[Game Review] Augmented Empire: System Shock Meets X-Com

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I’ve been hanging out at Amanda’s house a lot frequently. But you know me, I have to get my VR fix. When I’m not in VR, I want to be in VR. When I’m in VR, I want better VR. There is no helping me, an intervention would accomplish nothing at this stage.

Anyway I naturally brought my Gear VR along. Yes, I’ve heard about Oculus Go and am interested. It’s just hard to justify when it’ll play the same games as Gear VR. I might still get it though. But recently what I’ve been playing the most on Gear VR is Augmented Empire.

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Augmented Empire is in the tactical RPG genre. Like Final Fantasy Tactics basically. Battles take place on a grid, each character in your party gets two action points. Typically one is used to move, the other is used to shoot, but as you upgrade your characters many new options open.

Want one character to lay down covering fire during the enemy’s turn? Want a character to automatically shoot at the first enemy that comes out from behind cover even after your turn is over? These are all made possible with augments.

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In this respect the game feels very System Shock-y. Or even Deus-Ex like. The theme is hard to pin down though. It isn’t straight up cyberpunk since many elements of the game world are very retro, like the clothing and architecture. It’s an alt history where an apocalyptic event flooded the world.

What remained of humanity used nuclear bombs to create an artificial island called New Savannah. But as they lacked horizontal space to expand, they just kept building upward. The lower classes live on the bottom level, middle classes above them and so on in a literal class structure.

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The story is engrossing. Surprisingly so, as I don’t normally get into RPG storylines. It’s clear, easy to follow and emotionally engaging. You really feel invested in the small but growing resistance movement which you’re in control of.

Being a VR exclusive title might seem odd since it’s not immediately apparent how it benefits from it. But having proper depth perception really makes the little isometric chunks of the world “pop”. They’re also tilted towards you somewhat so you don’t have to crane your neck too far down to see the action.

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It supports basically any control scheme you want. I play with an Xbox One S control pad for comfort even though the game uses only one button. It supports the Gear VR motion controller as well, letting you indicate laser pointer style where you want the character to go, among other things.

It can be had for $10 from Oculus Home at the time of writing. Being that it’s a Gear VR exclusive, the market for it is somewhat limited. Unsurprising then that Facebook fronted the money for veteran developer Coatsink to make this gem. It’s exclusives like this that will sell headsets. I give it a 9/10.

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