Friday, June 30, 2017

New VR Game Review: Ancient Amuletor!

This week I downloaded “Ancient Amuletor” for the Sony PSVR. Before I share my impressions, I need to mention that I absolutely hate tower-defense games. Why did I buy Ancient Amuletor, then, you might ask—isn't it a VR tower defense game? Yes, it is, but after trying the demo, I was sold. There is something extremely fun about hopping around to different platforms as 1 of 4 different characters you play to take out the advancing enemy. You can play an archer, a gunner (with 2 hand-held shotguns), a mage, and a puppeteer. The archer's bow mechanic feels perfect, and you can totally imagine yourself as Legolas or Robin Hood, firing off arrows as fast as you can make the motion with the two move controllers. The gunner is also tons of fun, complete with a flipping motion to reload shells. The puppeteer is really unique—you throw out an avatar onto the ground with a giant axe in one hand and a giant hammer in the other, and then the swinging and slamming motions of your own arms are mimicked by your avatar as he slices and pounds nearby advancing enemies. The mage is very cool—you generate magical orbs with your spellbook (and can line up to 3 in the air) and then grab them with your wand. The mage is the most difficult to use, though, because you then have to hurl the orbs and getting them to land where you want them requires a lot of practice and skill. The orbs explode with area effect, though, so you can potentially take out a couple bad guys at once.

In addition to the normal attacks, each character charges up a special after a certain number of kills: the archer has a spread-fire chain that can hit up to 10 enemies, the gunner has a burst of unlimited ammo and quicker fire for a time, the mage can throw down a freezing blast, and the puppeteer's avatar can do a whirlwind spinning attack against all within his reach. You can switch between any character at any time during the game. There are also three pick-ups in the game: Slow, Attack, and Death. In addition to this, several of the levels have traps—if you hit them, the trap will initiate for a short time. For instance, I shot a target with my arrow at the perfect time, and that triggered a wooden contraption holding an axe that gave a quick burst of axe hacking across the path of the enemy, cutting the enemies there to pieces. Did I mention that there is up to 3-player multiplayer, too? I played it with a couple people already and it's fun bouncing around the platforms to cover all areas, teaming up against the giant boss creatures or hopping to an uncovered area where the enemies have advanced too far.

The enemies are varied enough, too. There are basic skeleton/mummy types that slowly advance and attack the crystals you're defending with melee attacks. There are archers that advance until they are in range and then start attacking the crystals with their arrows. There are bombers—big, slow guys carrying gigantic bombs that they bring right up to the crystals and then drop, blowing themselves up. There are centurions that have giant shields which they use to block your attacks as they advance. There are dark sorcerers that conjure up portals to summon more enemies. And then there are mages—they conjure up a spell that locks one of your available pedestal locations, preventing you from warping to it. If you happen to be standing on the one the mage locks, you can't leave it! There are also two boss fights, which involve a variety of attacks you must defend against either by shooting or literally dodging your body out of the way, all while trying to slowly bring down the giant boss's health.

My only disappointment with the game is that there are currently only 4 levels, but each level has 3 levels of difficulty (and Hard is HARD!) If you beat hard mode, the character you beat it with unlocks a special version of his or her weapon—it's only cosmetic, but it sure looks cool and gives silent bragging rights in multiplayer (you can't talk in multiplayer.) Despite only 4 levels, though, there are already spots in the menu that are locked but say “coming soon,” so I'm excited for the release of whatever DLC the developers have planned. They also have two locked/coming-soon spots for two more characters. I can't wait to see what they come up with next! (Update: just read that the developer is planning new bosses as well, in addition to the new levels and characters. They are also saying there will be “new game modes in later updates, which are not limited to just tower defense.”)

If you're looking for a serious, realistic, immersive VR game, maybe Farpoint or Star Trek Bridge Crew is the game for you. Ancient Amuletor doesn't pretend to be very realistic, as it has a cartoonish, arcade feel to it. The graphics are really solid, colorful, and consistent, including full-body avatars that you inhabit for each character. In my opinion, this style totally fits with the game and I love playing the different characters, hopping around between platforms to dispatch my enemies as efficiently as possible, flinging arrows or blasting away with the shotgun like I was in an action movie (I still need to practice that mage more—he feels so powerful when I can land my throws right!) The game is really fun, and I keep going back to play it. Games like this make me believe that VR won't just be an occasional experience. I want to beat every level on hard mode, not because I care too much about the cosmetic weapon unlocks, but because getting 3 stars in hard mode is a very fun mental and physical workout that makes me feel like I'm in an action movie!

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