The attendant hands me a DK2, putting it on I find myself inside a cockpit. The room is dark around me aside from a few blinking lights. I turn to my right, someone has written “clean me” on the cockpit windshield, and I laugh. Clicking L3 on my controller I bring up my team chat and ask if anyone had discovered the little easter egg yet, no one had but they all shared the same reaction as I did.
Suddenly, the lights flick on and the voice of the computer fills the cockpit as the engines begin to warm up. The computer runs me through a series of prelaunch checks as a set of red magnetic rails warms up. In front of me a cockpit HUD flicks to life, displaying a triangular minimap in front of me. This map works somewhat similarly to the one in Elite Dangerous, with depth cues to help you understand where the enemies are in relation to your space. To the map’s left is a display showing the current secondary weapon load, in this case missiles, four of them in fact and to the map’s right is a velocity display. Completing the checks the door to space opens and I am promptly shot out into it, the velocity causing the nose of my ship to tilt upwards. As I drop into space the roar of my takeoff deadens in my ears as the vacuum of space takes over. I take a moment to assess my surroundings.
The scene is a ship graveyard, the remnants of a massive battle. Hunks of gigantic ships float throughout the space around me, complete with massive gaps for the player to weave in between. This is representative of the map progression which is essential to the game’s story line. In the initial single player mission, you are helping to escort a convoy of transport ships. A routine mission, as the voice over your comms chimes in. But being a video game, the routine quickly turns into an ambush as an armada of enemy ships suddenly warp in. The massive battle concludes with a giant orb shaped ship (think a black death star) warps into the scene and fires a massive charge cannon ripping apart both you and the rest of your fleet. This multiplayer map takes place in the graveyard of that battle.
There are three checkpoints labeled in my HUD, these are the control points that need to be taken, King of the Hill style, in order to add score multipliers to each kill. They work by deploying a drone near the site, the team with the most drones by the mark holds it. Each player is only afforded one drone however, so it makes for interesting strategy decisions.
I hold down A, engaging boost as I rush to lay down the first drone. I drop it off on a quick flyby just as I see a red target square appear in my periphery. Sensing the impending attack, I dive into the debris, weaving my way through to come back around the bottom. I pop back up behind the enemy just as he passes over top. Holding down the left trigger I hear a series of beeps as each of my four missiles locks on to the target, I smile malevolently as I release the trigger unleashing a torrential downpour of fire power on the unsuspecting target… or at least so I thought.
My opponent reacts quickly, hearing the incoming missile alarms he engages the ship’s missile defense system – a set of auto turrets, one on each side of the ship – which promptly destroy two of the four missiles en route. I knew that he wouldn’t be able to do that again, if only I could get my missiles out again before his defense systems reach their cool down timer. I check my HUD, my missiles were still reloading, damn! Plan B time. I start blindly firing my gatling gun, trying to match the square in my hud indicating how far to lead my target. A few rounds land home and the target triangle surrounding the enemy ship pulses with each hit.
Continuing to track the enemy in front of me, he takes a sharp upward turn, engaging his boost in an evasive maneuver. I try to match his move but begin to lose him in my sights… And then I remember that I am in a Rift. I look above me, following him with my gaze through the top of the canopy. A quick glance down at the missile HUD, locked and loaded. I break out of the loop, and flip a quick 180, my opponent in front of me again I line up behind him like Vader on Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing, listening to the beeps of my missiles locking in. I engage the boosters cutting the distance quickly between us, and let loose a salvo. This time it was too fast for him, and all four missiles connected with a direct hit. Crippled I knew I had him on the ropes.
But like Han Solo and the Millennium Falcon swooped in at the last minute and saved Luke’s butt, so did a squadron of his red teammates. Alarms exploding in my head, I try to engage the defenses, but it was simply too much as three ships all unleashed a full payload of missiles on me at once.
It was over in a flash. The canopy shatters in front of me, exposing my body to the cold of space. A defining crackle surrounds me as the instruments and my body begin to crystalize. The screen fades to black as I let out an exasperated sigh. Next time.
I fade back in on a room with clones around me resting in chambers. In the center is a holographic display with two ships on it, the Wraith which I was just in and the new heavy class ship, the Spectre Heavy MKI. The second ship is equipped with much heavier armor than the Wraith but consequentially has a slower speed although it is equipped with a “micro warp drive” that allows it to hop large distances quickly, albeit on a cool down. Instead of the missiles on the Wraith, the Spectre has a set of head tracked flack cannons, which do spray damage and lock on to the enemy ships in about the same way as the missiles. Additionally, instead of an auto turret defense system, the Spectre is equipped with an electromagnetic shield which blocks missiles and gunfire. What is really cool about this shield though is that if you fire your flack cannons through it they become charged with an EMP blast which can temporarily disable your enemy for about four or five seconds allowing you time to pounce and blow them out of the sky.
The Wraith counters the firepower of the Spectre with its speed and maneuverability, which are key in a dogfight scenario. Ultimately it is up to player preference, but having at lease one Spectre on your team seems to be a wise move, if only because they can act as a bit of a tank and help absorb fire.
I don’t claim to be amazing at video games. I love them, but I am more of a casual gamer. So when I first played Elite Dangerous I was a little overwhelmed by how complex the game was. For some gamers that is the experience they desire, a beautiful, complex space epic to get lost in for hours on end. But there is another side of the gaming world, those games where you just pick up the controller (and put on a headset) and play for 30 minutes. That is where EVE Valkyrie falls into place.
I have spent the last couple weeks messing around with my copy of Elite Dangerous and have found that like my golf game, it comes with a steep learning curve. But when I first hopped into the gorgeously designed cockpit in EVE Valkyrie and catapulted into space, I knew exactly what to do. Hunt down the enemy, lock on the missiles, and fire. Obviously, it is not as simple as that there’s a strong degree of strategy that comes with the ‘fly and gun’ (as opposed to run and gun) multiplayer style gameplay.
Simply put, EVE Valkyrie is more accessible for casual gamers like myself than Elite Dangerous. Rather than having to learn a complex set of commands and controls, you can quickly just pick up an Xbox controller and start gunning down ships. The ease of the controls really lessens the learning curve of the game, making it simple to hop in and play. Furthermore, you are far less penalized for bumping against structures in EVE than you are in Elite, which is a good thing if you are trying to quickly whip through a debris filled ship graveyard.
EVE Valkyrie’s mission is simple, as Owen O’Brian the game’s executive producer put it, “we want to be the best competitive multiplayer in VR and that’s it.” Having spent a decent amount of time in the game now it is clear that they have earned that crown, at least for now. EVE: Valkyrie, like Call of Duty, is a title that will be immediately accessible to anyone with a headset with intuitive design and an addictive, fast paced style. Elite Dangerous offers the other end of that spectrum, a more realistic simulation of what it would be like to be a space fighter pilot, complete with all the complexities and down time that comes with it. Despite the similarities in genre and appearance, the two are completely different games aimed at different audiences. So casual gamers rejoice, EVE: Valkyrie is going to blow you away, once the Oculus Rift CV1 comes out that is.