are her own. Set in a futuristic society comprising entirely of robots, all you now want to do is go home. Naturally, there’s a nasty big boss character who has entirely different ideas.

Feeling like its set within a VR world dreamed up in the 90s, with plenty of bold colours and some rather wooden voice acting, Orion13’s aesthetics have a certain cartoon charm to them. It provides a feast for the eyes and could possibly be a little intense for some, offering little texture, more slabs of light fill your vision. Unfortunately, in the pre-release version VRFocus played there was what can only be described as an enhanced screendoor effect blanketing everywhere. It was also reminiscent of that green info you see in the Matrix scrolling down, an annoying haze which doesn’t block your vision, just clutters it. Hopefully not a permanent feature.

So on to the combat. In Orion13 your main weapon is a sword which rests on your left hip. In your empty hand, you can then utilise a couple of secondary features, namely a health steal and stun. Used correctly you shouldn’t need to worry about health that often, the only difficulty being you can’t move and use stun unless your thumb can bend in weird and unusual ways. As this is a hack’n’slash the swordplay is basic. Enemies charge straight in and get a little too close, making defence and blocking a second thought. A few flailing arm waves dispatched most opponents relatively quickly on the early levels, only the boss required a little more work.

Orion13Because there’s a lot of running around swinging your sword like a mad person Metro VR Studios has gone for a fully direct locomotion system with swappable turning as the only comfort options. That’s fine if you can handle it, teleportation lovers might need to tread lightly. What’s confusing is the actual direction of motion, an issue VRFocus has previously come across with Monster Reapers VR.

The stick input direction seems to be locked to the environment rather than the headset – or where you’re looking. What happens is if you’re walking along and physically turn left or right then pushing forward on the stick will suddenly make you strafe. Turn with other stick and you won’t have a problem. Trouble is when fighting one or more opponents you are likely to shift (even a little), especially if standing or on a swivel chair. This can then be somewhat disorienting until you either physically realign or use the in-game option.

There could be a good sword fighting adventure lurking within Orion13 but there are issues to solve. While the visual style is fine and general gameplay mechanics are easy enough to get the hang of a launch on Steam isn’t far away and that locomotion needs extra options. For a chance of a successful start on Steam, Metro VR Studios will need to fine-tune Orion13.