Virtual reality has absorbed a number of traditional mouse-and-keyboard games and turned them into something that can truly only exist in the medium. And while Final Assault, an online multiplayer real-time strategy game, takes some pretty tried and true classic RTS game mechanics, it also expertly blends them with more than a few VR-specific control schemes pioneered in the studio’s air traffic-control game Final Approach (2016) to a more explosive (and personally satisfying) effect.

Final Assault Early Access Details:

Official Site

Developer: Phaser Lock Interactive
Available On: Steam (Vive, Rift, Windows VR), Oculus Store (Rift)
Reviewed On: Rift, Vive
Early Access Release Date: February 19th, 2019

Note: This game is in Early Access which means the developers have deemed it incomplete and likely to see changes over time. This review is an assessment of the game only at its current Early Access state and will not receive a numerical score.

Gameplay

Much like a League of Legends, Final Assault features a measure of automated combat, where ground troops automatically spawn at your base and march down specific lanes to your singular enemy. Enemy towers slow down forward advancement, and there’s also loot drops too, but that’s where the comparisons to LoL stop, as the game is decidedly a more traditional RTS in the sense that you choose which units to spawn and when, and send them out into the world tactically with the aim of destroying your enemy’s standard defenses and (hopefully) their base.

Image courtesy Phaser Lock Interactive

The action isn’t always in the lanes though, so you have to be careful to watch the wide swaths of the bits in between, which make for tempting places to set up long-distance artillery and anti-aircraft to further eat away at the enemy’s units and structures.

Getting the right mix is a constant struggle. The enemy pushes for air superiority and strafes a whole group of ground troops. You counter with mobile anti-aircraft guns and a few tanks to protect them from cheaper, but still effective land units. The enemy rushes in with a couple tanks and resumes, upgrading to bombers to take out that cluster of mobile troop carriers you were reserving in the back corner. It’s the sort of frustration we’ve all felt in classic RTS games, but something about seeing it all from the perspective of Godzilla makes it that much more hectic and immersive.

Controlling units is simple. You can send them to specific spots on the map, or draw a specific patrol order with your finger, represented by green dots of lines.

 

Creating a closed loop puts the plane, tank, or other unit in a holding pattern so you can patrol the area for whatever comes your way—just like in Final Approach. I found this particularly important with planes (no surprise there), as I would fill the sky with a swarm of basic fighters, tasking all of them with their own covering patterns to create a tangled net of air defense.

Sometimes ground units would get stuck behind each other, and were unable to logically resolve their diverging pathways to keep moving forward, although this only happened maybe once or twice per game. It still irked me to find a critical artillery unit uselessly parked sitting behind a troop carrier near my base.

Image courtesy Phaser Lock Interactive

A big factor in winning the match is claiming random loot drops, which parachute in from time to time in clearly marked parts of the map; money is automatically accrued at the same rate for both players, making it a game of spending your dollars wisely for the best mix of armor, airplanes, and both offensive and defensive vehicles, and those loot drops can mean all the difference.

You can view your status bar and also select all of these from a hand-held menu that you can activate by gripping the trigger on your non-dominant hand. The menu works very well, letting you physically select and cancel units; since purchased units roll out of your base near-instantly upon selection, you have to decide carefully.

Image captured by Road to VR

At its current point in Early Access, you can choose from either American Allied forces or German Axis forces, with each character possessing their own top-tier gear. If not properly countered though, it usually means a swift end to the battle. Think tactical nuclear bombs and near-invincible tanks. But because the whole battlefield is visible (no ‘fog of war’), you can see your demise coming straight at you, necessitating tactical spending, unit movements, on-the-fly countering, and as many loot drops as you can control and collect.

Higher-tier units are accessed by removing expensive locks in your hierarchy, so while the enemy is spending carelessly on a massive number of cheap units, you could save up for the massive bunker-busters depending on how much faith you have in whatever standard defenses are left on your side. How you spend your money seems to be the only thing you can hide from your opponent.

Image captured by Road to VR

Three PvE difficulties exist currently, with the last ‘Special Forces Mode’ putting up a pretty serious fight. While a campaign mode is in still the works and not available in the EA launch version, for now the bulk of Final Assault’s gameplay is currently rests on the game’s cross-platform PvP. I wasn’t successful in finding a PvP match on launch day, so I can’t speak to the game’s online multiplayer yet. I’ll be updating this piece as soon as I can, although I would expect it to follow my typical online RTS playthrough: I get beaten to a bloody pulp as faster players push for the best stuff using tactics I’ve never thought of before.

Only three maps are available at the moment, although grayed-out blocks indicate at least nine more coming leading up to its March 2019 launch out of Early Access.

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Immersion

Final Assault’s miniature world is nothing short of charming. Although your focus is invariably drawn to the battle ahead, looking out over the vast and beautiful countryside really shows off the studio’s knack for creating an engrossing diorama-style atmosphere.

Image courtesy Phaser Lock Interactive

I wish I could say the same for the voice acting though, as all of the faux-German accents sounded just plain bad. Of course, this is only a small part of an overall astounding job at creating a game that ticks all the right boxes in terms of solid gameplay; it’s certainly something I hope is changed as the studio flushes out the game’s feature set in the coming months.

While the game’s locomotion style doesn’t offer the most immersive way to take in the world’s environment (more on locomotion below), the fast-paced nature of the game and reliable controls basically ensure you’ll be fully locked into every second of the match. I can’t help but think that some kids in the future really won’t know what it’s like to spend their days building up Lego forts and knocking them over in a pretend Hot Wheels race gone awry. It’s all here: the tiny soldiers marching to smash the enemy, toy tanks rolling to drop points, the airplanes doing their impressive dive-bombing runs on guard towers.

Comfort

Movement is based on a ‘grab the world’ scheme, letting you move in any direction by simply shifting yourself where you need to go by grabbing the grip buttons on your motion controller. Although some maps are fairly small, I mostly found myself sitting in my office chair and grabbing the world one hand after the other to move forward bit by bit. Getting the hang of this takes a little while, both in terms of how to position yourself accurately while in the heat of controlling your army, and how rapid you want to move versus how rapid your brain will physically let you.

I didn’t really have comfort issues with the control scheme after playing for an hour straight, but as I got better and better at the game I started to instinctively push back from moving around at the speed I knew I needed to achieve to manage everything on the hectic battlefield. That said, I never had that deadly flop sweat that precedes a nasty bout of artificial locomotion-induced nausea, aka ‘sim sickness’.

Snap-turn is available, although I rarely used it, instead favoring a front-facing lateral movements to get a good view of everything.

Conclusion

I walked away from Final Assault feeling that all of the basic ingredients were there to make for a truly engrossing and fun game. The addition of a campaign mode though, which is promised to release sometime between now and its March 2019 launch, will make it much more appealing for players like me who would rather play offline. That said, I’ll definitely be playing more on the game’s road to launch.


Note: This game is in Early Access which means the developers have deemed it incomplete and likely to see changes over time. This review is an assessment of the game only at its current Early Access state and will not receive a numerical score.

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  • Pizzy

    Am I the only one who thinks this looks unfun and like yet another VR money grab title? I played Final Approach and it was a snooze fest, this game looks absolutely boring to me. My opinion.

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