Shock Troops, the new game from Garage Collective, is billed as a spiritual successor to the developer’s 2018 shooter, Theta Legion.
But, for all intents and purposes, this is really a direct sequel.
That is to say Shock Troops is another gorgeous throwback to a beloved era of shooters that really comes to life inside VR, with gameplay that will be incredibly familiar to anyone that tried Theta Legion and, to a lesser extent, this year’s Stones of Harlath. Inspired by the likes of Doom and Wolfenstein, Shock Troops has fast-paced, arcade-driven gameplay that has you sprinting through levels, shooting down enemy drones and soldiers.
“Shock Troops is thematically connected to Theta Legion – the Lore is the same, the logos are very similar – they both exist in the same universe, and deal with similar threats – but it’s also a brand new game, with new art, new gameplay, a lot more story, a lot of additions and improvements on the previous formula, and we wanted the name to reflect that to the players,” artist and designer Cyril Guichard explained to me over email. “It’s far beyond being just a sequel to us.”
Shock Troops Oculus Quest Gameplay
I’ve played some of the game’s opening levels, including a first map with cramped, tight corridors and, more promisingly, some layouts with wide-open spaces and even a survival-focused level set against the clock on a moving platform. These different environments suggest Garage Collective is aiming for perhaps a more diverse experience than its previous two VR games, both of which we felt were fun but repetitive experiences.
“We realized that the outdoors portions of Theta Legion, or the more “open” approach of the island of Harlath, were very popular with our players,” Guichard noted. “We will be designing the sequence of indoors VS outdoors spaces in Shock Troops to reflect this.”
And Garage Collective’s trademark visual style hasn’t lost its appeal, either. Shock Troops doubles the resolution of sprites from Theta Legion, allowing for more detailed enemies, and a new art pipeline is helping the team create the larger environments too.
There’s a lot on show, then, but the game’s actually still quite a ways out, and isn’t planned to release until late 2022. That’s actually somewhat reassuring to hear, as there are elements of the game I’d like to see improved, like the UI that currently occludes the player’s hand and, more importantly, the flow of combat.
The fast-paced action on show in the demo is a fitting love letter to classic titles, but it’d be great to see more VR-centric elements. Drones fire incoming attacks at lightning speed, for example, and the game would be more immersive if they fired slower, giving you a chance to physically dodge rather than just hammering you with damage. And, though, the off-hand motion sensor is a nice tribute to the movies the game is so clearly inspired by, it’d be great to see two-handed rifle support and weightier weapon handling to give the aiming a little more challenge.
But what’s already here is already shaping up nicely, offering more warm nostalgia with fantastic visuals. We’ll be following Shock Troops closely as we move into the new year. Guichard says the developer is discussing bringing the title to other platforms beyond Quest, but doesn’t have any news to share on that front just yet.