For many people, the dream of being a space-bound fighter pilot has been instilled in them since they first saw the Death Star run in Star Wars. It’s something that was probably compounded when they booted up Wing Commander in the early 90’s, and doubly so by the X-wing and Tie Fighter games later in that decade.
Then, for whatever reason, games of that sort fell out of favour and began making way for the rise of the first person shooter. A recent resurgence, by way of games like Elite Dangerous (and eventually, Star Citizen) have reignited those dreams – but that’s what they remain. Dreams. Eve: Valkyrie in VR makes those dreams real. As its full name suggests, it’s set within the EVE universe but eschews that game’s complicated economies to deliver a pretty simple, but very effective, arcade dogfighting game.
In it, you play as a cloned pilot working for a space pirate gang called Valkyrie. You’re a clone of a pilot who died during some great big space battle – with your consciousness uploaded to a new clone whenever you die. It’s a neat way to both cheat death and narratively frame the fact that you’ll be dying and respawning a heck of a lot. When you first boot up the game, you get to run through your own demise as a single player tutorial mission. It takes about 20 minutes to play through, and ends just as it’s about to become really interesting – with you, dying in a fiery mass. There is, unfortunately, not too much else to do in single player beyond what the game calls “ Chronicles” – a bit of training for the different classes of ships available. It’s really quite a shame, as the game would benefit from a lengthy, narrative-driven campaign. I know I’d play the hell out of it.
It’s really all about the multiplayer here. In your first games, you’ll be paired up with real players and tasked with bringing down a team of enemy pilots. And man, is it good. It’s surreal, looking at your own shoulders in VR, staring at the cockpit and looking out in to space. This sort of seated cockpit experience is actually perfect for VR – and it’s more than just a visual thing, adding a gameplay benefit. While you’ll use the DualShock to great effect to pilot and throttle your ship and fire off your canons, you’ll use your gaze to lock on to targets for firing missiles at them, giving you another set of axes that you control with your face.
And it really is exhilarating, with a really fluid combat that’s exceptionally good at convincing your brain that you are genuinely moving. It’s rewarding too, as my first online kill had me exuberantly pumping my first in the air like somebody from a 90’s hype commercial. There are a number of 8v8 mission types across a few spacey locales – like asteroid belts, another with wrecked spaceships. They all sort of blur together, because there’s not too much you can do within the confines of open space, which seems like a silly thing to say.
There are just three modes available. Regular Team Deathmatch, which is just what it says on the tin. There’s also Control, which is similar to Team Deathmatch in its core objective, but also adds in control points that you need to capture to drain away at the other team’s clone pool faster.
The last mode, Carrier Assault, was added to the Rift version as DLC and is included in the PSVR version off the bat. It’s easily the best one. It’s an objective-based mode that’s very much like a certain famous scene from a famous movie that may or may not involve blowing up a planet-sized weapon of mass destruction. Your team has to take down a few power relays which disables shields for a limited time. You’ll then have to take out some cooling nodes, which will cripple the carrier’s defences. You’ll have to deal with a number of active turrets while you do this. If you manage to expose the core, you’ll have to access it through a trench and oh my god you guys, it’s like playing Star Wars only without all that licensed stuff. Subtle, it is not.
While this is all happening, the enemy team is trying to out-Star Wars you – and it results in a heck of a lot of shifting in the balance of power. It’s great.
There is one very big problem with EVE: Valkyrie, beyond its lack of single player content. It’s a micro-transactions minefield, and they’re the pay to win sort. With currency, you’re able to buy cosmetic fluff, as well as important stuff like pilot boosts and better ships. While you can earn currency in the game, it’s a lot quicker and easier to just buy the stuff. While that would be fine in a free to play game, EVE Valkyrie is a full priced one – which severely diminishes its luster.