In Augmented Empire you get to command a band of misfits from the comfort of your armchair or in our case, an EGX Rezzed booth.
Coatsink were kind enough to give us some with Augmented Empire at their booth a couple of weekends back and I came away feeling positive about the game. Augmented Empire is a tactical RPG set in locales across the island of New Savannah which you can see in front of you like a little model. As the commander of a small team of misfits you must safely guide them through the various tiers of “Citizen Grade System” which puts the poorest citizens in the depths of the island and the richest of the rich at the top in luxury.
Using a very straight forward point and click system, you can send your units around the field a bit like you would in X–Com or Nintendo’s Codename S.T.E.A.M. However it isn’t as simple as going from A to B, with enemies and objectives in the field for you to overcome. The gameplay is turn based allowing you to move and shoot during your turn and to set some actions that will take place during the enemy turn like taking cover or overwatch. Overwatch will allow you to shoot any enemy that comes in to your line of sight during their turn. Simple.
The actual combat itself is a little reminiscent of a golf game (bare with me) in that if you choose to shoot or have to dodge fire, you get a little meter which is like the classic Golf power meter. By stopping the slider closest to the darkest area of the bar you get the most effective shot or most effective dodge. You aren’t trying to press the button when the slider is nearest the end of the bar every time as the most effective area is in a different place during each action. An active reload in Gears Of War might be a better analogy.
The game is narrative driven, but due to the nature of the demo I did not get to see much of it. When there was dialogue it was nicely presented with character portraits and the actual environments themselves were very well realised. Augmented Empire has a cyberpunk feel and is set in an imaginary location but still presents you with places that are recognisable. Going from a back alley to a graveyard, I saw glimpses of new technology, very befitting of an area that is inhabited by the poorest members of a future civilisation.
One thing I want to add about Augmented Empire is that it is a fun experience, talking mechanics and story doesn’t really put across how fun and intuitive it is to control little characters using your head. The controls are incredibly straight forward and as it is turn based you are never put under any time pressure to quickly move your head around bringing on motion sickness. The more or less static camera angles give you a clear view of the battlefield and again, stop any motion sickness. The story has you playing a character who is commanding these units from their armchair in a secret location using augmented reality, so it doesn’t feel weird to be sitting down either.
I’m not a huge VR guy but the simplicity of Augmented Empire’s control, the static camera angle and the fact that it being in VR is part of the story make the whole game come together in a way that wouldn’t really work on another platform. The only negative I have about the experience is the fact that the Gear VR button is on the side of the headset, but that isn’t AE’s fault.
If you would like more info on the game, you can check out the official site here.