Phaser Lock Interactive was one of the first developers to jump into development for the HTC Vive. Final Approach, the studio’s first VR game, came out alongside the Vive and was later adapted to Oculus Rift. Final Approach explored the concept of creating VR games with a “god perspective” instead of first-person, and it proved that a top-down third person view can work well in VR. Now the company is preparing to release Twisted Arrow, its second VR title in less than a year, and it's a big departure from the third-person gameplay Phaser Lock Interactive handled so well in Final Approach.
Shortly after Final Approach shipped, John Nagle, one of Phaser Lock Interactive’s co-founders, departed the company and launched a smaller studio called Gyoza Games with John Sommer. It’s unclear why Nagle left the studio he helped create not long before, but maybe it had something to do with the direction the studio took following Final Approach. Nagle and Sommer went on to create Inbound, which is another “god-perspective” VR game, whereas Phaser Lock Interactive departed from “god-perspective” for its next game; the developer turned to first-person.
“We’re excited to bring fast-paced, arcade-style action to players in VR with Twisted Arrow,” says Michael Daubert, CEO of Phaser Lock Interactive. “From the beginning of the game, we drop you in the center of the action that really gets your heart pumping as you leave a path of destruction and carnage. You’re in for the fight of your life! You will work up a sweat in Twisted Arrow, dodging and weaving your way through enemy forces with over the top action that will test your stamina and overall combat skills in VR.”
Who Brings A Bow To A Gun Fight?
Twisted Arrow is a first-person bow and arrow shooter. Instead of an arsenal of guns, you get the Manticore, a top-secret military combat bow with high-tech abilities and a selection of arrows with a variety of special powers.
Your primary ammo is the steel-reinforced carbon Maxflight 3000 arrow, which is a one-shot kill against the most common enemies. You get an unlimited supply of the Maxflight arrows, and they don’t cost you anything to fire them off. But the basic ammo isn’t sufficient to get you through a group of baddies or destroy some of the larger targets. For those, you need one of the specialty arrows.
The Manticore arsenal includes five arrow classes with special powers, which you can select with the thumbpad or thumbstick on the controller in your arrow hand. The specialty arrows help you get through certain tasks, but each one requires energy from your bow, which is a limited resource. The Manticore’s energy capacity is 100 units; the charge regenerates automatically, but the specialty shots drain energy much faster than it regenerates.
The Hydra Arrow MBG-5 costs 35 energy and fires five arrowheads that lock onto targets. If you fire at a cluster of paramilitary soldiers, the MBG-5 will kill up to five of them, guaranteed. The arrowheads from the MBG-5 will even seek out scouts and snipers hiding on perches above your head. The Cryo-Shot 1-O-9, which allows you to freeze a small cluster of enemies and take them out one by one with the Maxflight arrows, is slightly more affordable at 25 energy units.
The quiver of specialty ammo also offers Mine Arrow T-E-480 shots, which feature proximity charges that you can place near unsuspecting enemies. You can place mines on any surface, and when someone moves within their detection field, they explode and send everyone around iflying. Mine Arrows cost 45 energy.
If you find yourself needing something stronger than the Hydra Arrow or Cryo-Shot, and a Mine Arrow won’t do, you could pull out an Exploding Arrow C-E-7-10, which packs an anti-tank warhead that knocks out enemies in a 10-yard radius. The exploding arrows are perfect for taking out aircraft overhead. They also come in handy when you encounter a giant “kaiju-scale” monster. Each exploding arrow costs 65 energy units, though, so you must be strategic with their use.
Aside from shooting magical arrows, the Manticore bow features a retractable shield that you can pull out at any time to deflect incoming bullets. The shield draws power from the bow like the specialty arrows, so you must use it sparingly. Though, it draws from its own dedicated energy reservoir and doesn’t detract you from using your weaponry. To use the shield, press the trigger button on the bow controller.
The Manticore is also your ticket into any secure system. The bow features a remote hacking ability that can override consoles that control security gates and enemy turret systems. Simply place your bow in the proximity of the device you wish to control, and the bow will take care of the rest.
Not Another Wave Shooter
Twisted Arrow is an arcade-style FPS game, but it's not another stationary wave shooter. The game features a locomotion system reminiscent of the platform-hopping mechanic Insomniac Games used for The Unspoken. It also reminds me of Epic Games’ Robo Recall. Twisted Arrow uses a teleport locomotion system to move around, but you don’t get the freedom of choosing where to place the marker. Phaser Lock’s developers set predefined locations for you to hop to and from. To move, you must press the menu button on the arrow controller. The menu button reveals all the spots that are within range to hop to. Point at the space you wish to move to, and let go of the menu button to teleport there.
Once you become familiar with the controls, it becomes second nature to switch locations in the middle of a fight to get the drop on a group of enemies. We found ourselves switching from spot to spot quickly, and taking out nearby enemies at every stop.
We also noticed that the more risks we took, the more often we seemed to be getting drops. Every so often you’ll find a power up box which contains energy or health. As far as we can tell, the drops come at random times, but if you put yourself in harm's way and live to tell the tale, the game appears to reward you with health and energy so you can continue at the same pace.
Phaser Lock Interactive said Twisted Arrow features six missions and three difficulty levels, and it will take you approximately 4-6 hours to complete the game. So far. we've completed the first mission and failed at completing the second mission, and we would agree with the developer about the length of the game. Though, eventually, the game will receive more missions and deeper gameplay: Phaser Lock Interactive said it would follow up with DLC for the game after evaluating player feedback to cater to the fans' desires.
It’s Not Perfect Yet
Phaser Lock Interactive is putting the final touches on Twisted Arrow in preparation for a mid-March launch, but the game is not without its bugs. We were given access to a pre-release copy of the game, which is close to completion, but we ran into a game-breaking bug in the first mission. We could slip through an armed gate before destroying the generator that powers the electric fence. Once we slipped past it, we were no longer able to destroy the generator, which prevented a triggered event from occurring. Which effectively killed our run and forced us to restart the mission.
Keep in mind; we're running incomplete software, so bugs are par for the course. Phaser Lock Interactive has time to correct the problem before the game ships later this month.
Twisted Arrow will be available for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift on Steam and Oculus Home for $25. Phaser Lock Interactive said the game would launch with a temporary 25% discount.