Dark Eclipse | Review | PSVR

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Sunsoft recently released not only the first official MOBA for Playstation VR, but also made it free for anyone who fancies dipping their toes in.

For anyone unfamiliar with the term, a ‘MOBA’ is a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena game. MOBA games tend to hold huge popularity in eSport circles. Mostly because the strategy involved makes for exciting competition if you understand what’s going on.

If you don’t understand what’s going on though, they can seem like quite the convoluted mess.

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What makes this one unique of course if the fact that it’s in full VR. So you can actually move the map around at your leisure, and watch the fighting unfold in glorious 3D in front of you.

Oddly enough the game has very few actual controls. It can be played on a single Move controller or half a Dualshock 4. It really just boils down to you dragging your characters (‘Leaders’) around the map and occasionally clicking on the environment or enemies, the rest is map manipulation. This will be good news for people who are intimidated at the idea of things like hot keys in more traditional MOBA fare.

The only part of the controls I found a little odd was moving your on screen *hand* (this represents your controller) out of field of view and double tapping the Move button to rotate the board. I don’t know if I was doing it wrong or not, but I felt like my board was a million miles away every time I did this and it took forever to get the orientation right. This was literally the only thing  struggled with control wise and I assume it was mostly just me being an idiot. If I was doing it correctly, this definitely could have been implemented smoother.

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Worth pointing out that despite this game being free, there are micro transactions. Everything from new and exciting Leaders to avatars, skins, on-screen hands and more…

Everything non-cosmetic can be earned with in-game XP. In fact some of the Leaders can ONLY be earned with in-game XP, so you definitely will either need to grind your way to a full roster or drop a small amount to pick up the ones you’re after. Currently they have quite a few deals going on in bundle packs though, so if you dig the game (and of course you can test it for free) then you’ll know if its worth dropping some hard earned cheddar on those goodies or better to just grind it out.

I will say, most of my favorite Leaders were ones that are purchasable, however I am still getting to grips with many of the characters, so don’t let that put you off.

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So let’s talk about the game itself.

Dark Eclipse is a very simple concept with a potential for deep strategy behind it. At the beginning of the game, you select three Leaders and your opponent selects three Leaders. You start the game on either side of landscape board. There are several that show up, in order to keep things fresh and interesting. You then set about moving your Leaders around the board to open up areas that are beyond your line of sight, by simply moving into them.

On the board are several things. First of all “Eaters” which are just random enemies natural to the environment. They vary in size, shape and difficulty. Killing these bad boys will net your Leaders the ability to level up faster, and thus be more influential in the game. There are even mega sized epic Eaters that will show up and fuck everybody up.

You, your enemy, everybody. Those are particularly cool.

Next up are Base nodes. These little purple areas show up in various places and can be used to build mini forwarding bases along the map. These bases have many uses, you can actually select which type you want to build, and dependent on which you choose, they’ll have different levels of sustainability and firepower. If you choose to fight an enemy in an area controlled by your base, it kind of becomes an extra warrior in its own right – reigning down hellfire on those who would try to take it, and you, out.

To build a base of course, you’ll need resources. These come in the form of trees that are littered around the environment. Each Leader has one or two little soldier types that follow them around and can be sent out to gather resources for base building purposes. They’ll also join in on the fights too, but don’t expect them to last long. The type of mini soldier you have can also be changed and upgraded from the original base you start and respawn at.

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So then, why are we doing all this base building and Eater stomping? What is the end goal here? Quite simply….to destroy your opponents main base. That’s it. Wreck that and it’s game over.

In one of my online matches a cheeky bugger kept sending a lone guy just to come and attack my base over and over again all by himself. Whilst it was a brazen move, the poor little guy continually just got #Rekt over and over. Eventually he gave up on that strategy., and eventually the match itself. Glad to see rage quitting is still alive and well.

Speaking of online. You can play this game against AI, friends, online (friendly) and online (ranked) I highly recommend starting out against the AI (after the tutorial) to get a handle on the ebbs and flows before taking on a human opponent. You’ll be glad you did.

Once you get it though, it really clicks. The strategy, the timing, the flanking and using of abilities. All building up to a crescendo of owning so much territory and being so powerful that the only logical move is to walk onto the opponents base and beat the shit out of it. Preferably whilst all three of their Leaders are respawning from a lost fight.

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The graphics are serviceable (I played on a PS4 PRO) but nothing dazzling. Considering the amount of on screen chaos from time to time with zero frame drops, i could kind of see why this might have been a wise choice on the developers behalf.

Graphics aside, what you will get in spades from Dark Eclipse is solid, lengthy gameplay. One match can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour depending on how well matched you are with an opponent. Sadly twice during my time playing i did receive a disconnection error that stopped the game mid-match, pretty frustrating after building everything up for such a long time and being in a prime position to make my move on the enemy base. I’m uncertain what caused the disconnects though. At least one of them had my opponent leave, the other was not explained. Hopefully this was mostly just an anomaly and not a regular occurrence.

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Dark Eclipse does exactly what it says on the tin. It is a well put together, enjoyable MOBA in full VR and at no charge to you. Unless you wish to play it a lot more with better options, in which case you can either grind or pay for more characters. Despite a few kinks with my online connections and board rotation skills, I really enjoyed the game and can definitely see myself getting sucked in on a regular basis. It has that “one more game” element to it that fans of the genre will know all too well.

If you own a PSVR, you owe it to yourself to give this one a shot.

Check some of my finer gameplay in the video below:

 

DARK ECLIPSE is available now to download for free on the PlayStation®4 Store.

Blind | Review | PSVR

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Blind is built from the ground up for VR.

Which is a phrase i don’t often get to say, but when i do, it always means you’re in for a little extra treat. Blind is no exception.

Why that little phrase means so much is because the developers took into consideration everything in the virtual environment whilst piecing together their vision. So everything from the visuals, the binaural audio, and very specifically the immersion level – go that extra mile.

In a case like Blind, they kind of have to.

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In Blind you play Jean, a young girl who has had a horrific accident and no longer has use of her sight. Bad time to wake up in a mansion with a creepy spiky-headed goon giving you the Jigsaw treatment then?

Jean soon comes to terms with her predicament and her captor is relatively calm and actually a little soothing, considering the situation.

He explains that you will need to partake in a bit of puzzle solving to find out why you are trapped in this house, but does not leave you alone in the dark. So far you’ve been relying totally on environmental audio to use your Daredevil-esque echolocation abilities. Ole’ spiky lends you something better for the journey.

A cane.

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You can whip your cane out in either hand by simply pressing the Move button. The fact it comes up so quickly and is so easily interchangeable is a god send given the amount of times you’re going to be using it over the next few hours.

Blind does indeed control solely through use of the Move controllers. The button layout isn’t terribly confusing, but it is a shame about the lack of VR control options. The most similar scheme i can think of is The Solus Project. You use the left controller buttons for Forward, Backward, Menu & Centering yourself. The right controller turns you 30 degrees incrementally in either direction and allows you to crouch – which you’ll use more than you think.

Hopefully later on the developers will consider adding a smooth turning option – frankly it should be standard at this point.

Although, it is worth pointing out you can kind of steer a bit with the direction your head is facing. Another welcome option when in the thick of things.

The game can be played standing up or sitting down, however if you have a couch set up similar to mine and are as care free with flinging useful items around as I am, you’ll be doing a bit of both. Honestly it’s only a short game, so if you’re looking for a recommendation – try standing first.

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After getting a handle on how to move, you have to get a handle on how to move in the dark. After all, you are blind.

To put it quite simply, you whack your cane against things to see the surrounding area. The bigger the whack, the more sound you make, the more you see. Sequential whacks will make it brighter, but don’t push it too far, you can actually hurt yourself if you go too cane crazy. As pointed out by Ole’ Spiky (correctly referred to as “The Warden“) you tend to get into a rhythm pretty quickly.

It does, however, take a lot longer to get into the rhythm of the puzzles.

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Early in the game i picked up a gem stone of some kind from a toolbox, which prompted an audio line – “I’m on the right track” I thought.

Wrong.

The gem promptly disappeared from my grip, leaving me to believe i had dropped it, glitched something out, and was now stuck forever in a dark room. As it turns out, I was being melodramatic. There are many of these stones dotted around the place. I’ve no idea what they mean, but once i figured that out i felt a lot better about the situation and decided to proceed as normal.

The game does little in the way of holding your hand, which i suppose is appropriate given your situation. Occasionally you might get lucky with a voice line that hints at something, but largely you just have to be very observant of your environment. Plenty of things are DEEPLY hidden away, in draws, behind books on bookshelves, behind innocuous paintings. Dig deep friends.

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“But Tom”, you may ask. “Why the hell am I in this mansion to begin with?” Great question. Unfortunately that’s on you to find out. As you make your way through the labyrinth of doors and staircases you’ll begin to discover things about your family.

Bad things.

When you were in your accident – the one that left you blind – you had your little brother in the car with you. He is seemingly nowhere to be found. So that is pressing issue number one. Everything beyond that is an intricately woven narrative of domestic abuse and disfunction. One that The Warden seems dead set on having you relive, to some extent.

Things definitely get a little intense towards the end. I won’t spoil it, but if you were wondering if you’d be ok playing this if you did not like horror games. I might steer clear.  Just to be safe. Even I was a little on edge at times, Anything that hunts by sound is inherently terrifying right?

I’ve said too much…

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Of course Blind isn’t the first of its kind. An earlier PSVR release by the name of ‘Stifled‘ claimed a similar mechanic and vibe, but the two are innately different in presentation and play style. It’s an unfair comparison outside of the echolocation mechanic. Blind is leaps and bounds ahead of Stifled in terms of presentation, and i really liked Stifled.

The voice acting is welcome, but stiff in places. With the exception of Jean’s mother, who nails her scenes well and brought about genuine emotion in me.

My only other major complaint is that the ending definitely could have been stronger. The entire game took me around 2 to 3 hours to complete, I did it in one sitting. Considering how strong the family drama narrative was at the beginning and throughout most of the middle sections of the game, despite the big reveal (which was well implemented stylistically) and the overall change of pace (which was stellar) the *actual* end was kind of….meh.

Maybe i built it up too much in my head? Maybe it should have ended on the reveal?

It wasn’t bad, by any means, it just felt a little like it was shoe horning existentialism into something that already had strong, dramatic roots in reality.

All in all, Blind was time well spent. The thing about virtual reality is that an experience as unusual as this one will stick with you. It almost becomes a false memory of “that time you were blind and fumbling ’round a mansion with Ole’ Spiky” Weird how that works. If nothing else i have new found respect for those of us in society who don’t get to take the headset off, and really do have to use a cane to *see* the world around them.

There is no other medium that can give you that experience.

Built from the ground up.

Tom’s full gameplay experience (with no commentary) was captured above. If you plan on picking this up, avoid watching too far in for fear of spoilers.

You have been warned. 

Blind is now available for PSVR. Oculus Rift & HTC Vive.