"Steel Batallion" holds a special place in the hearts of fans. Part of the reason for that is the novelty of controlling a lumbering mech and the other is the giant controller with its two levers and 40 buttons. It was an unusual peripheral that deepened the game's immersion. Since then, few titles have tried to duplicate its unique blend of giant robot action.
"Steel Batallion: Heavy Armor" was an attempt to duplicate the gameplay with the use of the Kinect on the Xbox 360. It was an imperfect solution. The motion controls replaced the giant controller, making it more accessible and afforadble to everyone, but the problem was that it was inaccurate and clumsy.
"Vox Machinae" tries to fix this through the magic of virtual reality on the Oculus Rift. The game puts players in a steampunkish mech called a Grinder. (It's the nickname for a robot called a GDR.) It's a giant machine with three large monitors, buttons, knobs and levers. The number of controls makes the learning curve fairly steep. Players manipulates the dials on the cockpit using the Oculus Touch controls.
Players figure out that a lever turns the robot left and right. A throttle controls the walking speed. A joystick controls the jetpacks that rockets the mech in the air. The triggers on the Touch controllers fire off the weapons. For far-away enemies, they have to pull down a third monitor that offers a zoomed-in view. Aiming is done by pointing a user's head at the target and pulling the trigger.
If players' mechs are damaged, they can pull on the emergency eject seat at the bottom of their seat. They'll use this often because "Vox Machinae" improves on the "Steel Batallion" formula by turning it into a multiplayer experience. Piloting a mech requires skill as players have to avoid enemy fire by hiding behind cover or jumping to the top of outcroppings and firing below.Players will have to constantly monitor their mech's health as enemy fire can destroy parts. Also, landing after a jump puts stress on the machine's joints and damages it.
Controlling the mech is different from other games. It's a slower process. It's nowhere near as twitchy or fast as first-person shooter. There's a feeling of bulk and weight as the Ginders lumber across map. The slower pace is perfect for VR. It's a way to do combat without creating motion sickness while also giving players freedom of movement and immersion.
At the moment, "Vox Machinae" is out on Early Access. The project is notable because the developer, Space Bullet, is one of the first to receive an Oculus grant, and the work appears to have paid off. The game itself is on the Oculus Rift and sells for $24.99. ___
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