Brass Tactics Arena, the free-to-play spin-off of Brass Tactics, is launching today on Oculus Home for the Oculus Rift with Touch and we got the chance to go hands-on with it prior to its release for some updated thoughts. We’ve tried Brass Tactics in the past a few times and got to learn how the team at Hidden Path Entertainment channeled their history with Age of Empires into this new made-for-VR RTS, but this was our first experience with the abbreviated Arena edition.
In the video below you can watch in wonder as I, UploadVR’s Games Editor, absolutely destroy Ian Hamilton, our Senior Editor. Things were close for a bit at the start as I settled on a strategy and fumbled with the Scout units, but I eventually overran him and he didn’t stand a chance.
Finally, I got my revenge from my humiliating public defeat at GDC 2017.
For the match Ian was rolling with the standard “Balanced” loadout, but I picked the “Aggressive” loadout to try and catch him off-guard. My strategy seemed to work.
The flow of a match in Brass Tactics is generally split into two phases that repeat endlessly: preparation and conquest (I just made up both of those terms just now, let me know what you think).
The objective is simple: wipe out your enemy. So during the preparation phase each player is occupied back at their base building towers that can spawn units, summoning defense turrets, and planning out their approach. Then you set out on your course (the conquest phase) and start capturing other towers to summon more units and collect more resources.
Brass Tactics is unique in that to move around the map you simply grab it using the grip buttons and pull or push yourself along the surface. You can even raise or lower the war table to get a better view of the action.
You’ll start out with your standard three unit types, such as Archers, Warriors, and Scout units, before eventually unlocking Rocketeers, Tanks, Dragons, and more. The flow of a match then bounces back and forth between preparation and conquest as the maps evolve and you push down the different lanes of action.
In the video above you can see where I drastically over-calculated the effectiveness of Scouts and suffered a lot of early losses, but was able to bounce back by doubling down on my towers farther away from my main base.
Not having to have an HQ anchoring all of my unit spawns like a lot of more traditional RTS games make you do was refreshing and it expanded the theaters of war by a great deal. One of my other favorite features is that you can visibly see what each user is looking at and doing at any given time. If Ian slid his avatar to my side of the map I knew he was looking at my base, trying to decide his next move. You can’t hide behind a floating camera angle any longer.
One thing I learned from playing Brass Tactics Arena is that the game is deceptively complex, even in this semi-demo version. Arena packs an unlimited amount of competitive, co-op, and single player action on the one single map you see above. A free demo that includes multiplayer is certainly a boon for the VR market.
When the full game releases next week on February 22nd there will be a “six-hour” long campaign, dozens of units to upgrade and customize, over 20 maps, and more difficulty options. Naturally, it’s a greatly expanded game.
Until then, Brass Tactics Arena will just have to do. You can check it out for free over on Oculus Home and here’s the official website with more details.
Let us know what you think down in the comments below!