Apex Construct (Physical Release)
Archery and VR seem to go hand-in-hand. The incredibly tactile feeling of nocking an arrow and pulling back on a bow is a perfect demonstration of the power of VR and it’s immersive, responsive capabilities. So it’s no surprise that someone decided to make an archery focused experience for PSVR. What is a surprise is that they made a sharp, narratively driven experience that stands as a benchmark for the quality one should expect from PSVR games.
Developer/Publisher: Fast Travel Games
Genre: Action, Exploration
Controller: Move Controllers
Game Length: ~6 hours
PlayPSVR Score: 8 out of 10
“Apex Construct” had me awakening as the sole human in a research facility twisted and wrecked by what seems to have been an apocalyptic incident. Somehow, the world has been torn apart, and all I have to show for it is a severed left hand, replaced with cybernetics, a bow and arrow, and an artificial intelligence voicing directions in my ears. The game’s story is full of intrigue, with details in the game’s highly interactive environment slowly fleshing out the elements bit by bit. It reminded me of “Portal” at times, with worldbuilding occurring via scratches on the wall, or notes left on chalk boards. Sometimes when I’d be rummaging through a filing cabinet, I’d be treated with a clip board or notepad detailing the frustrations of the researchers leading up to the cataclysmic “shift” in the game’s world. Other times, I’d find myself typing DOS commands into a keyboard in order to open journal notes and messages on the computer’s display. While the method of worldbuilding through notes isn’t groundbreaking, the interactivity of the world leading up to the notes was an engaging way for me to build interest in the game’s story.
And this engaging mechanic would have been frustrating if Fast Travel Games hadn’t nailed the tracking and controls so solidly. Maybe I’m blessed with a remarkable setup, but rarely did the PSVR’s dated tracking mechanism interfere with my ability to volley a series of arrows at enemies. Every moment of combat in the game is welcome and exciting. The bow uses multiple arrow types and a shield to add a small amount of variety to combat approaches, but my favorite strategy was high-mobility, using head movement to avoid incoming projectiles while firing back at each opening. For a game with one weapon, I found myself approaching fights differently at times. Some encounters were resolved with long distance sniping. Other fights were won by getting the higher ground and raining arrows on the group below.
Unfortunately, variety isn’t the game’s strong suit in all elements of combat. Nearly all enemies appropriate some form of cybernetic dog. They all look more or less the same, except for a turret and a singular boss type. Their manner of fighting back is consistent, although small wrinkles are thrown in as some utilize shields and teleporting, which both amount to minor inconveniences. “Apex Construct’s” combat is the game’s strong point, and it’s a shame that such exciting gameplay is wasted on the same enemy type throughout the story. If granted the opportunity for a sequel, surely the developers would be able to add some more variety to the enemy types.
But that’s not to say, however, that I was ever bored in the game. The game is so solidly designed that I felt comfortable in its world, and relished the opportunity to continue exploring the story and environment, and even when it meant revisiting earlier levels with newer abilities. I just wish that the environment and story ultimately felt like it led somewhere. The game’s ending is very abrupt, and I can’t imagine anyone completing the final level without feeling more confused than when they started. I was left feeling like there was more to do, only to discover I’d done nearly all of it, with the few remaining secrets being inconsequential.
In the end, “Apex Construct” is a highly intriguing, mechanically sound, and at times exhilarating experience. Anyone looking for fluid gameplay, solid combat, and an interesting but puzzling story will find a lot to enjoy. I await Fast Travel Games’ next efforts with high expectations and even higher levels of excitement.
Score: 8 out of 10.