The team at Orange Bridge Studio comprises only a handful of members, and they’ve set out to create a relatively ambitious project. Actual Virtual Reality is a new accessible paradigm in gaming, and of course, the first thing anyone will want to do is fly around the cosmos in a virtual dogfighting spacecraft. This is exactly what Orange Bridge Studio offers with End Space.
At first glance, End Space almost lives down to my expectations. It was first released for the mobile-oriented Gear VR and only recently made the jump to PSVR, so that should give you an idea of the scope of the game. If you’ve got fond memories of Wing Commander and Tie Fighter on the PC, your expectations are on point. If you’re looking for something like No Man’s Sky that actually delivers on its promise, then you’ll need to look elsewhere.
On my first couple of trips through space, I took in the scenery around me. While the cockpit was detailed, it wasn’t as immediately eye-catching as something you’d find in Eve Valkyrie. While the asteroids and planets were certainly large and ominous, they weren’t as breathtaking as say, the introduction scene to Farpoint. But that’s to be expected from an indie development effort. To its credit, the visuals and presentation served its purpose well and set the stage appropriately for the dogfighting action that is its focus.
But something inherently retro happened to me on about the 4th mission. As a kid, when I played something like Super Mario 64 or Star Fox or, appropriately, Tie Fighter, the dated (by today’s standards) visuals seemed perfect to me. My entertained mind was able to fill in the gaps, and the jagged edges of polygons washed away into what felt like a vivid atmosphere. That’s exactly what started happening to me with End Space.
I can remember exactly what happened. I was approaching a large spaceship at the other end of an asteroid field, and I was supposed to avoid alerting it as I had no supporting fighters with me. Having easily passed each previous mission, my hubris got the better of me as I started blasting towards my goal. The retreating haze of the nebulous clouds revealed a ship so large that I had to assume that, like the planets in the background, it had to be flat scenery.
I continued to boost forward comfortably towards what I thought was a wallpaper, until suddenly I was struck with a sense of dread. Upon getting closer, the hangars of the giant craft opened up and released a large but manageable swarm of enemy fighters that by themselves would’ve been no problem. But something struck my fortitude and caused me to retreat and make a bee-line at max speed to the warp gate.
Sometimes when I’m far enough off shore at the beach or a large lake, and I go into the water to for a dip, I’ll always make sure to keep my legs tucked up a bit closer to my body than I would in a normal swimming pool. It’s because subconsciously I know the size of the creatures that can lurk below. There’s an inhospitable nature to overwhelmingly deep and dark waters that showers me with a sense of insignificance.
That’s what happened here. The inhospitable nature of deep space was combined with the ominous size of an enemy spacecraft and it brought about a real sense of dread. Despite the average graphics and enjoyable, albeit not necessarily innovative, gameplay, End Space tied this well traveled game design appropriately into PSVR, and put me in a position that made me feel genuinely uncomfortable and scared. And for a split second, it made me feel like I had really been left alone, lost in space. And that’s an awesome feeling.