Vanguard Skyfront
Preview

Multiplayer Mashup: Hands on With Ambitious Shooters Vanguard and Skyfront VR

At EGX 2018, OnlySP had the opportunity to briefly explore outside of single-player gaming and try some multiplayer games. Vanguard, an ambitious space shooter, and Skyfront, an inventive VR experience, both had impressive showings; find Richard’s impressions on the titles below.

Vanguard

Vanguard is a unique and ambitious multiplatform title made by developer Dev Clever. Set in an alternate future where the Roman Empire continued to prosper, slaves must now compete for their freedom in large and deadly arena matches.

What makes the project stand out is the developer’s choice to make it available on both PC and mobile as well as creating a VR version of the game. Each version is optimised well, making the experience feel smooth across each platform without one feeling more viable than the other.

The gameplay itself has players take control of a spaceship in a futuristic gladiatorial arena. The game mode made available was a multiplayer Deathmatch where each player competed to earn the most kills within a given time period. Using a throttle and joystick controller, the controls on PC were slightly less responsive than when using the VR remote. However, the slow response time was due to the team members lowering the sensitivity after other participants had had a difficult time adjusting to the controls.

With the game being entirely in the first person, players can easily lose their orientation in the 3D space. To combat this, Vanguard features a rather handy head-up display, including a three-dimensional map that includes whether the enemies are above or below the player. Once the enemy is in sight, the ship comes equipped with plenty of gadgets to zone in and destroy any opponent. Each ship can utilise the two machine guns located on either side of the cockpit, while the guns have a limited amount of ammo; bullets will gradually replenish, meaning players will need to pick their targets wisely to avoid running out during the midst of a dogfight. To assist players not familiar with flying, the lock-on system in Vanguard gently guides the cursor over targets immediately within the player’s field of view. Once an enemy glides into the ship’s line of sight, they can also be targeted with heat-seeking missiles once in range.

Despite the short hands-on experience with the title, this form of creative and ingenuitive approach to designing a project could be a huge step forward for how future developers create a cross-platform experience.

Fans can follow the open development of the game by following the title’s Twitter page or by joining in on the official Discord channel.

Skyfront

Skyfront VR is an inventive arena shooter by Estonian developer Levity Play. The title is currently in early access and available for Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Windows Mixed Reality.

Levity Play is a small company made up of a dozen dedicated team members, with only two programmers. The developer has previously made other independent titles for mobile but decided to change to VR after one of the developers, with a particular affinity for arena shooters, had access to a Vive. The profit gained from previous titles allowed Levity Play to begin work on the ambitious project Skyfront with continued funding coming from the ability to purchase Early Access on Steam. Despite only being within its first year of early access, the title looks and feels like a polished game that will no doubt only improve over time.

The story behind Skyfront is surprisingly rich; taking place in the year 2700 AD, the world is finally at peace following a catastrophic war that lasted for four hundred years. To maintain the new world order, champions now compete in floating, zero gravity coliseums in a Hunger Games-like competition between nations. Though not currently in the game, Levity Play eventually wishes to add customisation for the players champion including character and weapon skins to personalise their experience.

The game has several maps for players to explore, showcasing the worldly nature of the game; three locations are currently available: Greece, a smaller and more confined space perfect for intense death-matches with colourful housing blocks surrounding a tall Parthenon column; Egypt, a similar but more vertically imposing area with gorgeous statues situated around a large pyramid, creating more opportunities to flee or sneak up on opponents; and a beautiful German villa, the largest of the three, ideal for larger game modes such as domination. Two more maps will soon be added to the game, including a space map where players navigate around a starship. The fifth and final map has so far has not been revealed but will no doubt be a unique addition to the already varied locals.

To navigate each of the environments, each champion comes equipped with two forms of transportation including a grapple to latch on to nearby walls and pull the player closer, as well as a thruster that can be equipped to either the left or right hand (or even both) for an added boost to speed. Simply aiming the thruster in the direction the player wishes to move and pulling the trigger will gently propel to champion; this method proved especially effective in avoiding the traditional motion sickness often associated with many VR games. The player remaining totally in control of which way the champion moves, whether that be vertically or horizontally, removes the temptation to physically move around the space and damage or trip over items in the player’s vicinity. Participants should be wary as the thruster also counts as a weapon, as boosting into enemies will cause a slight amount of damage. With the thruster needing to be equipped to move around, players will need to sacrifice using one of the other five weapons in the game, all of which vary greatly to suit different playstyles. Guns can be equipped to both the left and right hands, simultaneously allowing for some fun and interesting combinations of death and destruction. Cycling through each weapon feels simple and fluid with just a simple press of the VR controller. The game currently features magnum pistols, submachine guns, rocket launchers, a sniper, and shotguns; a sword was originally to be implemented but removed early on as the lack of impact from the blows felt strange and needed further work. The idea of melee combat is not strictly off the table but could be a long time before gamers see the tactic appear in-game.

As well as weapons, Skyfront will also feature abilities that can be equipped to either the right or left hand. These power-ups include stealth, shield, shockwave, jammer, and a health boost. During the demo at EGX, the abilities made available were the shield and shockwave. The shield creates a visible bubble around the player that absorbs incoming damage but was large enough so that an enemy could get close and still cause harm within the barrier. The shockwave, on the other hand, is purely offensive and capable of killing an enemy in one; the shockwave bursts out of the trigger hand in a wide but slow moving projectile. Each ability required several moments before recharging again to avoid any one person becoming overpowered.

In regards to post-launch content, Levity Play has set up several social media channels as well as a Discord site to encourage community feedback to help make changes and improvements in the future. Levity Play expressed interest in eventually releasing a PSVR version of the game but there are no current plans underway in creating the port. To help support the project, players can purchase the Early Access title on Steam as well as participate in the on-going community via Discord, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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