Real-time strategy and VR don't seem like they would go together. After all, the key attraction to virtual reality is feeling like you're in someone else's shoes in a faraway land of make believe. The top-down view of typical RTS games doesn't quite lend itself to that level of immersion. Or does it? After a few minutes playing with Hidden Path Entertainment's Brass Tactics at an Oculus demo event, I found myself so engrossed in a cutthroat tabletop battle that I almost forgot I had a headset on at all.
Now, there have been other real-time strategy games in VR -- Tactera and AirMech come to mind -- but Brass Tactics has a decidedly more medieval feel. The developers describe it as a "clockwork battlefield," as your buildings and minions appear to be built out of parts of a clock, gears and all. Yet, the design of Brass Tactics reminds me very much of tabletop war games -- living soldiers take the place of miniature figures while 3D-modeled landscapes replace plastic terrain.
Gameplay itself should be pretty familiar to anyone who's played a real-time strategy. You start out with just your warriors and your archers, but you can upgrade them over time. To attack, you simply direct your battalion to a spot on the table with the Touch controllers. As you capture more regions, you can build more towers to create even more units like a flying squad or cavalry tanks. If you like, you can also use catapults to launch fire balls at your opponent.
With Brass Tactics, you can also actually move "through" the landscape like an omniscient god, so you can get up close and get a better idea of how to manage your resources. You also need to move from region to region in order to build and maintain towers. It was pretty cool to be directly in the middle of everything, sending off troop after troop to capture or defend regions. I felt a little bit like an orchestra conductor, except instead of cueing violins, I was deploying archers.
As engrossing as it was though, I'll admit it can be a little chaotic. It seems like it would be easier to hotkey or mouse your way through a battlefield than it is to figure out where to flail your arms. That said, it's probably a matter of getting used to it, and I can see improving my skills over time. If you're an RTS fan who also likes a bit of tabletop gaming from time to time and you happen to have a Rift, then definitely take a look at Brass Tactics when it comes to the Oculus Store later this year.
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