App Lab Roundup: Magic, Dreams and Godlike Power
Each week we will be taking a look at some of the upcoming videogames, demos and unique experiences available through Oculus App Lab for the Meta Quest headsets. Many of these videogames come in varying states of completion, so each title is subject to change.
This week we’re getting involved with some proof of concepts featuring magic, nightmares and God-like abilities.
I’m going to be honest, I didn’t think a MOBA would work in virtual reality (VR). Ultimately, it shouldn’t. A genre that is usually viewed from a top-down or isometric camera, has been adapted so that the player takes a first-person view of a headline hero.
Here, in Fantasy Arena, you’re equipped with a magic staff and a squad of soldiers. As the genre dictates, you march on, capturing strategic points along a path until you reach the enemy spawn point. Playing as a magic character, you can fire off energy bolts or sticky goo which damages or traps the enemy respectively. Better than that, a vast Area of Effect (AoE) attack can rain down lightning and decimate any bad guys within the circle.
Now, before you go running off to download Fantasy Arena, and you should, it’s worth keeping in mind that this is very much a work in progress. The environments are bare with only a few buildings and there is no variation in the enemies. Taken as a proof of concept, it shows that a MOBA can work very well in VR as it puts you into the shoes of the heroes. With two maps available, Fantasy Arena showcases its potential very well.
The Client VR
A much chunkier demo comes from The Client VR and is perhaps the most interesting title this week. You play as a disembodied pair of hands that can wield a form of magic. You have a magic wand and a crystal ball and these must be used to solve environmental puzzles.
You play as a guardian of sorts, watching over people trapped within a nightmare. The aim is to guide the dreamer from point A to point B – point B just happens to be a nice cosy bed where they will enjoy a better night’s sleep. The path to decent slumber is made dangerous due to horrible little demons who will attack the dreamer, plus a maze-like environment to hold them up. You use the wand to blast the demons or distract them, while the crystal ball opens gates and moves aspects of the maze.
There’s a sense of late-90s puzzler to The Client VR in its gameplay, but also its quirky aesthetic. This is a major highlight for me because the game then stands out from so many other titles available in VR. It’s bizarre in places, oddly funny, and while the puzzles may not be overly taxing, the game stretches itself out by challenging you to complete each level with certain requirements.
On the whole, the design of The Client VR is lovely – spooky and surreal while being outlandish in a seemingly Japanese presentation. I found myself taking off the headset and wanting to put it straight back on to play some more.
Project Demigod feels like a sandbox playground. You start in a lab of some kind, where you will learn how to use weapons and abilities before spawning into the main playing area, with or without AI enemies. In this area you’ll find moving targets, crumbling buildings, and giant platforms – it’s a violent version of Total Wipeout!
Where this demo comes alive, is in how it makes you feel. There’s a lot of inspiration taken from comic book superpowers. Each hand can take on a different ability for some mixing and matching. For example, at one point I had a web-shooter on my right hand and a pillar of flame in my left. This allowed me to swing through the obstacles, let go of the web, and then hover in mid-air by angling the flame downwards.
Once my feet hit the ground again, I spawned in some goons to fight and switched my abilities for more combat-focused powers. Now I had a sword in one hand and an energy blaster on the other and I was laying out the bad guys left and right.
For anyone looking for some depth, you won’t really find it here. As a sandbox experience, however, it will spark joy, for sure. The physics are great, the abilities are varied and give a real sense of power. In essence, this is a superpower simulator, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. I only hope the game that sprawls out of this manages to capture this sense of fun.