EVE: Valkyrie Review – Fly High (PSVR)
One of the reasons why I’ve been so excited about virtual reality in terms of gaming is how it’ll provide new opportunities for already established gaming genres. The ability to look around a virtual environment without using an analog stick is a game changer, and it’s something I feel like many types of games will benefit from. The first game I played on PlayStation VR was EVE: Valkyrie, a space dogfighting title from CCP Games, and it showcased how much of a game changer virtual reality can be.
After a few minutes of introductory story dialogue, I found myself inside the cockpit of a fighter jet. The novelty has worn off after a dozen hours of play, but the first time I was staring at all of the monitors and switches inside the dashboard was mesmerizing. I had an amazing amount of freedom to look around (perhaps too much as standing up from my seated position caused me to see my headless body below), and I was just soaking in the atmosphere.
The freedom to look wherever I wanted to wasn’t just a cool gimmick, though, as it became an essential tool in EVE: Valkyrie‘s gameplay. While the default fighter spaceship still has players using the analog stick to pilot the ship and to shoot at the center of the screen, it becomes far easier to actually take in the action with the increased field-of-view. I could be firing at one enemy, while looking completely elsewhere. I finally knew what it felt to actually be flying in the air and having the ability to fully look around and do whatever I wanted to.
This head tracking is also used to aim the fighter jet’s alternate weapon, lock-on missiles. There is something highly satisfying about making a sharp turn in the air, managing to shoot one enemy, and then using your head to launch missiles at another foe. Things that would have been incredibly difficult to pull off in a regular game are now easy to do thanks to virtual reality. It’s a perfect example at how an established genre can be enhanced by the medium changing, and I don’t look forward to playing a space combat game outside of VR. I’ve had a taste of what the genre can evolve into, and I don’t want to go back.
While there are a bunch of different ships to purchase in-game, they all fall into three different classes: Fighter, Heavy and Support. Fighter is what I described above, and is pretty much the most versatile, all-around ship. Heavy, as the name would indicate, is a larger ship that is slow but packs a mighty punch. It also has the ability to use a micro warp drive in order to move quickly during emergencies and its main weapon is head-tracked, which feels very satisfying to use. Finally, the Support class is the trickiest one to use as it has a powerful beam that can heal players and can destroy the shields of enemy ships. It won’t rack up the kills, but players can get plenty of assists.
Three ship types may not be a lot, but it’s enough for EVE: Valkyrie to have some additional depth beyond the fast-paced space dogfights. Further customization comes in the form of ship upgrades (which can be purchased with the in-game currency called silver), and there is a bunch of different ships in each type that have different stats (speed, power, etc.). It strikes a nice balance of feeling accessible to new players, while also having enough layers for die-hard players to sink into.
The in-game currency is also where the game shows a rather gross side, and it’s in the form of microtransactions. While I never felt compelled to throw money at the game, it offers to sell players gold (which can then be exchanged for silver) for actual money. The largest amount goes for $99.99, and it’s really off-putting to see in a full-priced game. While I didn’t feel like things were taking forever to unlock, once I noticed the microtransactions, I couldn’t get the thought out of my head that the game was designed to tease ships I couldn’t buy without either spending money or a considerable chunk of my time.
Regardless of the microtransactions, EVE: Valkyrie remains fun to play in each of its two modes: Chronicles and Combat. Chronicles is the single-player offering that is split into training modes, a very short campaign, and an exploration mode where players search for audio logs and salvage. It’ll only take a few hours to finish Chronicles, but it serves as a nice tutorial and hints at a really cool universe even if it isn’t fully explored here.
The real meat to the package is the game’s multiplayer, and sadly it doesn’t have much more depth than the single-player. There are three separate ways to play: Team Deathmatch, a mode where players battle over control points, and Carrier Assault. The former two modes are simple and can even be played against bots online (humans versus an AI team), but Carrier Assault is where the real fun happens.
This mode has two teams battling over three control points until one team takes over, that in turn lowers the shield to the enemy’s base. Players then frantically try to destroy points on their base before the shield’s back-up turns on, and have to race to the heart of the ship destroy it as if it was the Death Star. It’s a super cool mode, but it also showcases that the rest of the offerings are pretty lackluster.
I really enjoyed my time with EVE: Valkyrie, but after several hours of online play, I’m starting to doubt it will keep me coming back to it. There’s just not enough modes or maps to keep it feeling fresh, and while the gameplay is innovative, it can only stand on that for so long. Hopefully the money gained by microtransactions will mean substantial updates to both Chronicles and Combat as Valkyrie features a fantastic base game that needs to be further fleshed out.
EVE: Valkyrie triumphantly shows the promise of virtual reality. The addition of head tracking turns a pretty basic space combat game into a captivating experience, even if it might not have long legs. It’s one of the best showcases for what PlayStation VR is capable of, but also a clear reminder that the best is yet to come. It’s certainly an exciting time for gaming.
Review code for EVE: Valkyrie provided by publisher. Reviewed on PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.