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Hands-on with the brilliant RTS Tactera demo on Oculus Rift

Use wits and planning to overcome AI opponents in this exciting and cerebral realtime strategy game for the Rift.

Remember Darknet? Released in 2014 as a demo for the DK1 headset, it wowed everyone in the VR community with it’s clever hacker-inspired gameplay. Developed by E McNeill, the game is still in development and due for release in early 2016 alongside the Oculus Rift CV1; but in the meantime, E McNeill is back with an RTS game called Tactera. Originally released for the Oculus Mobile VR Jam in May, a demo of the game is now available for the Oculus Rift, so in we dived to check it out…

Set on a holographic tabletop, Tactera challenges players with capturing multiple spawn-points on a map while an AI enemy attempts to do the same. It’s classic RTS gameplay, with the ability to command tanks, bombers and missile-launchers, but in virtual reality the experience really comes to life with the ability to lean in for a closer look and plan a route ahead.

Load the game and you’ll find yourself on the deck of a futuristic ship. A holographic display illuminates into life in front of you, acting as the games menu with options for starting a new game or configuring settings. There are three maps available in the demo, with a limited selection of unit types to play with which include bombers, slow-boing tanks, blimps and speedy buggies. Once you’re ready you’re thrown into battle, with the enemies forces to the left-side of the map and yours on the right. In the middle of the map are multiple capture points, each with its own form of self defence. It’s your job to capture these points, convert them into playable units and then take over the base of your opponent. It’s classic RTS gameplay, and oh-so addictive. At times the battlefield is swarming with units, while above, bombers drop dozens of missiles onto the field below. You’ll need to keep an eye on the enemy, who will often attempt to flank your units, so it’s best to target multiple spawn points at once with missile launchers before sending in tanks.

Controlling your units is remarkably easy on the Oculus Rift. Just look at a unit point, press the A button on the controller to select it, look at a capture point then press A once again. Units automatically fire or roll-out, leaving you to focus on another point and make progress elsewhere on the map. Before long you’ll be frantically controlling multiple units, watching as hundreds of tanks, bullets and rockets whizz across the map. It’s addictive, frantic RTS gameplay at its best. Graphically there’s much to appreciate. The holographic units and tabletop look suitably sci-fi, and it’s easy to distinguish between unit types, with yours coloured blue and the enemies orange. Audio too perfectly suits the game, with radioed dialogue to let you know when a unit is awaiting orders and a subtle music track that keeps the gameplay feeling upbeat.

It’s surprising that (to date) there haven’t been more RTS games for the Oculus Rift, because virtual reality is the perfect medium for this genre of gameplay. It’s immersive, works best as a seated experience and requires the player to really examine the battlefield before making a decision; all of which means the Oculus Rift, with its head and positional-tracking, is the perfect tool for playing this type of game. If you’re looking for a cerebral Rift experience, then Tactera is definitely worth checking out. We can’t wait to see the full game in the near future.

Download Tactera Demo  |  Tactera Website