Vox Machinae has been out since late September, and while I feel it’s one of the most innovative games I’ve played on my Oculus Rift this year, what truly stands out is its beefy guns and gargantuan mechs — also known as “grinders” according to the developers at Space Bullet.
The game itself uses limited descriptions to explain what each mech class does, which boils down to tooltips such as “mid-light class with decent speed” or the like. When I first played the game, I certainly wish I had more context to go off of than that. Granted, it’s not hard to jump in and mess around until you know what each weapon does and how each mech handles. But that’s work you shouldn’t have to do. Instead, you should reference back to this guide.
Below, I’ve listed out detailed descriptions and advice on how to use each of the weapons and each of the mech classes in the game. There are even some exclusive tips directly from Space Bullet developer Josh Enes, who was kind enough to chat with me.
Catalyst is the game’s default class, and is appropriately heavy, but still is not as heavy as the Dredge. It’s nicely balanced with a small weapon slot, a large weapon slot, and an embedded 8x missile launcher.
Enes: “It is the default, and intended as the thing that starts you off in Vox Machinae. The default loadout is lasers and missiles that are pretty easy to use, and it has a bonus to cooling to help new players who tend to overheat a lot. You can think of Catalyst as your standard infantry. It can fill any role, but the others have specializations that make them better or worse at certain tasks. The missile slot is fixed, but the rest of the loadout can be configured to the player’s taste and there aren’t really any wrong choices here.”
The Drill class mech looks like a tall metal spider with four legs, but it can run quickly, regain fuel quickly, and has more maneuverability than any other mech class. This is the one you’d use as a light scout to get around the map without a hassle, but it comes with some added punch in the form of a built-in drill at the bottom of its chassis. It’s armed with a single large weapon slot as well, which I like equipping with the default railgun for range.
Success in close quarters is very much a matter of using your jump thruster to quickly get above other mechs and drop down on them. But since the Drill is much lighter on armor than the other mech classes, I wouldn’t recommend going into close-quarters combat, at all, unless you find yourself scraping the barrel for options. That said, the railgun is easily the best large weapon for a Drill; you can get in and out of safe vantage points pretty effortlessly, pick opponents off from a distance, and then evade (or, alternatively, drill) opponents that get too close for comfort.
Enes: “Drill is an odd beast and sort of a utility/specialist class. The playstyle is really going to be determined by the single weapon you choose. Most will opt for the default railgun and play as a sniper. Choosing flak will work great as a nimble chaos-creating device, although with a much shorter life expectancy. The fuel tank is small but refills very quickly. This is designed to let you keep changing position quickly, pop up over hills to fire, and even hover for a while.
The drill weapon is pretty tough to use. It does have a little bit of aim assistance via the downward jet that fires and pushes you a little bit towards the nearest enemy. We probably need to make this more forgiving as players find it really hard to get that drill kill. The best strategy is to coast just overtop of an [enemy] and activate the drill as they disappear below you. The drill weapon deals massive damage, and is very useful against high-health targets such as in the Salvage mode. Maybe there will be some other healthful targets to destroy in the future…”
The Hopper is about as lightly armored as the Drill class, but does not come with any embedded weapon slots. Instead, it has three small weapon slots. I personally find that the extremely low heat requirements of the miniguns made for a really strong Hopper build, since the Hopper is still light on its feet and doesn’t have trouble maneuvering at high speeds.
It also has arms that can be used to scythe other mechs, but not as efficiently as the Drill’s dedicated drill weapon or the Goldrush’s cow catcher.
Enes: “Hopper gains its moniker from the pilot’s tendency to jump from spot to spot, avoiding incoming missiles and jet-strafing behind slower enemies. This is your scout class. Lightly armed and armored, you’ll want to keep out the enemy’s reticle. Keep pecking at them either by peeking out of a different cover each time, or flying overhead and poking at them from the sky. If you’ve got the skills, you can also try to run and jet circles around slower enemies. With three small weapon mounts, you will typically see most Hopper pilots making custom loadouts stacking three of the same weapon, be that missiles, cannons, lasers, or miniguns.
A missile Hopper makes an amazing aerial attacker, since missiles are computer-guided and will arc right to where you were aiming your reticle. Cannons on the other hand are more suited for the Hopper who is hopping from place to place and firing while grounded. Lasers will be for the Hopper that wants to get in close and cut a hole right into the enemy’s heart. The minigun Hopper is least effective, but you can hold that trigger down all day and be very annoying which is its own reward.
Hopper can use the arms for ramming and this will do a lot of damage, especially if you get it in their face-space; you are likely to lose your own arm in the process though. Goldrush is much better suited for the ramming role. We do have future plans to make more appropriate use of those gorgeous slashy arms, though.”
Goldrush is the first chassis on this list that starts to taper more towards the middle ground of mech classes. It contains two small weapon slots and one large weapon slot, medium armor, and it can still move around pretty well. It’s a nice mix between the other mech classes if you’re looking for versatility.
I personally found a lot of success with cannons on this mech class, but any weapon combination works fine if not because of the middle-of-the-road versatility of this chassis. The one major feature of the Goldrush to take note of is the cow catcher stationed on the front of the mech. If you run over an enemy mech, you’ll do pretty fantastic damage to them. Likewise, you don’t want to be caught on the wrong end of a Goldrush while it’s charging you.
Enes: “Goldrush is a fan-favorite and one of the most fleshed out in terms of role. Some may say it is OP, but it’s probably more that the rest of the crew is still missing some of their special abilities that will be added over time. Goldrush is a brawler and a good Goldrush pilot uses the strong frontal armor and awesome forward jet thrust bonus to break through enemy lines, sowing confusion and forcing them to turn around, allowing teammates to advance. Weapon selection is up to personal preference, and really depends if you want to do most of your shooting before or after flying through enemy lines or smashing into an enemy to knock their limbs off.”
The Dredge mech is the heaviest one in the game, and it is the hardest to maneuver overall. It takes much more fuel to move it around, comparatively, and the fuel tank also runs out much faster (with slow regeneration to boot). On the upside, it has the strongest armor in the game and can be used as a rear-guard tank. It comes with an embedded 8x missile launcher, two small weapon slots, and one large weapon slot.
Enes: “[The name implies] that you won’t see it soaring through the air too often. You gain a little extra firepower and more health. We’ll actually be emphasizing this even more with future balance changes. In exchange for a higher heat and fuel limit, you have to take a painfully slow fuel refill rate. You had better be sure of where you are jetting off to, because you’ll be there for a while. If you want to shoot a lot and be able to take a beating, Dredge is the one for you. Like the Catalyst, the large missile slot doesn’t have any alternative weapons yet. It is common to see the other three weapon slots filled with same-type weapons like triple cannons or lasers. Another popular configuration is to add even more missiles and a flak cannon to unleash a storm of munitions that blanket an area and almost literally can’t miss.”
Besides embedded weapons that are distinct to each mech class, here are the six basic weapons in Vox Machinae as described by Enes:
- Lasers – “Lasers are easiest to use for sure. If it’s in-range and on-target, it will hit.”
- Miniguns – “Miniguns fire fast-moving projectiles and are sort of similar to the ease of use of the laser. The damage is not so good though, so it’s a good backup-weapon to use when your heat is high from firing lasers.”
- Missiles – “Missiles lose accuracy the longer they travel, but fire in bursts; you’re sure to hit with at least a couple of them.”
- Cannons – “Cannons add the complexity of travel time, so you need to start leading the target. The reward is lower heat buildup than the laser and higher damage than the minigun.”
- Flak Cannons – “The flak cannon is terribly inaccurate and has a limited range, so it is very situational, but it will shred the armor off a close-up target in no time.”
- Railguns – “Railgun is basically your sniper weapon, so players who like to fill that role will probably feel at home with it. You’ll need to learn to get into the firing rhythm since the weapon needs to charge before firing. Holding it for longer than needed will quickly overheat you.”
Additional Tips from the Developer:
“A sniping loadout, especially on a light class that can maintain distance, will work great against the heavier Grinders. You can pick off their limbs from a distance, making them weaker and easy prey for your comrades. Heavy Grinders meanwhile usually tangle with other heavies and medium classes, and they’re best for holding a location. Some loadouts work better in different game modes,” Enes also mentioned to me during our chat.
“You will find a higher amount of heavies in Deathmatch, but players will often swap out for lighter classes in the Stockpile mode to capture territory. Comparing weapons is really going to be based on their ideal range. A railgun player will want to keep their distance, whereas a flak cannon user needs to get in close to deal their damage.
Lasers deal less damage over longer distances, so they’re best for mid-range. Cannons can be good at all ranges, but due to travel time it is harder to hit fast moving targets.”
When asked whether or not players of Vox Machinae could expect to see new weapons and mechs coming soon, Enes told me: “Absolutely, in fact we already have some unreleased Grinders, but want to flesh out and balance the existing ones first. New weapons are coming, and you won’t have to wait till next year to start seeing some of them.”
With Vox Machinae now entered into the arena as one of the first truly built-for-VR giant mech piloting games, people like me who grew up with Mech Warrior and Gundam finally have a place to call home in VR.
After reading, do you now have a better understanding of the frantic gameplay that’s happening in Vox Machinae? Let us know in the comments!