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.
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
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.
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.
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):
- 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
- 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
- New Convoy Co-Op Mode
- New grinder – Overhaul
- 2 New weapons – Pulsar and Hammer
- 2 New Weapons – Skyjacker and Scattershot
- New level – Cryptic Tundra
- Updated avatars and added 3 new ones
- Controller remapping and HOTAS support
- New level – Arid Oasis
- New grinder – Rook
- Redesigned throttle for motion controls
The Next Update
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.”
The Future of Vox Machinae
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.”