Hands-On: ‘Salvaged’ Might Be VR’s Most Interesting Strategy Game Yet

by Jamie Feltham • November 21st, 2016

Many strategy games will refer to you as ‘commander’. It’s a nice touch, letting you drum up your own fiction in which you’re some sort of armchair general, rooted down in a top secret military base instead of sitting in the comfort of your own home, snacking on a slice of toast as you tell people who to shoot. Given my surroundings when playing these games usually consists of bedrooms with too many unwashed clothes crumpled on the floor, I’ve never been able to fully lose myself in that role.

Salvaged might be the solution to that problem. With Oculus Rift support, Opposable Games’ long-in-development sci-fi strategy experience completely immerses you in the part of a leader of a squad of soldiers. You sit at a set of monitors, give your troops some orders, and then watch them play out. You’re scrounging wrecked spaceships in search of loot, and you’ll have to fight off hordes of aliens to get it.

What’s most surprising about the game is that it isn’t VR-only. Indeed, Salvaged was first imagined as an experience that might use your tablet along with your PC monitor to give you a futurisitic feeling of having complete control over a battlefield. Rift support, however, presented the perfect opportunity, as the developer realized back in 2014.

And so here we are two years later, with Salvaged as a reinvigorated VR project, released in Early Access with a full campaign. A quick look reveals a title that might be the coolest VR strategy experience we’ve seen so far.

From the start, you can tell that Salvaged is impressively well-produced. It boasts perhaps the most cinematic opening I’ve ever seen in a VR game, with a few moments of desperation that really get the heart rate pacing. From there, you’ll be steadily introduced into a surprisingly in-depth experience, where you’ll need to level up individual soldiers, keep check of equipment supplies, and hire new crew if you’re going to progress smoothly. It echoes feelings of XCOM, which is never a bad thing

You use a gamepad to essentially operate a mouse on each screen. For moving units, the closest monitor has a grid-based map, and you’ll stack up commands and then get your troops to execute them, perhaps breaching a room and then securing a perimeter to quickly take down aliens. Your soldiers will automatically start shooting at enemies, and then use melee attacks when ammo is depleted.

salvaged-first-person-four-screen

Selecting troops with a controller and selecting move points can be a little finicky. You might need to readjust your view to make sure you’re looking at the screen correctly, or your mouse won’t respond when you assign orders. It made me long for Vive wand/Oculus Touch support, where I might be able to more intuitively select points on a map to get soldiers to move.

Reading text in VR can be troublesome too. I had to lean far in to screens to try and decipher their text, which was easier said than done. Still, it was a minor issue that I’d like to see addressed during the Early Access phase, and I wouldn’t judge aspects like these until Salvaged is available as a full game.

If there’s one thing that’s obvious, it’s the influence that James Cameron’s Aliens has had one Salvaged. Watching your units move and fire in ‘short, controlled bursts’ really makes you feel like the commander of a colonial marines squad.

salvaged-screenshot-2

We’ll reserve our final judgment on Salvaged until it’s feature complete, which Opposable says should be in approximately six months’ time at the most. Right now, though, this is a hugely promising strategy game that could offer VR fans some much-needed in-depth gameplay. You can purchase the game in Early Access on Steam right now for $12.99 with Oculus Rift support.

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