The 2018 early access launch of VR mech game Vox Machinae may feel like a distant memory by now, but it still stands as perhaps the most immersive VR mech game to date. Updates over the last two years have added co-op modes, a helpful cross-platform friends list, gameplay-changing ‘modules’, new mechs, weapons, and more. Developer Space Bullet tells us it isn’t done yet; the studio teases “ambitious plans” for the game’s eventual 1.0 launch and beyond.

Fans of the genre know that mech games usually fall along a spectrum that spans from complex ‘simulator’ style gameplay to simple ‘arcade’ style gameplay, with games on each side having a distinctly different feel.

As a VR mech game, Vox Machinae strikes and impressive balance between playability and immersion. It feels like a simulator, but manages to be almost as easy as an arcade game to pick up while remaining challenging to master. It’s controls and systems are intuitive enough that you can grasp the basics in a match or two, but that doesn’t stop the game from delivering a incredible sense of immersion thanks to its interactive cockpit and unique mech control model.

Image courtesy Space Bullet

Even now, two years after its early access launch, Vox Machinae remains arguably unmatched in immersion by any other VR mech game. And that’s made for a sturdy foundation atop which developer Space Bullet has been slowly adding.

Co-op & Comrades

Image courtesy Space Bullet

One of the biggest improvements, at least for anyone who didn’t take to the game’s multiplayer-only modes at launch, is the addition of two co-op modes that let players work together rather than destroy each other.

Added throughout 2019, the game’s co-op modes support up to four players. In Convoy, players must escort three supply trucks along a route while defending them from enemy mechs. Along the way you may find a base to capture or an enemy convoy to eliminate. Bot Stomp plays out like a wave shooter with ever increasing difficulty where players will also bump into more powerful Elite and Guardian enemy variants.

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While the gameplay of the co-op modes isn’t fundamentally different than the multiplayer modes, they’re a great option to enjoy the immersion of the game and feel like you’re stomping around in skyscraper-sized mechs on alien worlds with the gang.

Speaking of the gang, the game’s latest update earlier this year added a new cross-platform friends list system called Comrades. The in-game system makes it a breeze to add a fellow pilot to your Comrades list no matter if they’re playing on Steam or Oculus PC, making it easy to keep a tab on your friends and join them in their match.

And while the game’s player base remains small, Vox Machinae developer Space Bullet tells us that the game’s community is a passionate bunch.

“[…] we’re continually encouraged by the tight-knit community that is growing around Vox Machinae, with folks being particularly active over on our Discord server,” the studio tells Road to VR. “They’ve taken to organising their own league play, and building out their own backstories and skirmish encounters. It’s quite rewarding to have played a role in helping to foster that level of engagement.”

Modules for Deeper Gameplay

Another large addition to the game added in late 2019 are ‘Modules’ which are a group of active and passive mech modifications, two of which can be added to your loadout at any time. There’s 11 Modules so far, and they provide interesting tweaks which can change the way you play—like an ‘Air Brake’ which slows down your forward movement for quick stops when using jump jets, or the Coolant Flush which lets you shut down your mech to quickly cool its weapons.

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Update Overview

There’s been lots of other tweaks to the game too. Space Bullet offered up a handy overview of the larger changes since the game launched (which have also included two new mechs and two new weapons):

2020 – Comrades Update

  • Comrade system – cross-platform friends/ignore lists allows players to organize and know when their friends are in-match
  • Improved Spectating – easier to use, and a greatly enhanced sense of depth
  • 3D menus for VR
  • New Hover Brawl competitive game mode

2019 – Anniversary Update

  • Grinder Modules – Active/passive mods that change up your gameplay
  • New Bot Stomp Co-op mode
  • Brand-new terrain system that improves all level visuals

2019 – Summer Update

  • New Convoy Co-Op Mode
  • New grinder – Overhaul
  • 2 New weapons – Pulsar and Hammer

2019 – Spring Update

  • 2 New Weapons – Skyjacker and Scattershot
  • New level – Cryptic Tundra
  • Updated avatars and added 3 new ones
  • Controller remapping and HOTAS support

Late 2018 – Oasis Update and Holiday Update

  • New level – Arid Oasis
  • New grinder – Rook
  • Redesigned throttle for motion controls

The Next Update

Image courtesy Space Bullet Dynamics Corporation

Space Bullet tells Road to VR that the next update for Vox Machinae is due out in “late summer,” and offered a preview of some of the changes:

  • Bots have improved aim, will fire at targets of opportunity when their main target is out of view, and can engage at longer distances than before.
  • Little buildings now have dust/explosion effects when they get destroyed.
  • Cables interactions and movement has been greatly improved
  • Hopper has been redesigned to be 20% smaller, making him much harder to hit.
  • Optimizations to CPU usage.
  • Reduced load time when first starting the game.
  • Improved legibility of text.

The studio further says that “lots of other things still getting added, but we haven’t confirmed for them release yet.”

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The Future of Vox Machinae

Image courtesy Space Bullet

Space Bullet also spoke of its longer term plans for Vox Machinae, noting that the studio has been “slowly building out our featureset and working towards our v1.0 release.” The studio itself has brought on three additional employees since the game’s launch, and currently looking to fill a few additional positions.

Space Bullet didn’t offer a timeline for the 1.0 launch of Vox Machinae, but did tease some big features in the works for the game’s eventual launch out of Early Access.

“We’re still not quite ready to talk about some of the tentpole features we plan to debut with that milestone release [1.0]. We have some rather ambitious plans and think about Vox Machinae as an evolving and expanding product,” Space Bullet tells Road to VR. So we’re building many things around that concept, and can’t wait to start being able to talk about those when we’re nearing the finish line.”

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Neato! I bought this game on Steam’s summer sale, but have yet to play it. Looks like I might have to dust it off soon.

  • Alextended

    How was it “quietly”? They had announcements about all that stuff just like every other game, on Steam, their website, twitter, reddit, whatever, some times with youtube videos that showcased the new stuff, others with screenshots, the works. Anyone caring to play (or report VR news) knew about it, on time (with the last notable update being in March).

    • Sven Viking

      Still not loudly enough, unfortunately — while I was able to find some eventually, its biggest problem at the moment seems to be a lack of players.

      • Alextended

        The point was “sites like this” didn’t actually report on good VR gaming news like this in a timely fashion to their readers even though the devs did everything properly on their side leading to this belated nod that will likely do little to change the game’s fate at this stage.

        • Pablo C

          Yeah, but that´s the problem with any Indi initiative in absolutely every single service or product of the market economy.

        • Sven Viking

          It all reminds me of the days the big HL mod news sites ignored so much cool stuff only to report on the same handful of projects they thought bring in the hits or when they secured/extorted exclusive, fancy, big media updates.

          We never did anything special apart from emailing news to everyone, if it matters.

    • benz145

      Somehow those updates have flown under the radar. The game itself is not mentioned in VR circles as much as you might expect given its quality, and these updates even less so.

      • frogopus

        I see players join the game all the time that say “how have I not heard of this?” Marketing is expensive. It’s wonderful to see sites like this give some promotion to a great game. VR really needs support from the whole community so long as it’s mostly small studios driving the software.

        • Alextended

          The point was “sites like this” didn’t actually report on good VR gaming news like this in a timely fashion even though the devs did everything properly on their side leading to this belated nod that will likely do little to change the game’s fate at this stage.

      • Alextended

        Yes, somehow you failed to keep reporting on the awesome stuff one of the best VR games out there was doing only to come up with this belated article that changes nothing in the grand scheme of things. Thanks. Exactly what I said, anyone who cared to report cool VR stuff to VR enthusiasts did. You didn’t. Why do I even have to spell it out…

  • Did they fix the floaty-looking mech animations? That’s the one thing that stood out to me watching gameplay footage: The mechs don’t look like they have any real weight and impact when they walk because the animator doesn’t understand some basic fundamentals of the craft.

    • Jakub

      To address your question directly, the animations aren’t changing because our robots must move this way to allow for a comfortable VR pilotting experience. To us that’s much more important than looking a little silly, which that too is ok because this is a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

      For the ‘why’ of my answer, please read on:
      The way the robots move is a byproduct of both physics and strict
      limitations of movement we must adhere to for the game to remain
      comfortable in VR. In keeping their upper bodies upright, it meant that there would be a trickle-down effect on how the physics must react to make that possible. Our robots aren’t animated, their limbs are driven by motors so that movement can react to the varied terrain. The physics aspect also allows for lots of emergent gameplay and fun reactive entertainments as limbs can fly off and cause other things to happen. A traditionally animation-driven game could not enable that, and it’s an important aspect of how matches can play out.

      • Sven Viking

        What the game seems to need from my perspective is more tutorial content (for example, modules and loadouts aren’t mentioned at all in the current tutorial), and maybe a more prominent option to load into a single-player game with drop-in co-op or similar. That way people who want to try the gameplay out for the first time outside of competitive multiplayer easily know where to start, and people who might be put off by the empty servers will start a game and maybe find someone to play with before they complete it.

        The first time I played via Viveport, I checked the server list and all of them were empty. I almost gave up right then, but started a game and after a while some people joined. Getting people to start playing when the servers are empty is a big part of preventing empty servers.

        • benz145

          That’s a good idea. Splitting out the Co-op modes into a simple ‘Solo & Co-op’ menu would make it clear where players can go to get comfortable with the controls before jumping into PvP battles.

          • Sven Viking

            Just adding, I do appreciate the fact that you can start a game that people can drop into. A lot of games with low player counts have the problem that, even if there are a number of potential players, they basically need to coincidentally turn up within the same minute or so in order to find each other. In some cases even if a game is in progress they can’t join it and don’t even have a way to know it exists.

            How many people are going to sit in a VR headset staring at a matchmaking screen for 20 minutes hoping another player shows up, or a game in progress ends so they can join? They need to be able to play while they wait, then every subsequent player (until every other player stops playing simultaneously) actually has a game to find rather than likely concluding that the game is dead.

          • benz145

            100%. Every VR game needs drop-in/drop-out functionality, or at least a friends list and invite system that will place you into a friend’s lobby so that they see you as soon as they finish their current activity.

            On top of that, every VR game should allow players to play some portion of the game while they wait for matchmaking. Electronauts is unfortunately the worst about this… I’d gladly wait for a match for 30 minutes as long as I could be DJing while I do it! But in Electronauts you have to sit and do nothing while you wait to match. It’s really a hindrance for a game with low player counts because even if there is a few dozen people playing, the odds of any two of them clicking the matchmaking button at the same time is very low.

    • El_Dude

      The physics based movement is one of the things that keeps me coming back for the last two years, it may look silly to you at first glance, but I feels like it has weight when you are playing it and learning the motion of each of those arms and legs and weapon mounts and their limits and tendencies leads to greater and greater levels of control and mastery. That’s why the skill ceiling is so high.

      After a few hundred hours I swear I can feel my feet hitting the ground after a jump and I just know where the the edges of my arms and legs are by feel, like you know where the corners of a car you have driven for years are. Once you know the body of your favorite machine at this level then you can learn subtleties how to jump against a wall and have your leg bend and then use the released tension as it bends back to get a wall kick and propel yourself out of the way of incoming missile with just a drop of fuel.

      It’s more similar to playing a physical sport in some ways than it is to other mech games I have played (and that’s pretty much all of them). There is always another maneuver to learn or improve and you train muscle memory, similar to perfecting a free throw or a pool trick shot. And the motion controls are so good that shouldn’t call them motion controls, because that name has negative connotations to some. I would call them ‘reality controls’, that’s more apt here. I have a nice hotas that sits in the corner looking sad while I play this game because, while it is supported and works fine, I don’t need it and it doesn’t have a truck horn dangling from the ceiling to pull, which is essential.

  • Ad

    I tried this and it was almost weirdly impressive. It looked AAA, controlled really well, and had a lot of content in weapons and mechs and mission types. I’m not a mech game person but if I was this would have been like my favorite game. It also 110% proves that some kind of titanfall game is definitely possible in VR.

    • J Smith

      This game is awesome! Adding infantry and drop ships (Battlefield style) would be the ultimate VR experience IMO;)

      • Ad

        An RTS layer would be cool.

  • Landon Sky

    I Have been playing this game for over 1 yr.. I have over 700 Hrs playing in my fav Mech DREDGE love playing with soo many nice people etc…. my ID: CA562DUDE

  • frogopus

    This is a game that I will recommend until I’m blue in the face. The physics bring out so much emergent gameplay that, at around 800 hours, I’m still practicing and learning new things. There are still mechs that I need to learn. But it’s also just immensely satisfying and fun to pick up and play brand new too. If you’re looking for a 5-10 hour solo or co-op mech experience, it’s great. If you want something to really sink your teeth into, that’s where it shines. To top it all off, the community is wonderful, inviting, and helpful to new players. The innovative webcam-like avatar radio system really brings the community together, too.

    It can have some rough edges sometimes, and it’s definitely still in development, but the core gameplay loop is polished, balanced, and has kept me coming back for the last year and a half. It’s not a Mechwarrior, Hawken, or Titanfall clone, but instead it carves out an identity all its own, with VR in mind from the ground up.

    • Rosko

      wow i picked it up & thought it was fun a few years ago but didn’t really play it again especially as a bought it on Oculus home & im on steam with index now. Looks like it has quite a dedicated set of fans, may have to give it another go.

      • frogopus

        I started it on the Vive and later upgraded to the Index. It feels great on the Index. There’s a whole group of us that have been keeping it going every night. I’m out for a couple weeks waiting on an Index RMA from Valve (who gets props for replacing it out of warranty after I scuffed my lenses with glasses). We’re all on the Discord.

  • Glad to see this game getting talked up again. One of my favorites.

  • Raelsmar

    This game really needs even a brief single player campaign. The controls and overall feel are great, but a simple system of using bots vs the player with a few story beats or mission objectives would really help the game survive beyond the multiplayer aspects. Was hoping to hear that these things were being prioritized.

    • frogopus

      There are two different co-op 1-4 mission types that you can play on each map. One is a defend the convoy with a few different random events that can happen on a play through, like a hidden AI mech you can find and activate, an enemy convoy moving through, or a factory you can capture for a team wide buff. The other is a more traditional wave defense, but you have to hunt down the leader in time on each wave. Each mode has a bunch of difficulty settings, and the difficulty scales for the number of players (you can choose to have AI help you if you don’t play with other people).

      This next patch is set to enhance the enemy AI, with players like you in mind. So while I don’t think you can expect a full fledged campaign before this comes out of early access, they’ve very much heard the segment asking for this. I think there’s a few more bot enhancements coming that they didn’t mention in this article.

      • Pablo C

        Really, no full SP campaign? I guess you know how the prestige of a game and a company plummet when this happens. Just check out Battlefront, we all hate EA ever since.
        What you are describing here is called wave shooter, there are thousands. We are really tired of them.

        If this game does not have a SP campaing, my bet is: it´ll be dead within one year after release. Meaning, you´ll rarely find someone to play with.

        • frogopus

          Man there’s a lot to unpack here and massive kudos if you actually read what will probably be an essay on why a stranger disagrees with you on the internet. First, lets make sure we’re not comparing a game that started out from 3 guys with one of the biggest AAA budgets of its year. Battlefront was a failure because of its aggressive microtransactions, not because it’s multiplayer only. In fact, its my understanding that after resolving those issues, Battlefront still has an active multiplayer community. That, plus the release of a solid single player adventure with no microtransactions, and an incoming multiplayer flight sim with no microtransactions or DLCs, EA has made a lot of inroads with Star Wars fans.

          With a small indie studio, man hours are precious. The devs have stated many times that it’s their dream to make a solid single player campaign. They had to choose to put all their eggs into one basket, either campaign or multiplayer, and their assessment was that multiplayer offered them their best shot. The problem is, most of the elements that go into making a campaign great, are also part of making a multiplayer game: weapons, mech design, maps, cockpit experience, physics, AI, etc. It’s not until those parts are really whole that you can start to add in mission design, story, voice acting, meaningful progression and a lot of other things to make a really great single player experience. In a multiplayer game, once the core experience is fun, it can be worthy of purchase even with limited maps and options. A campaign, however, can really only release in a nearly complete state. Most players don’t return to a single player campaign after content updates happen. It’s played once and forgotten. By releasing as a multiplayer game, they’ve had dedicated play testers for two years with hundreds of hours in game.

          Despite those that claim you can’t make a multiplayer focused VR game, they’ve moved into a dedicated studio, expanded the team, and manage to work on it full time after entering early access almost 2 years ago. After those two years, I still play most every night with old and new players and a full server. The single player components that they’ve added, plus the awesome cockpit experience, lets solo players get their money’s worth. The multiplayer component means that instead of playing a 5 hour campaign, I’ve gotten 800 hours.

          So, I don’t think we’re actually talking about reality here. We’re talking about players that WANT a campaign and not multiplayer, trying to assert that the only way to succeed is by making a game for them. And yet, we see just as many medicore single player experiences languish in the Steam store with no sales as we see multiplayer games lose their player base. Vox, a niche genre on a niche platform, still gets played every day. It still sells well enough to pay employees every day. The actual reality is that most fully fleshed VR campaigns still require Oculus or Valve to take a financial loss, because those games are still losing money. The only reason they can happen is because of the companies that are invested in selling and expanding VR.

        • Alextended

          EA was hated long before any Battlefront shenanigans. And there are other series that are multiplayer centric from day one and used to do wonderfully, like Battlefield. Nothing wrong with wanting to make multiplayer games. People here whine there’s no sp, and other people whine VTOL VR has no mp, and so on. And I say this as a primarily SP gamer who also loves the MW series, it was clear that wasn’t their goal with Vox Machinae from the start.

          • Pablo C

            First, I said Battlefront, not Battlefront 2. Battlefront 1 disapointed us because it didn´t have a SP campaing (BF2 actually had one). BF1 disapointed us to the point you don´t remember why you didn´t play it.

            Second, I´m all for small studios. This is not a social comment, it´s a practical one: Mention three MP-only VR games that after 2 years of actual release (not beta), still have a good player base.

            Third: we were told there was going to be a SP campaign.

    • Pablo C

      Yeah, In VR we are still too few. Multiplayer gets quickly empty and useless.

  • Bumpy

    This game has been on my wishlist for some time now but I really don’t care about multiplayer.

    Give me some sort of decent single player experience and it will be bought.

    Aside, seeing as though the engine supports it, it’s really pathetic that Mechwarrier 5 did not provide a VR experience.

  • Icebreaker808

    By far my favorite game for the last two years. I have around 600 hours and play as much as possible. I gave up on multiplayer games many years ago because of the toxicity that most multiplayer games seem to have. This game has the best community experience I have had in the last twenty years.

    Thanks for the great game Spacebullet. You have a customer for Life and looking forward to all the new content you have planned.

  • Cool to see that the game is being continuously updated!

  • arczi79

    It should have a campaign like that one in MechWorrior 2….

  • Pablo C

    This game is and it has been for some time now, at that stage, where it can turn out to be an amazing and memorable game, or, a falilure that no one will remember or want to remember.
    That´s because, being in alpha stage, it hasn´t show a single player campaign. If the single campaign gets to be interesting, of a good lenght and depth, it´ll be a top game, it has great mechanics and immersion. If not, it´ll be a huge dissapointment, since the bots are not that fun without a context, and I mean, in VR multiplayer, in general, no one shows up.