At Oculus’ off-site GDC demo booth we saw Brass Tactics, Hidden Path Entertainment’s new real-time strategy game coming exclusively to Oculus Touch after their hit tower defense game Defense Grid 2 Enhanced VR Edition (2016). Filled with a bevy of miniature structures and multiple toy soldier units, the little tabletop world promises to deliver familiar RTS gameplay in a VR setting.
Putting on the headset, Brass Tactics immediately recalled a familiar design aesthetic, something that took me a second or two to recognize. The clockwork castle gyrating. The spinning brass gears. “Aha, it’s the opening to Game of Thrones,” I remarked aloud. “That’s exactly what we were going for,” responded studio founder and CCO Mark Terrano, also known for his role as lead designer on Age of Empires II (1999).
Getting a brief taste of the game, I was introduced to the basic units; archers, warriors, steampunk-ish legged tanks, flying units called ‘wasps’–all of them covering the classic roles found in RTSs. The full game will however feature multiple technology upgrades to choose from and 18 units (3 base units with 9 total upgrades) to keep things interesting.
Called ‘the keep’, your little clockwork home base starts you out with the basics, a warrior-producing building and an archer building. From there, you send your few minions out to capture the nearest node, where you can then choose from a number of structures displayed by turning your hand palm-up and looking at it like a wrist watch. These structures will not only produce the game’s all important offensive units, but also hold the node so ore-gathering miners can automatically spawn and start generating spendable coin for your next unit upgrade.
Although it at first felt a little overwhelming, my opponent wandered back to his corner of the board and started firing a manual catapult at some of my most forward units. Looking to my side, I saw one of my own. Aiming left or right, pulling back a few audible clicks and launching a flaming boulder can wipe out an entire group of lower class units like archers.
As a rule, you’re only as good at RTSs as you can pay attention to everything on the board and manage all of your units. The faster and more accurate, the better. Using Touch you can quickly move around the battlefield by grabbing and flinging yourself in any direction. Lowering or raising the table to your chosen level is the only other way to physically alter the board, as zooming in and out isn’t an option. I found this adequate for the size of the board, as it wasn’t too big to be unmanageable and necessitating a wider view. While it’s small enough for you to see everything on the board as it happens, the board is still big enough though to drive you crazy with all of the lanes that your opponent can exploit to capture ore-producing nodes.
Matches are 25 minutes long, although I was unplugged from my 1v1 battle prematurely. Besides 1v1 online battles, there will also be a 1 player campaign, and a ‘co-op versus AI’ mode available at launch in October 2017.