Usually when you go to get a new virtual reality (VR) game you either get a good story or amazing gameplay, and you rarely get both. When you grab your Oculus Go and head into the store you see a whole boatload of options for mini-games, experiences, and so forth.
But what if you're looking for more content on your headset? We all want a story that captivates our attention and sucks us into the lore of the world we're experiencing. Then, we want that game to be fun to play and not just two mechanics complimented by a good story.
Well, VR people, let me tell you about Augmented Empire.
A whole world of a crumbling society awaits
This is a strategy roleplaying game with choices that affect the environment around you. None of the choices you make will change how the story ends. I've done two playthroughs, each making the opposite decisions, and always ended up in the same place. That isn't to be discouraging, as the reactions to your actions still make the story that much more immersive. The creators over at Coatsink did a phenomenal job giving the story a slow build up and then slamming you with a feels train (within the first 20 minutes of gameplay) that causes the entire game to do a 180. I mean, seriously, I live for a great story and this title surely delivers.
Just from the trailer, you can see this game has a very cyber-punk utopia feeling to it, and that was the first thing that caught my attention. You can also see a bit of the gameplay, but this trailer doesn't show the full extent of it. In this game, you are a man named Craven - who mysteriously can't talk. When you activate on the table in the center of your office it turns into a 3D map of the world outside. This device will also serve as your main menu. So, why a 3D map of the world? Well, my friend, it's because you're in charge of making sure your partner Ashley is going to be okay, and this table can hack any piece of the environment inside of it.
That's right, they put augmented reality into your virtual reality game. Then they slammed a strategy system on top of it and completed the whole look with a heart-wrenching story. Are you sold yet?
Spectacular gameplay to boot
For each of your turns, you get two actions to either attack, move or use a special ability. When you're being attacked, you have a chance to evade the hit by either taking less damage or temporarily turning into pixels to avoid the shot altogether. If you hit the sweet spot during an enemy attack you'll give them a critical hit and take significantly more damage. This game will not only test your ability for quick thinking but your reflexes as well. While the tutorial might be forgiving, by allowing you to try again if you don't press a button, the rest of the game will not allow any do-overs. This means if a shot comes in you need to be prepared to hit the button while the meter is in the safe zone or you miss your chance to evade.
One of my favorite parts of the gameplay system with Augmented Empire is the fact you don't have to use all of your turns, and they don't go to waste either. You can choose to end your turn early, and your character will instead attack the next enemy in their sites during the opponent's turn. This gives you so many more means for logistical battle plans than your average strategy game.
Found yourself up against a Big Bad? No sweat. Get into a hiding position and end your turn. When he comes around to shoot you try just your best to avoid the attack and your partner will take a shot whenever she gets the chance to. No bullets are wasted here.
Build a team. Hit the vault. Make the trade.
You can find Augmented Empire on the Oculus Store for $9.99, which is an absolute steal considering how much great this game is. There are only two reasons why this game isn't a 5 out of 5 for me. The first is that I wish your words and actions had more of an impact on the story. I was really hoping to unlock something special in my second playthrough and was kind of sad to get the same ending. The other reason is that I wish there was more content to play. You can complete the entire game in 4-6 hours, depending on your dedication, and it just doesn't feel like enough. I know there can't be much done with the memory options on the Oculus Go, but I would love a game with the same lore as Augmented Empire that had some optional side quests to extend the gameplay as well. Instead, I'll be waiting with baited breath for a sequel, Coatsink.
Tell me what you think of Augmented Empire! Have you tried playing it, or do you intend on trying it out now? Drop a comment below or shoot me a Tweet @OriginalSluggo.
Essa Kidwell is an expert in all things VR and mobile devices who can always be found with an Oculus Go, a Pixel 2, and an iPhone 7+. They've been taking things apart just to put them back together for quite some time. If you've got a troubleshooting issue with any of your tech, they're the one you want to go to! Find them on Twitter @OriginalSluggo or Instagram @CosmeticChronus.