Please note that I have not finished this game. This review covers my thoughts so far. I will keep playing and update the review if need be.
Archer E Bowman is a game that I really want to like. It has some humour, it looks great and it plays well. I thought that way back when it was released for free in the concepts section and I still think it now. Everything about the game is good except for one thing. It’s not a lot of fun.
I’m not sure that that is Archer E Bowman’s fault though. This game has been in development for a long time, but in that time we have been treated to (or subjected to depending on your opinion) a lot of gazed based stationary shooters. Some of them are much better than others and Archer E Bowman is certainly one of the best there is in the category, but ultimately, no matter how good of a stationary shooter it is, it’s still a stationary shooter. You can swap out the graphics, change the enemies, imbue the character with various powers or equip them with varying forms of ammunition, but in the end the play is still just looking and tapping and looking and tapping. And not a lot else.
If you played the old demo of the game then you have a very good idea what the full release is all about. You are an Archery Bowman… get it? Ah? Probably didn’t pick up on that, did you? Don’t feel bad. That’s why they pay me the big bucks. Anyway, you are an archer and you shoot arrows at various forms of monsters trying to attack the castle behind you. The controls are tighter, the environment has been made to look a bit nicer and there have been some other slight graphical improvements. Otherwise, from what I can see, the old concepts version is almost the same.
One thing that has been added that I think is a very nice touch is the ability to move along the wall and hide behind the merlon. (If you don’t know what that is, Google it. I had to.) So far I haven’t really seen this feature put to good use, but it’s fun to be able to do it and perhaps in later waves it becomes necessary.
Another major improvement over the concepts version is the addition of save files. You don’t have to start at Wave 1 every time you start the game. I think more than anything, having to do that is what made me uninstall the free version. Some of the waves take a pretty decent chunk of time to beat… more if you’re not a crack-shot like me! I know that not everyone feels this way, but if it takes me more than 20 minutes to do something in a game and for one reason or another I have to do that 20 minutes again, I will probably never play the game again unless it’s a pretty special game.
In the concepts version I remember there being an explosive arrow type. That has made a return and on the last wave that I played, there is also another arrow type. I won’t say what it is because I don’t want to spoil it for you, but it’s pretty cool. I’m certain that as you play farther there will be more types to enjoy.
What bothers me about these arrows is how few there are and how the game gives them to you whenever it feels like it. Sometimes you will get a few after a wave, sometimes you won’t. I would much rather have had the monsters drop coin purses when they died which you could shoot with arrows to collect and then spend on arrow upgrades in between levels, or even every few levels. It would also have been cool if Archer started out as a pretty terrible shot but as you progressed you earned experience and could upgrade his aim, power, vision, or even his bow.
To be fair, I have not beat the game. Perhaps some of this happens later. I highly doubt that currency will become a thing twelve or more waves into the game, but perhaps a new bow could show up. I just don’t know what it would do. I can already shoot to the far end of the level with aim that would make Hawkeye jealous. I don’t think you could improve on the bow.
The main point of what I’m saying is that more could have been done to make it feel rewarding to beat the waves. As it is, it feels like the only reward for beating a wave is another wave. And when I’ve just beat a whole slew of these creatures and then I look at the board and see that there are more than sixty more of them coming, it makes me want to turn off the game. If I had just bought a cool new arrow type, or upgraded my skills or something I would want to play the next wave to see how it all works. But for most waves there is no mystery or incentive to even play it.
That isn’t to say that every wave is the same. At the beginning all of the bad guys are tiny green goblins. Later, blue armored goblins show up that need to be shot in the head or else the arrow is deflected. After about ten or so waves these giant creatures called cyclopes bust out of the mountains and they have to be shot in the eyeball to kill them. It’s not more difficult to do than hitting the head of a Goblin for a one hit kill, in fact, it actually seems easier. But in later rounds the cyclopes pick up the little guys and start throwing them at you so you have to pick them out of the air.
It’s cool, but I kept thinking how much more fun the goblins are having than me. Where is my armor? Where is my ability to upgrade things? Even a change of scenery. Again, to be fair, maybe this does happen later. But is should happen sooner. In fact, it would be cool if when I started the game I wasn’t on a castle wall. Maybe I was on the outer wall and as the creatures breach the outer wall I have to ride a wagon or something through town, picking off goblins as I go. Just an idea, but dynamic, changing environments would have done a lot to keep me interested.
Archer E Bowman is not a bad game. I just feel it’s not as good as it could be. And for the price, it’s not as good as it should be. Perhaps it’s the Gear VR limitations that prevent some of these things from having made it into the game, perhaps time, perhaps it was simply a matter of money. But as I’m playing the game I find it impossible not to think about all of the features I wish it had. What is there is so well made that it seems almost a crime to have not gone further with it. I would pay $3 for what I’ve seen so far. Maybe $5. I don’t hold out much hope that it is going to be significantly better later, but if it is, I will come amend this review.
Archer E Bowman is one of the better stationary shooters on the Gear VR. If you are new to Gear VR or just haven’t played many of these games then by all means pick it up. It’s good looking, it controls well and just has good overall production value. But if you’re a Gear VR veteran then there isn’t a lot here for you that you haven’t seen a few times before. What is there is done well enough that it makes what isn’t there all the more glaring. Production-wise, what is there is worth $8, but gameplay-wise it’s worth half.