Gunfire Games’ newest Oculus Rift title, From Other Suns, is currently in open beta until October 1st. Drawing major influence from the popular sci-fi rogue-like FTL: Faster Than Light (2012) and various first-person shooters, From Other Suns sets you and your crew (AI or multiplayer) on a multifaceted first-person quest to return to Earth.
The game is essentially defined by its two major tasks; get the ship to Earth in one piece by killing, salvaging, trading and jumping from system to system – and board ships so you can either rid them of enemies for a negotiated reward, or raid their cargo bay of their necessary supplies.
It’s all a bit of a balancing act, as your ship is comprised of several life-supporting systems like oxygen generators, engines, shield generators, etc. Keeping these intact and making sure you aren’t getting riddled full of holes is really your number one priority to keeping your ship moving forward.
The second most important thing is managing your supplies and making sure you have them in abundance, including missiles, fuel, and important systems upgrades that will let you jump farther, or give you a decisive edge in your next encounter with hostiles.
To add more anxiety to the game’s resource management (while under fire mind you) systems will go offline periodically when in a firefight with an enemy ship, or if the enemy transports over and starts manually firing away. Predictably, once your ship is shot to hell and both shields and hull are at 0%, you’ll be greeted by a game over screen.
This is doubly so when the enemy ship has the ability to jam your FTL drive, stopping you dead in your tracks so you’re force to engage.
On the offensive side of things, once you encounter a ship that needs help ridding themselves of hostiles, you then get a chance to teleport over and engage in the first-person shooter portion of the game. Playing with a live crew of two other people, you could hypothetically leave one person on the ship to repair systems while the other two head off as an ‘away team’ to mop up the robot/organic foes on the other ship—all the while keeping open comms between you.
The FPS part of the game makes heavy use of stim-packs that regenerate your health, and a wide variety of guns that you can snatch off your fallen enemies, including everything from plasma shotguns to high-powered pulse pistols that shoot out bouncy energy beams. Enemy ships seem to always have a place to reload your weapon when in need, so running out of ammo isn’t really an issue.
Getting killed transports you consciousness back to the ship, and reawakens you as a bipedal robot. As long as a single organic crew member remains in the party (aka meat-bag), the mission can continue forward. The moment your token meat-bag dies though, it’s game over.
I started in a single-player private match, which staffed the ship with a few AI that you can order around to fix various systems. This was fun, but ultimately pretty lonely for my tastes. I had to see if I was going to become the power-hungry captain I was always destined to be in the game’s three-person multiplayer mode.
Going in for a multiplayer session really reminded me of the fun you can have with Star Trek: Bridge Crew (2017). Although your jobs aren’t assigned, so you could technically hotswap anyone from the tactical station to the command station if need be, a natural group dynamic tends to emerge.
While the open beta is more like a demo, limiting you to 10 FTL jumps before cutting you off, you can play the open beta as much as you’d like with the knowledge that the procedurally generated enemy ship layouts and variable enemy size, which grow and shrink depending on how many live crew members you have, will always offer a slightly different experience.
Comfort & Immersion
Locomotion is offered in a few major flavors: first-person smooth forward motion with snap-turn (aka ‘comfort mode’), first-person with smooth forward motion with smooth turning mode, and third-person ghost mode that lets you navigate a remote-controlled version of yourself, then teleport to your chosen position. There is no blink teleport option, but I didn’t really miss it to be honest. In terms of comfort, this all provides a big enough range of locomotion to suit almost anyone’s needs.
Immersion-wise, the inverse kinematics (IK) system that is supposed to artificially create natural joint movement in characters, is so far pretty wonky. The silly ambling walk of a live avatar takes you out of the experience somewhat. The lack of positional voice audio is also somewhat strange, as there’s no appreciable difference between talking to someone far away, and someone up close. I understand the reason for this design choice, but it’s decidedly less immersive to have constant radio chatter when you want to talk with someone face-to-face.
Without turning this hands-on article into a review, we’ll just say you have to try it for yourselves. The open beta lasts until October 1st, and while there’s no official launch date yet, but we’ll diving in for a full review as soon as we’re given access to the full game, so check back soon.