Starfighter Arduxim is the latest space shooter game to grace the Gear VR. It follows in the footsteps of Anshar Wars, Anshar Wars 2, End Space, Cosmos Warfare…um, Starship Disco? How loose are we going with comparisons here? Anyway, the point is, there have been a lot of space shooter games on the Gear VR and to be honest, even though I am sick to death with space (which is something I never thought I would say, but there we are) I really enjoyed it. As a matter of fact, it is the first game I’ve played all the way through in a long time.
When you load the game you are sitting in, presumably the captain’s chair of the space station and in front of you is a wall filled to the brim with configuration options and explanations. It is almost off-putting how much choice you are given. There is a difficulty slider, a 3D depth slider, a slider to choose the height of your pilot (though this only changes the position of the camera and not the size of the character model so, depending on the 3D depth setting there is a definite spot that is right. I had it set to the lowest 3D depth and tallest setting and I could look down and see my headless character model about 4 feet below me.) You can remap every button and stick on the controller, set your level of anti-aliasing, resolution, how your throttle works and a lot more. It’s safe to say that there should be a set up for everyone.
Arduxim is a first person, cockpit-based, dogfighter game. You begin each mission docked in the bay of a space station. Here you receive your mission briefing from a screen on your right hand side, and you can choose your loadout before setting off, if you’ve reached the point of the game where you have options. Once you have made your choice you give the ship some throttle and you are off. Your weapon choices are now locked in until you return to the dock after your mission. Even flying back into the docking bay won’t work. If you made a mistake or have changed your mind about what you want, you’ll have to exit the level through the menu to change them.
There are twelve missions in the game and for the most part they are quite a lot of fun, though admittedly there are some that could use some work. The ones that are fun are the ones where you warp into an area, there are enemies to kill and once you kill them you are done and you warp out. You can feel like a bit of a badass in these levels, avoiding enemy fire, locking your missiles on or pulling in behind them and blowing them to smithereens. But there are levels where the pace is just too slow. One level that stands out in my mind takes place in an asteroid field. You start outside the asteroid field and you have to fly in to the middle of it. If you lock on to something it will tell you how far away you are. I don’t know what the units are, so I will presume meters. In this level you can see a bunch of red x’s on the far side of a huge asteroid, which is your mission target. If you lock on to one is shows that you are more than 17,000 meters away and there isn’t a lot to do during that 17,000 meters except set the throttle and take in the scenery. To be fair, these asteroids are enormous and you can really feel that as you fly past them. It’s cool. But flying in a straight line does become a but dull after a full minute or two. And if you die, you get to do it again.
There was another level where I had to take out an enemy freighter. Most levels were taking me between seven and ten minutes to complete, but this one took me about two. I couldn’t believe it was over already when they told me to find the warp marker and head back. I was certain something was going to jump out and attack me. But nothing came. I returned home and that was it.
But really, these are small complaints in the grand scheme of the game. A few levels that could have been better are bound to show up in any game. The rest of the levels are a good challenge and a decent length. I don’t recall any levels feeling like they were too long, though there were a few times when I thought clicking “Continue From Checkpoint” at the main menu should have started me farther into the level than it did.
The graphics in Arduxim are pretty basic when compared to other games in this genre. This was most jarring at the outset, but as time went on I became accustomed to them and it didn’t bother me. It is most apparent in the UI and the cockpit view. The cockpit is set up to give you maximal view of space. You are basically sitting in a glass bubble attached to the front of a much larger ship, but I was several levels into the game before I decided to actually look behind me and see that I wasn’t actually just flying a glass bubble. The part of the ship in front of you that isn’t glass is made from very low poly, textured rectangular prisms. This isn’t a big deal when you are fighting enemy ships, but on those long journeys into and out of asteroid fields when you have nothing to do but look around, it stands out quite a lot.
The sound is decent. There is no music except in the menu, just atmospheric sound effects and voice over. The sound effects are what you would expect, thrusters, gunfire and explosions. They don’t stand out as particularly amazing, but they don’t detract either. The same can not be said for most of the voice work in the game. It sounds like it was recorded as placeholder soundbites and just never got replaced with the real stuff. Hopefully a future update will see the voice over work completely overhauled.
When Starfighter Arduxim came out as a demo I was pretty impressed with it. I’m not quite as impressed with it at $8.99 ($7.99US) for the full game. The obvious comparison that people are going to make is to End Space and End Space is just more polished for the same price. However, End Space also received a lot of that polish in the form of a post release update, so perhaps Arduxim will receive the same. The content is there, the fun factor is there. The challenge is there (and I played on easiest because I’m a wimp. I wouldn’t even want to see it on higher difficulties.) I would just like to see some tweaking of the level design in some places and graphical improvements to bring up it’s value. And the voice work should mostly be scrapped and redone.
To it’s credit, Arduxim has several modes including, single player, multiplayer, practice and survival. Single player is of course, the campaign, practice lets you shoot unarmed drones in an asteroid field, and survival is an endless wave of enemies. Unfortunately I have not been able to find a game in multiplayer so I can’t talk about how that is, though I have been able to enter the battlefield on my own and fly around freely, which is kind of nice in and of itself. While I’m sure that multiplayer would be a lot of fun if I could find a game, I’ve seen it in enough Gear VR games to know that it can’t really be a selling point. It’s just too hard to find games when it’s available.