EVE Valkyrie: Hands-on Time With the Latest Demo
Ever since I tried out a virtual reality mega monstrosity of a system in my local mall 20 years ago or so, I’ve desperately wished some company would be able to bring a viable virtual reality system to the masses. The Oculus Rift has been getting a lot of interest from developers and gamers alike, but a peripheral isn’t going to become a household name without an awesome game behind it. Enter EVE Valkyrie.
Now to be clear, CCP has not said they are officially endorsing the Oculus Rift. For now, it’s just being used to develop and demonstrate EVE Valkyrie. I had a chance to try out the tech demo of Valkyrie (when it little more than a side project by some developers called EVE-VR) at E3 this year on the old Oculus Rift. It was awesome then (you can read my thoughts on that experience here) and it’s even better now. For those that may not be familiar with EVE Valkyrie, it’s the third game to be introduced to the EVE universe, joining EVE Online and DUST 514. Currently in development, it’s expected to be released sometime in 2014.
EVE Valkyrie has seen some drastic improvements over the previous tech demo. That’s not unexpected in and of itself, but the level of improvements to an already incredibly fun game are. First up, the obvious – the graphics are clearer, there’s far more variety in color, and the level of detail on individual ships and background settings have all been vastly improved. The gameplay is still as fast and furious as it was before, but there have been a number of improvements made to the UI in order to provide players with more information about their surroundings.
In the previous tech demo, the only indication you had of an incoming missile from an enemy craft was an impending sound of doom through your headphones. EVE Valkyrie now sports a proximity radar system that’s viewed by just glancing down. Floating in the air in front of your virtual legs, you’ll see an image of your ship. When an incoming threat is detected, a line will appear giving you the direction that threat is coming in from. By use of this line system, it also allows you to judge the distance between you and the incoming missile. As the missile gets closer, the image begins to zoom in. Since EVE Valkyrie is a virtual reality game with 3D elements, the proximity radar also shows you whether the missile is coming from above or below. All of this adds up to loads of new information at each pilots fingertips that can be absorbed and acted on in less than a second.
There have been some improvements made to missile locks as well. I’ll admit they caught me off guard because I was happy with the previous system and quite frankly didn’t think it could be improved upon. Compared to the tech demo, the missile lock system of EVE Valkyrie feels as though it has a slight delay in choosing a target, and a slightly longer lock-on time. Despite the way that sentence may sound, I can assure you that I view both of these as improvements and not complaints. If two enemy ships are flying in close proximity to each other, the initial targeting delay makes it easier to get a lock on the target you were going for. Sometimes in the demo, you’d pull your trigger to initiate a lock and get the wrong ship. The slightly longer lock-on timer just adds to the fun and rewards pilot skill by taking longer to get a lock.
This is all well and good, but for now, EVE Valkyrie is still a succession of quick battles. David Reid, CCP’s Chief Marketing Officer, quickly acknowledged this when I asked him about it. The team recognizes that it still has a long way to go before the game is ready for public release. It still needs to be tied directly into the EVE universe as well as adding more to make it a full game, rather than just a match lobby. After seeing how much EVE Valkyrie has improved in the short months it had been since I played the tech demo though, I have little doubt they’ll manage to do just that.
As a side note for those curious, once again, I had no indication of motion sickness, even when whipping my head around to keep a lock on a fast moving target. I’m also one of those poor bastards that can’t go to 3D movies. I’ve tried multiple times and I either had to live with a splitting headache and eye strain to see the effects, or tilt the glasses to extreme angles in order to see the film. Doing so cancels the 3D effect though. I’m happy to report that I haven’t had any trouble getting the 3D effect with the Oculus Rift (Low res and HD versions) and have had no eyestrain or headaches either.
I’ll sign off by saying if there was ever any game you have to try when it’s at your next gaming convention, it has to be EVE Valkyrie. I don’t care if you hate space games, hate video games in general, or just think you’re too cool for school. The game is instantly accessible to every person out there, though I have no doubt it will take a lot of work to master. And those, my friends, are the best kind of games out there.