Eve: Valkyrie is a space based dogfighting sim, based in the Eve online universe. Having never really had much interaction with any of the previous games or any knowledge of said universe, I jumped in completely new to the whole history and ins and outs, but the game does an ok job of bringing you up to speed. The big selling point for me was the fact that I was in a space ship, fighting other space ships, and it was all done in VR – I mean, the inner child in me is getting excited at simply typing out that sentence, so how does the game hold up?
Sitting in the cockpit and looking down at your body, clad in a black leather jumpsuit, controls in hand, is quite an exciting experience. From your cockpit view you can look around and see the dials and instruments around your cockpit, which does vary slightly from ship to ship (and can be customised by unlocking new cockpit skins through multiplayer) but the basic layout of them all is the same – Health and Shield displayed directly ahead via a HUD set against the glass of the cockpit, a monitor off set from line of sight that can be looked at when needed to remind you of the current objective, radars and pop ups telling you who you are shooting or who is shooting at you all help increase the illusion of you sitting in a futuristic space ship mid-battle. Blasting forward and hearing the other pilots chat and discuss the current mission through your headset as you look around is completely exhilarating, then as the fun begins and you shoot and roll and dodge enemy fire, all in virtual reality, is truly an experience enhanced by VR. As much as the game itself provides these moments, the biggest benefit that it has is the “newness” and novelty that doing so much of what has been done before, but in VR, and this is both a blessing and a curse, but more on that in a bit.
Firing up the single player campaign you are blasted straight into a mission, and are immediately killed. This is then quickly explained – every time you die your consciousness is instantly transported into a clone at the exact moment of death, ready to rinse and repeat and do it all again. The storyline itself is relatively straight forward, and after a few initial training missions that get you up and running with the controls and then the three main class of ship, the single player campaign doesn’t take too long to complete.
Eve: Valkyrie is composed of two main parts – a single player campaign, Chronicles, and a multiplayer component simply called Combat, and it is here that the game is heavily focused. Eve: Valkyries main strength is that it takes what we have seen before and adds an extra sheen of magic in the form of VR – looking around the cockpit and tracking and enemy fighter as it zooms over head is an amazing experience, if a slightly nauseating one. This is doubled by the fact that you control the flight of your ship with the controller, but aim with the headset. This did take a bit longer to get used to than I anticipated, and I still found myself adjusting the pitch and yaw of my ship as I focused on a ship instead of simply adjusting my head. Being a newbie to this VR thing, Eve: Valkyrie did catch my stomach doing a few flips, particularly when I brought my ship into a barrel roll or a loop the loop as I tried to avoid enemy fire, or pull of the various steep turns and loops as I flew through rings during the tutorial missions. This did start to ease the longer I played, but every now and again I would do something or pull off some manoeuvre that would just remind me that what my brain was saying was at odds with what my body was feeling. I did feel that this was also hindered by the fact that I have moved house recently and was making do with a temporary set up, perched on the edge of a bed with limited room to manoeuvre. Not since the Wii or the Kinect has room space been such a vital component of a gaming set up, and although Eve is designed to be played sitting down, having the space to look up and around you is crucial in order to be able to track enemies as they swoop and zoom around you and with that in mind I do look forward to sitting in a swivel chair and being able to look around with a bit more freedom than I currently can, particularly as this is crucial to aiming and getting the best out of your ship.
Besides the short single player campaign, Eve: Valkyrie feels heavily weighted towards the multiplayer PvP component, and luckily this works well. All the joy of the single player campaign carries over nicely, but with the added bonus that playing against others brings. Skirmishes are intense, with plenty going on around you to get involved in, but there does feel like there is an obvious downside to this as should you wish you can choose to booster your chances of a win by purchasing implants for you pilot with real world money. This does take off some of the allure, as how can you ever tell if you were just plucked out the sky by sheer skill, or someone who had paid to boost themselves to a victory? This does feel like a bit of a cheat, and in-game purchases still feel a bit cheap to me particularly in a full priced title.
One of my biggest gripes towards Eve: Valkyrie is the sometimes tricky to navigate menus. Making use of the VR headset, options within the menus can be selected using a mixture of the controller and by looking at them, which sounds simple enough in theory, but can be a nuisance to pull of in practice. I found myself leaning forward and even standing up at some points to try and access certain submenus such as to look at the ships or various upgrades I had unlocked through levelling up in battle, and it all just felt a bit fiddly for something that should be relatively simple. On that point, be aware that the single player aspect of the game can also find itself hidden away once the initial tutorial missions have been completed. After the last of the main tutorial missions you are instructed to go off and try your hand at multiplayer, taking you off into another menu – fine, all well and good so far. I played a few team based skirmishes before having to take a break for a while, then coming back and booting the game up again I was instantly taken straight into the multiplayer menu to continue where I left off – again, fine, no problems, until I began to wonder what had happened to the single player campaign? This had become hidden, and in order to return to it I had to choose to quit my session – at first I thought this meant quit the whole game and return to the main menu, but it simply meant quit my multiplayer session and return to access the single player and Scouting missions. I consider myself quite an experienced gamer, but this is not particularly well explained, and coupled with the novelty of VR, especially if like me you are new to it all, is only a hindrance rather than a help.
So how does Eve: Valkyrie hold up? If you enjoy large space battles, Eve does have an appealing arcade like feel to it’s gameplay, and fights feel tight and well-managed, especially when you are matched with a decent team. Pair this off with the fact that it is one of the first VR titles to do this, and the attraction of sitting in a space ship and zooming around in space increases dramatically, and the whole package is a decent, well-rounded one. The main reason I had to put Eve: Valkyrie down was not because of lack of enjoyment on my part, but because my body was starting to sense something was up and I would feel slightly nauseous, but this was only very mild and did fade after a short break. A short but satisfying single player campaign coupled with the multiplayer focus makes Eve: Valkyrie one of the stronger of the PSVR launch titles, and is definitely worth a look.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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