GDC 2017: Brass Tactics Combines Real-Time Strategy With Oculus Touch

by Ian Hamilton • February 28th, 2017

The studio behind popular strategy games Age of Empires II and Defense Grid 2 VR (Review: 8/10) have found success in the genre before, but now Hidden Path Entertainment is developing a brand new title for VR headsets. We went hands-on with the new game, Brass Tactics, at GDC 2017 and found a fun new approach to a classic genre in VR.

The core vision behind real-time strategy game Brass Tactics comes from Age of Empires 2 lead designer Mark Terrano, who is founder and chief creative officer at Hidden Path. The VR version of the studio’s earlier Defense Grid 2 converts the intricate battlefields of the traditional tower defense game into a highly detailed tabletop diorama that can be explored up close. It is immensely satisfying to see these kinds of rich and bustling miniature worlds floating in front of you. Games like Landfall (Review: 8/10) from Force Field continue to push these kinds of miniature-scale games forward in VR. Both those titles, however, are built for gamepads. While we rated each as being great, you can only do so much with that interaction approach in VR. This is where Brass Tactics comes in, which uses Oculus Touch controllers to let you control its clockwork mechanical units.

UploadVR Games Editor David Jagneaux and I initially commanded our armies from opposite ends of a very large battlefield spread across the surface of a table. The height of the table can be adjusted by pressing grip buttons on both controllers and raising or lowering them.

To move, all you need to do is press the grip button on one hand and pull. It took a minute to get acquainted with this approach of getting around but I found it very responsive and comfortable. In just one play session I was getting good at skimming across the surface of the map to move from spot to spot with a single tug.

brass-tactics-structures

And it may have been my speed that ultimately crushed David’s attempts to mount any sort of serious defense against me. You grab structures to place them on the battlefield so you can summon more troops and try to press onward.

At one point David and I encountered each other in the middle of the map and I felt a surge of adrenaline at the sudden realization he was micromanaging the same portion of the battle. I immediately rushed off to gather more troops and send them back to David’s location.

brass-tactics-battlefield

The game also offers a catapult feature in the corner of the map you can try to dial in and manually bombard a location. I found it more useful to manage my armies and direct them to key locations that David either wasn’t paying attention to or didn’t understand how to defend.

Brass Tactics from Hidden Path Entertainment is slated for release this fall with single player, player vs. player, and cooperative modes.

brass-tactics-mixed

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  • Xron

    Looks decent.

  • Scott C

    Previous miniature combats on a table/ground games haven’t really set the hook as they tried to pitch themselves to me. Like with Lucky’s Tale, I don’t really see much value added by the VR aspect — it all still plays like an RTS striding around the battlefield doesn’t really do anything immersive to set it apart from staring top-down at the battle through my flat panel. (Likewise, being able to bend over and get a ground level view of the battle would be novel, but pretty darned useless, IMO)

    This, on the other hand, looks like it might be worth a try. The thing that caught my eye was that I can see where my opponent is paying attention based on where his avatar is and what it’s looking at. That’s suddenly interesting, it’s something I don’t get from other RTSes, and that I can’t see how you would meaningfully convey at a visceral level without that VR viewpoint. Suddenly, I’m not just directing the battle, but I might find myself getting wrapped up in facing off against this other player rather than a faceless entity invisibly directing units.