I love playing Risk. I think it might be the most perfect board game ever made. The strategy, the combat, the tiny pieces you can stack into mini-forts while you wait for your turn, it’s just incredible.
However, I have often thought while playing Risk that what would be really cool is if my miniaturized army was comprised of actual roving tanks, infantry, and artillery rather than slightly different shapes of the same little wooden blocks. Once I strapped on my a VR headset and launched Tactera, however, I had the immense pleasure of witnessing this fantasy come to life right before my very eyes.
Tactera is a virtual reality strategy game exclusively available on the Samsung Gear VR – for now; additional Rift and Vive versions are currently listed as “coming soon,” by the developer. Tactera falls into the RTS (Real Time Strategy) sub-category of the larger strategy genre. This means that action in the game is constantly unfolding, requiring you to constantly keep your focus and simultaneously keep a litany of spinning plates from toppling.
Tactera’s gameplay, however, lacks the depth of RTS mainstays such as Starcraft or Warcraft. This, however, is more a product of the Gear VR’s limited controls than anything else. A typical round of Tactera will see you starting out with three towers. Across the stereoscopic 3D battlefield – which is represented as a wonderful wire-framed hologram hovering before you – are your opponents towers.
Each of your towers produces one type of unit and your goal is to use those unit to capture more towers, produce more units, stop your opponent from capturing towers, and eventually gain control of the entire digital board.
Each tower has a cool down that is tied to the power of the unit it produces. Small grunts, for example, will be available quickly while larger ordinance and artillery takes longer to refresh after each use. This is where the bulk of Tactera’s critical thinking comes into play. At the start of each match you will select 3 units to be your load out. This forces you to make tough choices concerning the speed, mobility, and power of your troops. Once your arsenal is established, however, the actual skirmish is mostly about balance, and keeping one eye on your opponent at all times.
Gameplay in Tactera may not be the deepest, but it is more than balanced by the games stellar visuals. This game utilizes the Gear VR’s unique 3D capabilities better than any other experience on the platform. It is endlessly enjoyable to allow the soaring bombers, skyrocketing mortars, and constantly roving tanks to draw you into the very real sensation that you are playing some sort of amazingly futuristic board game.
These visual touches are even cooler in Tactera’s multiplayer mode where the overall orientation of each map is shifted slightly to make it feel like you are sitting across from an opponent as opposed to just observing the match from above. Your foe is represented in the game as a pair of glowing eyes that correspond to his or her actual head movements wherever they may be taking place.
Tactera’s use of sound is somewhat disappointing. The constant radio squawks added for realism get a bit old and only serve to underscore the somewhat lax weapon and combat sound effects. The Gear VR’s lack of positional tracking was also a source of frustration. There were countless times I wished I could lean in to see the action of my tiny armada up close but could not. This is cause for excitement in the game’s future releases, but for now it definitely creates a notable absence.
Tactera is one of the Gear VR’s best looking games ever and uses stereoscopic 3D better than any other experience on the platform. It’s somewhat shallow strategic gameplay and disappointing sound design keep this game from becoming truly great, but it is still one that fans of the RTS genre should keep an eye on, especially as it moves onto more powerful VR headsets.
Read our Game Review Guidelines for more information on how we arrived at this score.