Wands – Almost Magic

Things have been a little bit slow for the Gear VR over the last few months. We had the occasional bigger release tossed in among much more casual and in some cases pointless affairs. But that all changed this week with Oculus seemingly going crazy and releasing everything that they have all at once. Ten games were released this week, if you count the concepts, and honestly, sometimes they are better than the full releases so you should. But easily the best of the bunch are the two that did not get a soft-launch. Wands and Smashing the Battle.

Some people have been waiting for Wands for a while. When it was first announced there was talk of positional tracking and using another phone as your actual wand. This has been removed from the game and instead you use the trackpad or the controller. This is fine, though it would have been better if they had managed to work the other stuff in.

Wands Title

Wands is a wizard duelling game and, though I’ve only played a few matches, most of them against an AI opponent, I have to say that it’s a pretty good game. You start by selecting your wand and adding attachments. The attachments are purchased with Relic Dust which you earn during the competative matches. You have a limited selection of attachments at the start, but you can see what the others are going to do once you manage to gather enough dust to buy them. There are not a ton of add ons, but with the amount of Relic Dust earned each match and the fact that the cost of attachments goes up as you buy them, it could take a long time to see them all.

I will admit that I wasn’t really following Wands that closely. In fact, until I was reminded of it last week I had completely forgotten it existed. But when I did look at it I was getting a very different idea about the game than what was delivered. I was expecting some sort of story, some spell crafting and a world to explore. So far that doesn’t seem to be the case with it though. It is basically a multiplayer deathmatch game with the option to fight an AI if you’d rather, or presumably if you can’t find a match.

As fun as that sounds, there have been other multiplayer games in the past and for the most part, they seem to be ghost towns after the first couple of days. There is an option to fight against friends, which I haven’t checked out yet. I hope that it will let you browse who is online and invite them, but I’m not really expecting that. I’ll be sure and report back if that is the case. If it is, that would be amazing.

Wands Fighting

Aside from dueling with friends, strangers and AI, there is a basement with a couple of practice dummies for you to test out your attachments on before you bring them into the fight. It’s a neat idea I suppose but I would have rather had some sort of an obstacle course to train on. It would have been more interesting. I suppose that’s what the AI practice mode is.

You get around in this game by teleporting. That makes sense here because you are wizards and that seems like something wizards would do. But if you are the sort that has been waiting for full freedom of movement then this is not the game you have been waiting for. There are a few things that annoy me about the way that they chose to implement the teleportation. The first is that it uses mana. You need mana to cast your spells and quite often after finally managing to find my opponent I don’t have enough mana to do anything to him. And if you try to do something, it will drain the mana you have have and the effect will not take place, meaning you have to wait for the mana gauge to fill again. And it takes its sweet time. I’m not sure, but I think it might actually hurt you to try and cast a spell when you don’t have enough mana. I take enough damage from my opponents without having to worry about hurting myself.

It’s also annoying that you have to activate each element of your wand individually to use the effects, including teleportation. So you have to teleport to your spot, then bring up the selection wheel and choose your attack, then target your enemy and fire. This all takes too much time and while it might add an element of strategy and planning to the game, it seems more frustrating than it’s worth. And it’s made even worse by the fact that only two buttons on the controller were put to use. This is probably to keep matches a little more even between those with controllers and those without, but it’s still pretty annoying. Honestly, it’s time for Samsung to bundle a controller with the headset and for devs to assume you have a controller.

I realize it sounds like I don’t like Wands. That’s not true. I do. It’s a gorgeous game, it runs smoothly, it controls well, even if the control choices are not what I would like to see, and it is, for the most part, fun. If you look through the library on the Gear VR, these become pretty significant points. There are a lot of games on there, but not many of them are of the caliber of Wands.

I have not been in contact with the developers of Wands, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn that they are planning to port the game over to Google’s Daydream when it releases. If I understand correctly, all Daydream headsets will have the motion tracked controller bundled in which seems like a no brainer here. I think anyone who plays this game will immediately recognize how much better it would be with a tracked controller.

Wands Spectator

Finally, I want to talk about, what might be the coolest part of this game. Spectator mode. By pointing your browser to http://www.wandsgame.com/site/ you can watch people play the game. There are two camera options. One is a mouse controlled camera that looks over the battlefield. The other splits the screen downt he middle and shows the point of view from each player. When I first learned about it I was expecting it to be buggy and broken, but it’s not. It works really, really well. And you can check to see if anyone is waiting in a game for an opponent and see what map they are in. That way you can join a game where you know someone will be there. It’s just such a cool idea and it’s pulled off so well that even if the game was total garbage, the developers would deserve kudos for this. If you haven’t checked it out, I strongly suggest you do. You can leave the search field empty and it will show you up to 20 in progress games or you can search by username if you want to find yourself or your friends. It’s just genius.

So that’s it. I was going to talk a bit about smashing battle but this article went a lot longer than I expected so I will save it for another article. I should play it a bit more before writing about it anyway.

If you are a regular reader of the site then you will probably have noticed that it’s been pretty quiet here. Honestly, I was thinking about just packing it in and calling it quits. I don’t have as much time as I used to and there are so many Gear VR sites now that I didn’t think I would be missed. But when VR Giant went down the other day and several people contacted me to let me know, I realized that even without new content people were still coming to the site. I also realized that I didn’t want to stop completely. But I’m going to change it up a little bit. I will write a more thorough explanation when I figure out exactly what I want to do, but for now I will say that it will be more blog and less review site. I don’t want to score games any more. It adds a lot of work and it’s always felt pretty arbitrary. Instead I’m just going to talk about what I like and what I don’t like. Then you can decide yourself how good you think it is.

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Oculus Rift Cover

Written by:

Daryle | VR Giant
Twitter: @VRG_Daryle
Email: daryle@vrgiant.com

  • MegalithicBrain

    I am the writer for http://www.gearvrnews.com and I also lost interest in writing articles on there for a while, but my reasons are different. I have a ton of time, but the people I was working for said I can’t post any negative comments in my reviews, or even post any negative reviews. So all that was left if I wanted to get paid was posting positive reviews. Since there are only so many wonderful titles that are perfect, it was becoming difficult to write anything more or contribute to VR. You know, I am the writer who broke the story for Anshar Wars 2 that exposed how the 3D worked and why it wasn’t feeling 3D. And Stephane Intessar promised to fix it and created an incredibly new feeling in the game that made it so awesome. That came from constructive criticism and saying negative things that turned into good things because of their reaction and excellent attitude. I felt powerful in that moment, able to participate in the VR industry and lead to changes in one of the coolest games. And then by writing the Kerser review, a game which I hated, I was taken down at the knees. I have since decided to create my own new website. In a few weeks, I will share the URL on Reddit and you will be able to see all my old reviews and the new ones. But I no longer score games by graphics, Presence, Audio, I score them based on my gut feeling based against all the other submissions. I have a wealth of experience to judge better, since I’ve been gaming for 35 years and have seen it all and done it all. My reviews from now on will offer Developer Advice (or feedback on how to make the games better). Daryl, I don’t thin you should quit, your site has a lot of style, but definitely change it to fit your lifestyle as you see fit. It’s yours. But I will feel sad if you give up. Another reason I changed my site is it was called gearvrnews and what if I want to add Sulon Q, or Daydream? No one will go to gearvrnews to read about Daydream! So my new site is open to all HMD’s, and VRGIANT is a neautral name that serves you well for all HMD’s too. Keep going, man! You might be competition, but that’s healthy, and your reviews often strengthen me to keep reviewing too! Peace, brother! You love VR and VR loves you, so keep that torch burning, and keep running. You aren’t at the end yet.

    • http://vrgiant.com VR Giant

      Thanks man. That sucks that you were not allowed to give your honest opinion. Oh well, with your own site you can do what you want.
      I’m sort of having the same issue with you about the name. My name is neutral for VR, but not really of I want to do other types of games. But I figure it doesn’t really matter. If I decide to do other stuff people might wonder why I’m called VR Giant but I’m not strictly VR and I’ll just explain that when I started I was. Look at IGN, if I recall that stands for imagine games network but they cover a lot more than just games.
      Thanks for the encouragement! I will keep going but things will have to be different than they were. I was building the site with the expectation that it might start making enough money to become my job but that isn’t going to happen any time soon so I’m going to keep it as a hobby and not take it so seriously. Who knows, maybe that will go over better with people. Good luck with your new site!