I’ve always been a pretty huge advocate of Virtual Reality, especially PS VR. I think PlayStation has brought a great product to the mass market. The product was always going to live or die based on the support it got and Vertigo Games is one developer who has committed. Skyworld is their second high profile VR title after the critically acclaimed Arizona Sunshine. It’s great to see a developer commit to bringing a variety of experiences to any platform never mind such a niche platform. This is a real time strategy game where you can float about the battlefield allowing you to observe and control the whole situation. It’s a brilliant idea and really suitable to VR.
You use the PlayStation Move controllers as your in game avatar’s hands. This allows you to pick up units and buildings and move them around the huge war table that’s in front of you. Right from the off, it’s a really cool and empowering feeling.
One of the most important things to know is that Skyworld is really accessible in numerous ways. The first being the VR controls itself, the second being that the gameplay starts off very simple. All your units are part of your ‘deck’ which is represented by a book which floats alongside you. It’s really easy to understand and use. Skyworld is fully a strategy game with you at the centre and it excels at that.
Skyworld could be considered a tower defense. It could be considered a deck builder. It could be a city sim. But it’s a turn-based RTS which seems contradictory… but there are no arguments allowed.
There are a lot of systems in play and the difficulty does fairly ramp up after the first few missions. This might put some off but I enjoyed being genuinely challenged to understand the game mechanics fully as quickly as possible. Every mission begins with a similar set up, Demons have infested the land and you, the King, need to take action and drive them out. There is a story, you will be talked at by characters but it’s simple fantasy fair and the gameplay loop is the real draw here. Thanks to a campaign, skirmish mode and daily challenges for additional XP, there’s plenty of options open to the player.
You’ll begin by using your resources to build up your forces. You’ll need a kingdom to defend after all. The controls are very user friendly, as there are only set places to build certain buildings, which ensures you won’t get frustrated trying to fit buildings into certain locations to be told no for nonsense reasons. Once you have your buildings, you’ll assign workers to start generating more resources such as wood and food. One mechanic involves you choosing what level you’ll tax citizens at. Get this number right and you’ll encourage more people to join your land.
After you’ve exhausted your options, you can end your turn and recover some resources thanks to your workers and citizens. Starting strong is a huge boon in Skyworld as it’ll mean a more powerful army. So now that you have a kingdom you’ll need an army. Beginning with a general who’ll scout out the surrounding area for you then you’ll move on to more impressive forces.
The loop of constantly widening your kingdom and strengthening your army as you uncover more territory is excellent. The more citizens you have, the more taxes you can collect and this gold goes into expansion and improving your army in order to prepare for battles.
Battles are fantastic fun and begin when you move into the same space as an enemy general or when you have to defend your castle from invaders. You’ll also be able to attack opponent’s castles. Battles take place in a different arena, a smaller table with two fortresses at either end.
Battles use a mana system, mana slowly builds allowing you to bring more units into play. This is not turn based, it’s real time and much more intense. Now you get why it’s a turn based RTS. This is a wonderful way to shake gameplay up because the thrill of victory in these battles is epic.
You’ll finish levels when you destroy your opponents castle. This can be a slow process if you really focus on defense and building up your own resources or you can trust in your own strategic wit and go for an all out assault early on. If you lose a general it’ll cost you gold to replace him and risk in Skyworld is rarely rewarded. Instead, it is best and most enjoyable to be methodical. Seeing your hard work pay off with a really impressive kingdom is rewarding before you even begin winning battles. Expanding your empire gives you extra support in battles and this can be the difference between life and death.
The production value in Skyworld is amazing. I was really impressed by how smooth the graphics are. They aren’t unique or flashy but they really serve to get the job done and most importantly; immerse the player. The sounds are the same. While the music is totally fine, the true genius is in the effects. Hearing the sounds of the enemies, workers and even just nature coming from the table really serves to invite you into the experience.