Everslaught Invasion has had my attention firmly piqued. Fans of 6DOF Reviews may be aware that fast-traversal-centric action games are sort of my thing, so when the highly regarded PCVR action franchise was announced for Quest, I was excited.
Not having played the PCVR source material (my laptop is made of mashed potato and good intentions), I cannot directly compare. My research, however, indicates that Invasion could be best viewed as a riff on the Everslaught franchise rather than a dedicated port. With that in mind, I was able to enter my time with MOBX’s maiden voyage into mobile VR with relatively limited preconceptions and robustly high hopes.
For those of you who have shared my anticipation, I have some good news and bad news. Which do you want first?
SWING AND A MISS
Everslaught Invasion is an unapologetic wave brawler aiming to deliver fast-paced combat, intense movement, and a strong focus on melee combat. The scant narrative is delivered in the form of a stoically animated intro sequence, complete with a gritty voice-over and a sense of high melodrama. This brusquely extols the fact that you, dear player, are not only a warrior cleric but also humanity’s last hope of survival against a rather vague and generic invasion of darkness.
War and Peace, this is not.
With that out of the way, players can divest themselves of any notions of character or world-building and instead grab some sharp pointy things. Everslaught is not here to tell you a story. It’s here as an excuse for violence.
After an engaging tutorial, the player is free to roam the steampunk-inspired airship that is your base of operations, complete with an (initially) empty weapons rack and needlessly large war table. Here you can gear up, meet with fellow clerics for multiplayer shenanigans, or otherwise prepare for battle before being unceremoniously dropped directly into the carnage. It’s hardly a social hub, but it serves well as a staging ground and gives the basic functionality an appropriate sense of character.
LICENCE TO SKILL
Before beginning each run, players will need to choose from one of three upgradable classes to take into battle. Although there is a range of subtle nuances between the classes, the most noteworthy differences are the characters’ fortitude and the selection of ranged weapons at their disposal. Given that you will only have access to a single ranged weapon in each run choosing the right ballistic accompaniment can greatly affect the play style.
Perfecting a playstyle that takes advantage of a class’s particular speciality is one of the more engaging elements of Everslaught: Invasion. Whether it be a tank wielding high-damage explosive rounds, or a nimble rogue using shotgun blasts to clear a path there is decent versatility to be found. Play with the same character long enough and you will begin to earn permanent enhancements that will persist into each new run, as well as unlock previously unavailable weapons to take into battle.
Once in the thick of things, both your melee and ranged weapons can be upgraded multiple times throughout each run. Currency is earned from successful slaughter which is then paid into perk machines in between rounds to increase your stats across a range of traits. There are also skill points earned in each round which allow you to upgrade your character directly, with the movement upgrades adding another level of mobility to the combat.
These power-ups are limited to each run and in theory offer a variable that helps make each session unique, but the reality is that there is a very obvious pecking order to the utility of these perks. Before long players will have a standard order of preference and each time through the game will become more similar to the last.
One of the core elements of Everslaught’s gameplay loop is the blending of melee and ranged combat while balancing mobility and defensive strategy. Your left hand is equipped with a shield, a grappling hook and a ranged weapon, while your right hand is deliberately relegated to your primary melee weapon. Juggling all the auxiliary combat functions on one hand while having a hand designated solely to hitting things creates a dynamic with ample potential for fun.
Ammunition for the ranged weapons is poignantly limited, encouraging their use against more powerful opponents or in dire situations. Parrying a blow with a deftly raised shield, blasting an opening through the crowd with a barrage of gunfire, and then swinging across the map with a well-placed grappling hook is entirely enjoyable.
The Doom-like pacing of the game keeps the combat in a constant state of flux. Players trying to win pitched battles with sheer swordsmanship are in for a rude awakening as the game requires an almost perpetual, run-and-gun style approach to survive.
It’s easy to see what developers MobX were trying to achieve, and there could a great game somewhere with that vision. Unfortunately, despite the interesting mechanics and some solid ideas Everslaught Invasion is ultimately overwhelmed by the elements of the game that have gone awry.
If there is one thing that can stop a melee-based VR game from living up to its potential it is the abomination I call Wiggle Stick. There is nothing quite as unsatisfying and immersion-breaking in virtual melee combat as a game in which the velocity of your swings has little to no effect on the strength of your blows or slashes.
Although some weight is factored into how much damage is done, Everslaught Invasion ultimately suffers from Wiggle Stick so fatally as to frequently be laughable. During one multiplayer session, we completed a level by me using flicking motions from my wrist while Omar just walked to and fro into enemies with the blunt end of his battle axe. I spent another run lightly bopping enemies on the forehead with the same force one might use to very gently chastise a puppy with a rolled-up newspaper after finding a stain on the rug. This repeatedly resulted in enemy heads falling clean off as though I’d decapitated them with a chainsaw.
Even when all the other gameplay elements are firing on all cylinders, this single lacklustre implementation immediately cripples the tension, rendering the combat flaccid, ridiculous, and disappointing. This is unforgivable for a game that wagers its entire existence on combat.
Another big issue with Everslaught lies with its collision detection or lack thereof. Enemies occasionally attach to the player’s face, following inches away from the player’s view as though glued to the headset itself. There seems to be no virtual boundary that gives the player substance in the virtual world. Enemies pass through the player seemingly at will, existing within the player’s digital presence in a way that readily breaks immersion and, once again, reduces the combat to farce.
All of this is compounded by the unintuitive nature of the defensive mechanics. You cannot parry an enemy blow with your weapon so all sense of swordplay is instantly banished. This leaves the melee feeling thin, hollow, and completely one-dimensional. Successfully parrying with the shield is satisfying when you can manage it, but its execution is clumsy. When you’re lucky enough to activate it, the shield projects out in front of your arm, but will only stop those enemies that were striking as the shield deployed. Attacks delivered a fraction of a second afterwards will pass through the still deployed but suddenly immaterial shield, turning the entire defensive component into an exercise in frustration.
The levels in Everslaught Invasion are visually themed across a non-descript Middle Eastern palette. Each pair recycles the same assets in a slightly different configuration. Although they look good enough and are well-designed for the game’s style, they lose their appeal quickly due to repetition.
In each map, players fight off against several waves, interrupted by two incredibly boring task-driven sections. Sadly, each map will force the SAME two tasks on you, and they are among the most unimaginative and unsatisfying sections I’ve ever played in VR. Suffering them once would have been bad enough, but EVERY. SINGLE. TIME? This is the mission design equivalent of undergoing an involuntary lobotomy. This, in concert with all the issues already mentioned, means that reasons to continue playing Everslaught Invasion begin to dry up at an alarming rate.
THE LAST STRAW
Despite some solid concepts and well-paced action, Everslaught Invasion is a disappointing example of decent ideas being let down by poorly executed mechanics and game design. Perhaps this is just a testament to how difficult it is to deliver good melee combat in VR. One can only hope that, with a few improvements to the collision tracking and weapon weighting system, and a decent selection of additional challenges, Everslaught might be able to revive itself and live up to its considerable potential. Until then, those pining for the perfect arcade-style combat sim might be better off playing Resist or Swarm – or patiently waiting for games like Hellsweeper or Dead Hook, and hoping they’ll do far better.
TLDR : Summary
Despite some solid concepts and well-paced action, Everslaught Invasion is a disappointing example of decent ideas being let down by poorly executed mechanics and game design.