In today’s video game market, VR looks like it might be the next big thing, and one of the most prominent themes is space flight. but is that all it takes to make a good VR game?
Space Rift is a game that gives you the ability to fly around in space, mine for minerals, and fight enemy ships, and it starts off wonderfully. The game takes place in the far future where the Earth has dried up completely and humanity has taken to Mars to survive. Unfortunately, in order to do so, they have given up rule to two companies, Weiss and Pandora, who control everything, even air.
The game begins off when our protagonist has run out of enough money to afford anymore air, and is forced to take a job as an asteroid miner to keep himself from suffocating. At this point I was hooked on the idea that oxygen has become something that you have to buy, and one that I don’t think has been explored in gaming.
After taking the job, you get sent to mine some asteroids, at which point I got my first chance to fly my ship. The cockpit of your ship is one of the coolest things that I have seen in VR so far. You have screens around you that each have their own unique function, and you have to actually look at one to use it. This is such a well executed aspect of the game, and you can see that Vibrant Core clearly spent a lot of time on it. There is even a little mini game that you play, when mining asteroids, where you watch one of the screens and try to time the detonation of a probe to get the most minerals out of it.
The experience of flying the ship was very well done. Most of the controls were easy to learn, and set up in a way that I felt like I had already known them. While most of the dog fights in the game were easy and uneventful, the actual use of the ship’s weapons was well implemented and fun. The cooldown on the particular gun that I went with added a need to evade your targets fire, while waiting for you turn to attack, this added the only real challenge in the game, and I found it to be enjoyable.
Unfortunately, once you look past the cockpit and start getting into the actual game and its story, the game falls far short of any other VR experience that I have had. When you aren’t in your ship, the game uses the common feature in VR games of having your character stand in one spot and allowing you to move around by clicking on set points in your surroundings, which your presence is then teleported to. This is functional, but not too exciting, and it ends up being rather bland. What’s worse, however, is how fragmented the story becomes afterwards.
The plot that I was so compelled with early on quickly becomes a confusing mess of uninteresting narratives. You stop being a miner after the first mission and end up working for a woman named professor Aiken, who is trying to create something called “The Seed”. The Seed will essentially terraform Mars and free humanity from its corporate tyrants, who have essentially enslaved the population and killed anyone who has gotten in there way, without consequence. .
Even though you are no longer a miner, you continue to mine asteroids throughout the entire game in order to use the minerals you get to upgrade your ship, using one of the worst upgrade systems that I have seen. None of the upgrades are fully explained and I never felt like I was making an informed decision on which one would benefit me the most in the game. In the end, I don’t think they were really necessary. I suppose they make the game a little easier, but if the game didn’t make me upgrade my ship at times, I probably would have gone without. The added challenge of beating the game with a weaker ship might have even added a fun challenge.
Typically I don’t say much about voice acting unless it is very good, but in the case of Space Rift I have to mention how incredibly poor the voice acting was. The whole feel of the game was completely ruined by the voice acting of the main three characters. There were points where I actually found it hard to listen to my characters talk and wished that I had the option to mute them.
The script of the game was just as bad as the voice acting, and probably made it sound even worse. I honestly don’t think most voice actors would have been able to convincingly portray such poorly written characters. There was such drastic swings in each of the character’s personality that none of their traits had enough time to develop fully. One minute my character would be friendly and bonding with someone and the next he would be considering betraying them, it just lacked any sense of reason.
The whole experience just comes off as confused and boring. Most of the characters seem like horrendous people, who are essentially in this conflict for their own self-interest. I especially couldn’t stand my character because he seemed incredibly self centered and was consistently rude to everyone around him. When I am playing a VR game I want to feel immersed. When my character is so awful, it is hard to pretend that I am actually him.
The only characters that I actually enjoyed were the AI you have in the very beginning of the game, and the head of Weiss industries. Both of these characters were very well portrayed, completely believable and, by the end, I found myself pulling for Weiss over my own character. At least he is true to what he is suppose to be. He is a bad person and he does bad things, he isn’t trying to do good things while being a horrendous person.
To add to the game’s problems further, there was almost no detail put into any of the games visuals. On the space station you live in, it looks like they just cut and pasted the same view into each windows. There is absolutely no one in the station besides you and the other two main characters, which makes the game feel so lifeless and empty. One time, I flew away from the area that my mission was taking place in and there was literally nothing there, no space debris, no asteroids, nothing.