If you told me that one of my favorite virtual reality experiences at GDC 2017 would be a real-time strategy game, I would have called you nuts. But even pit against a sea of immersive VR action games, it was Brass Tactics that won me over like few other titles could.
Due this October exclusively for Oculus Rift, Brass Tactics takes a notoriously complex genre and makes playing it as simple – and as fun – as moving pieces around in a real-life board game. And after my first frantic multiplayer match, I want more.
Brass Tactics has the same basic premise as any real-time strategy game. You build up bases, summon all types of soldiers and vehicles, and command your army to destroy the enemy. But instead of furiously clicking a mouse, you’ll be navigating a huge interactive battlefield and placing buildings and giving orders by using natural hand motions on the Oculus Touch controllers.
Playing Brass Tactics feels like participating in the most intense board game I’ve ever experienced. You can raise and lower the playing field like it was a physical table in front of you, and zoom from base to base with quick grabs and swipes.
Playing Brass Tactics feels like participating in the most intense board game I’ve ever experienced.
Want to set up a new base or add an upgrade to your castle? You simply grab one from your inventory of buildings and place them on the board. Need to command your army of tanks to destroy an enemy fortification? Simply point at them, squeeze the trigger, and drag them where you want to go. One of my favorite features was the on-screen catapult, which I was able to load and launch like it was part of the physical medieval playsets I used to play with as a kid.
While I had some help from the game’s developers, I found that everything just kind of worked the way I expected it to. And I stink at real-time strategy games.
But somehow I was able to hold my own in Brass Tactics – to the point that my match against my colleague (and much better RTS player) Marshall Honorof ended in a stalemate. While playing a standard RTS is a matter of clicking around a battlefield to make sure everything’s going right, playing Brass Tactics was intensely physical.
I was constantly flailing my arms, hovering around different parts of the map to deploy more forces, defend my base and send units to attack the enemy keep. It’s the kind of multitasking that’s actually fun.
Designed by genre veteran Mark Terrano and the folks at Hidden Path Entertainment (Defense Grid 2 VR, Age of Empires II HD), Brass Tactics aims to appeal to both RTS newbies like myself and hardcore strategy fans.
The game will offer a full single player campaign filled with varying AI opponents, a co-operative mode and standard competitive multiplayer. You’ll be able to outfit your base with 20 different upgrades, as well as master 18 different types of units that can dominate on foot, in the skies and in heavy vehicles.
Like the recently released Halo Wars 2, Brass Tactics is shaping up to be the kind of real-time strategy game that can pull casual players in while providing plenty for competitive fans to sink their teeth into. The fact that it’s one of the most novel VR experiences I’ve had yet is a nice bonus.