High-end VR in its current state was practically built for fantasy combat. There are few things more satisfying on either Vive or Rift today than an intense duel with orcs in Vanishing Realms, or a perfect round in Fruit Ninja VR, but these are admittedly limited experiences. They’re lacking in features that keep us from labeling them as truly complete games that you could lose hours in.
Raiders of Erda could be one of the first such games we sink that much time into.
You might remember seeing just a slim peak of the game under the title of Dungeon Raiders when Project Director Simon Barratt posted a teaser on Twitter late last year. We were struck by just how accurate the sword play appeared to be and, today, we’ve got exclusive new footage of that combat as well as a first look at the bow and arrow for the game. Take a look below, though take note that this is still an early work in progress.
It’s impressive stuff; the player is able to sink arrows into approaching enemies, switching hands to get a better angle. Foes put up a good fight, blocking your sword with shields and attacking in twos. Erda looks to have a thrilling combat system; it’s been carefully developed as a response to the current issues with VR melee combat.
“We knew we could do archery, we knew we could do the magic side of things, the key to it was getting it to feel great when you’re actually fighting someone,” Barratt tells me in an interview. “So what we’ve done is, the animation system of the enemy you’re fighting is working with you.”
He describes it as a sort of “combat dance”, where the enemy will be standing where sword play feels the best, rather than letting you barrel into them and plunge your sword in. There are layers to fights, too; you might need to bash a shield away to open up an opportunity, or parry an attack to leave them defenseless. Barratt also talks about using sound design and feedback to make it feel like your sword is bouncing back when it isn’t really. “There are lots of little things like that that add up to make it work really well,” he says.
But Raiders of Erda promises to be a lot more than a simple combat game.
I spoke to Barratt, who’s working on the game with a new studio, Cooperative Innovations, a month ago. Collectively, the team has past experience at AAA developers like BioWare and Rare, mobile studios like Four Door Lemon, and even independent teams that made VR experiences like The Caretaker. As the name implies, the developer is focused on making co-op games, and Raiders of Erda isn’t going to be an exception.
“What we’ve done is basically take the MMORPGs which we love and looked at how we would build them for VR,” Barratt tells me. “So the ‘massive’ side of it, in terms of the big sprawling landscapes and open world is very difficult development-wise, and also difficult in terms of locomotion.”
Instead of straight up translating the genre to VR, then, Cooperative Innovations is looking to take the “essence” of it and create something that makes sense for headsets. That means four player cooperative combat in “instances” where you’ll take on huge bosses, avoid traps, solve puzzles, and collect loot as a team. It won’t just be about dungeon raiding; Barratt envisions missions where you’ll be defending a castle, for example, or boss encounters where you use the environment as a weapon.
“We have to be very careful in terms of how long battles are going to last,” the developer says, acknowledging how physically exhausting VR combat can be. To that end, though, player’s physical skills in combat will need to improve over time just as their stats do. Erda will have an RPG-like leveling system, but you’ll still need to know how to shoot a bow and arrow if it’s going to cause any damage. It’s an interesting consideration about what VR means for the future of genres like these, where actual skills need to mesh with virtual ones.
In between missions, players will meet with other players in Guild Hall-like environments and other MMO-certified areas such as taverns. You’ll meet players that don’t belong to a specific class, but rather level up their skills depending on what they use. Favor magic, and you might learn better spells. Stick with the sword and you might unlock special attacks.
Erda has been in works for nearly a year now, but it’s still early days for the project. Barratt says the team hopes to have an alpha test in either Q2 or Q3 of this year, and anyone interested in it can sign up to a mailing list. For now, it sounds hugely promising, but we haven’t actually seen any of the multiplayer components in action. Cooperative Innovations certainly has the experience to pull it off, and the gameplay footage suggests there’s good things on the way.
What other features would you love to see in Raiders of Erda? Let us know in the comments below!