We caught up with Climax Studios at E3 2015 and went hands-on with their latest Gear VR title, Bandit Six: Salvo.
With the focus of E3 primarily on the impending arrival of consumer desktop VR hardware, let’s not forget the Oculus Powered Gear VR is on the market right now, and it has quite a few fans in the developer community. Climax Studios are one such set of developers.
Now heading into it’s 28th year, Climax Studios are probably beyond the cliched label ‘veteran’. They’ve released some 60 games across a bewildering selection of hardware platforms and are still going strong.
“We’ve been involved right from the very start” says CEO Simon Gardner “I was just very taken with Gear VR” he says, recalling their first contact with the mobile VR headset. “We went [to see Oculus] thinking we were having a meeting about the Rift, it turned out it wasn’t, and then they presented me with the [Gear VR] hardware and said ‘There you go, take that away have a play with it!’.”
What followed was their first title for Gear VR, Bandit Six – a shooter putting you in the hot seat of a WWII bomber gun turret. “Compared to some of the other games on the Gear it was one of the highest volume sellers.” but Gardner adds, “But, to be honest, that’s not why we did it. It was a learning exercise to get into the market and find our feet in it.”
And now, Climax are unveiling the sequel, Bandit Six: Salvo – and that subtitle should give you a clue as to here they’re going with this instalment.
Gaze based shooters, ones that require little in the way of additional controls (i.e. just what comes with the headset) are an obvious design choice for the mobile hardware. As a pick-up-and-play option while on the move, it’s a good model. But it does limit gameplay options somewhat. Salvo requires the Samsung gamepad this time around and that hints at the the game’s added depth.
You take control of a series of gun turrets, charged with defending your position from an ever growing onslaught of air, sea and land based killing machines. Those turrets run from standard machine guns to anti-aircraft artillery to mortar launchers. Each turret is AI controlled until you seize command by use of the gamepad’s shoulder buttons. Obviously each gun is better at taking out certain target types, and each has its own learning curve attached.
What impressed me about Salvo was that such a simple gameplay addition could add a significant splash of depth, taking the title beyond staple for the genre. Clearly this is no 80 hour RPG epic in terms of nuanced gameplay, but Salvo wears it’s simplicity on its sleeve and gets the balance just right. Skipping between turrets, trying to hold back the hordes, choosing the right weaponry for the job is surprisingly challenging whilst at the same time accessible. Combat is satisfying, with each type of artillery landing with pleasing weight and impact. Furthermore, it looks great – with the cel-shaded aesthetic really popping on the Gear VR’s 1440p screen.
So is calling this new title a turret shooter doing Salvo an injustice? “I do think that sells it a little bit short in this case, because there is a strategic element.” says Gardner. And I’m inclined to agree with him.
Climax may well be veterans in the field of traditional gaming, but they’ve also managed to grasp mobile VR development quickly and Bandit Six:Salvo shows that progression well. It’s one of the best looking titles on Gear VR right now and is great fun to boot.
As for release date, nothing has been announced as yet. Keep your eyes peeled on Gear VR’s Oculus Home store.