Skyworld, a turn-based strategy game from Arizona Sunshine (2016) developers Vertigo Games, was initially introduced to the world as a demo during HTC Vive‘s first public showing back in GDC 2015. At this year’s Gamescom, we got a hands-on with the ostensibly near-finished game, which should be releasing soon if the developers want to hit their Fall 2017 launch date.
Looking down at the round playing board, a wooden table already populated with various resource-gathering buildings set around a giant mountain in the middle, I was pitted against game designer Paul van der Meer in a quick skirmish that took me through the basics of the game’s 1v1 combat.
In a 20 minute demo, I was introduced to the game’s TBS ‘Overworld’, or the game board seen in pictures and the initial 2015 teaser trailer, and an RTS potion of the game that lets you battle with various units that you can summon in real-time (mana permitting).
While in the Overworld, where much of the game takes place, you can pop up a variety of menus, including a satisfying lever that lets you flip the board over mid-game to reveal a space for upgrading structures and increasing the power of your units.
Represented by your standard playing cards featuring offensive and health points, these unit cards can be used in an RTS mini-game, or what the developers called a ‘General Battle’, where each side’s solitary generals clash on a separate game board from the Overworld. Destroying the enemies castle in this mode results in continued free rein for your general, a 6-inch model that you can move around the game board to take over new land so you can set up new resource gathering structures, make more units etc and eventually conquer the Overworld. The opposing side’s general then must wait until the re-activation timer runs out.
The majority of my time was dedicated to playing the RTS-driven General Battle instead of fiddling with game’s resource management-focused TBS Overworld, but my hunch is having the two combined, even with only two lanes open for attack around the round board—left or right, as it were—creates an interesting twist on the classic turn-based strategy game that is bound to strike a chord with fans on the genre. Motion controls add a bit more physicality however, like the wooden mallet that lets you demolish your own buildings to make way for new and better ones. You can also count on plenty of satisfying levers and steampunk-ish machines abound.
The game will feature two teams to choose from, good and bad, although I was told that currently there are no differences outside of the visual aspect between the two, which includes identical abilities for your General Battle cards and Overworld structures and units. The developers maintain this can change however in the coming months before launch. I was also assured that while there are many game boards to play on, that they will all follow the same basic design of containing a centerpiece structure that essentially creates two lanes of attack.
An interesting bit in all of this was the social aspect. Standing (or sitting, you decide) across from your opponent’s avatar is a natural way to play a game like this, but because the game board is round, and you have the ability to rotate it to get a better look at the action, you inevitably end up standing next to each other to get a good view of what’s going on, creating and interesting social dynamic when you don’t know who you’re playing against. The developers insisted some anti-griefing measures would need to be brought into place so you couldn’t, say, wave one of your many menus in front a person’s face or get too close to someone for their own comfort. While your menus appear as ghostly outlines so your opponent doesn’t know exactly what you’re up to, it could still be annoying in the wrong hands.
Finally, I was told that online crossplay between HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Windows Mixed Reality headsets will be possible, and that all three versions of the game will launch simultaneously on their respective stores. It’s uncertain if Skyworld will suffer the same fate as so many other games boasting crossplay, i.e. the lack of communal friends lists that makes it hard for friends to easily get together and play. We’ll be keeping our eye on Skyworld as it heads closer to launch.
We’re here at Gamescom all week, so check back for more coverage and hands-on articles with all of your favorite upcoming VR titles.