Transferring the real-time strategy genre to the virtual reality seems like a logical step, given the capabilities of VR headsets which allow for a more fluid gameplay. You could argue that strategy games only become better in VR space. In RTS games there is usually a lot going on at the same time. This requires quick thinking and micromanaging multiple areas at once. Together with tedious zooming and panning, it can easily aggravate those new to the genre.
VR lets you manage the battlefield with ease. Imagine – just turn your head right and take a look at your front line. Then, turn left to check on your headquarters and hunch down if you want to check your units up close. Soon, you will feel like a towering overlord watching over your minions whilst holding their fate in your hands.
So how come we haven’t seen more of RTS games in VR’s early days? The main reason is the complexity of the genre, and VR only lays another layer on top of it. Fortunately, recently there have been more releases in the real-time strategy genre which will satisfy even the veteran players. So, sit back and take a look at our list where we present those which are, in our opinion, the best.
1. Cosmic Trip
With a fresh take on an old style formula, beautifully crafted from ground up for VR, the Cosmic Trip is a must-buy game for any RTS lover. The game will let you experience real-time strategy like never before, on an unknown planet trying to survive with the help of your robotic buddies.
The graphics are rather cartoony and trippy, which presumably served as an inspiration for the game title while the game mechanics don’t differ much from the usual resource building, base management and battle usual for any strategy game.
The game presents you with intuitive VR-native controls, so you can forget about sitting and clicking, you are placed in the centre of action where you have to manually build necessary equipment and learn how to send you robotic minions to collect resource, and later to defend your control nodes from the army of hostile, rather colorful aliens.
Although the Cosmic Trip is a room-escape experience, you won’t find yourself running back and forth, instead, the movement is limited to platforms scattered across the map which are connected by teleportation nodes which slide out from the ground. Stepping through thee devices transports you the next platform in that direction.
The game teaches you rather quickly how to progress and learning curve is quite easy to master. All in all, Comic Trip absolutely nails everything that is has promised to do, the age-old tried RTs formula is successfully ported to a new platform. It manages to fuse together the stunning VR visuals and tactile controllers with strategic thinking and planning necessary in any RTS title.
2. Brass Tactics
Another well-polished game on our list is an Oculus exclusive tabletop RTS game that provides players with 6 hours worth of single-player campaign, together with the co-op and multiplayer option that provide unlimited hours of gameplay.
As an all-seeing commander in a medieval battle skirmish, your objective is to manage troops and economy while trying to wipe the other commander and his castle off the map. The setup is simple enough, but it is hard to master, so the game serves as a bridge for those just getting into the RTS genre and those time-tested veterans.
You and your opponent each control a castle on the opposite sides of the map and you have to collect resources by taking points on a map and use those resources to upgrade your castle and build huge armies with which you take out enemies positions.
The game gets more complex when you take into account between choosing the right units for the job when to push forward, when to hold or when to upgrade your castle or when to push forward.
The battle mechanics seem more like a game of rock-paper-scissors, meaning its very important to know which units counter others.Be sure to take into account nonexistence of fog of war, so check frequently what units your opponent is making so you can more easily take them down.
The game is more interesting as it progresses. When you start to build more advanced units, such as tanks, huge titans or even dragons. The game lets you experience the thrill and ease of controlling the units with the seep of the hand and movement across the map is quite simple, you grab the map below you and fling yourself in the desired direction. The possibility of micromanagement is there, although it can get quite tiring on your wrists after a while.
Brass Tactics is a big step forward for RTS genres in VR, the tactile feeling of controlling your units and moving across the map truly utilizes the capabilities of VR in general, and serves to add another layer of complexity. Although the game lacks certain depth and complexity it is very well polished and the added options of co-op and multiplayer play can prolong the thrill and enjoyment of this title.
3. AirMech Command
AirMech Command is an amazing mix of classic RTS games like Starcraft with popular MOBA titles such as DotA/Clash Royale that you can play for hours without end. Stripped of pesky micromanaging of resources and units, the game allows you to focus more on the feel of the battlefield with its two modes, you can zoom out and watch the entire map as a living diorama of chaos or you can choose to zoom in on individual units and watch the mayhem unfold.
Although the game is a port of an older title, rest assured that the job was done beautifully and truly utilizes the possibilities of VR environment. The game mechanics are simple enough. each player controls something akin to a „hero“ unit, an AirMEch, that the can manually control at any time. It can fly around the map, pick up and drop of units, as well as heal them via a beam. The mech can also transform into a very powerful land unit, giving you more firepower if the need arises.
The VR gives a certain depth of the landscape, and the intuitive twin-stick shooter control schemes provide you with ease of play and control. Simplification of mechanics removed the unnecessary UI clutter, to build units you simply look up the toolbar which you navigate with your controller and choose the unit you want to build, which will spawn at the nearest point. This tweak alone further intensifies the immersion and gives you the feeling of a commanding officer in a huge battle for survival.
The game has a huge number of available units, which you unlock as you play the game via an in-game currency and you bring them together to the next battle. You should choose a good mix of healing, defensive and offensive units as you have limited number of unit slots, thus providing players with their own preferred playing style.
In addition to skirmish and campaign missions, which lack a true story, there is an online mode where you can play co-op or against other players. Playing online you see the player’s avatar tracked movement, giving you a greater feel of commenting battle and a bigger sense of accomplishment in the case of victory.
In conclusion, the AirMech Command is an excellent mix of classic RTS and MOBA genres which provides players with immersive playing style and gives him a wide array of possible tactics he wishes to utilize. The only bigger downside is lack of visual fidelity in some areas since there are many units on a map at any given time, there had to be a compromise to achieve a steady frame rate, but other than the game is a true RTS gem.
4. Castle Must Be Mine
With a plethora of different genres still waiting to be explored in the realm of VR, Castle must be mine provides tower defence lovers wy to indulge their passion in a new environment thus giving a fresh breeze to a time-tried recipe.
The game itself is quite straightforward, like any other tower defence game, enemies move along a path trying to take down your castle while you stop their foul intent with strategically placed towers and with the help of a hero unit.
There are three basic tower types: arrow, magic and cannot towers which can and must be upgraded as the game progresses. The knight mentioned before is a unit of utmost strategic importance, you can pick him up and place in a position which can create choke points since he can slow down enemies and deal a significant amount of damage. As he levels up he becomes even more powerful, but be careful not to let him die at a critical moment.
In case things go south, you have special abilities at your disposal. Depending on the type of the map, you will wield a spell that can seriously damage enemies. For example, in first levels, you can pick up and toss fireballs which do area effect damage and can be replenished after some time. Finally, there are last-ditch castle defences, rocks that can be picked up and thrown onto enemies or cannons that you light using a torch.
The game offers 12 levels with three terrain types, 5 grasslands, 4 desert and 3 ice, which are populated with different enemy types that generally fall into a light, medium and heavy category. Although the number of levels doesn’t seem large, the game offers more then 10 hours of gameplay and given its rating system for completion of a map allows for a replayability if you weren’t satisfied with your score.
Regarding the strategy, it mostly boils down to choosing the right tower types placed at right positions as well as micromanaging your knight which is a crucial part of the gameplay, and constantly bombarding the enemies with any spell at your disposal.
Although the game doesn’t introduce any groundbreaking mechanics to the genre, its faced-paced and interactive gameplay has successfully ported the tower defence type of game in a VR world, thus giving a new layer of interactivity to the otherwise bland desktop experience.
The last RTS game on our list is another tower defence game made for VR, but with an interesting spin. You see, the aliens bend on galactic domination have discovered humanities weakness for cute kittens and thus have disguised themselves in an effort to conquer Earth. They have succeeded and are now hunting the last remnants of our civilization, but their foul trickery works no more. It is time to strike back!
Other then an interesting premise, in which you are forced to shoot hordes of cute little kittens, the game is everything you supposed it would be for a tower defence game. But don’t think it’s gon be a stroll in the park since there are a huge variety of kittens which have to be countered with carefully placed machine guns of various abilities.
For example, machine turrets are good against unarmored waves of enemies, and laser guns are good at taking down armoured ones. All towers are upgradable, the upgrades have to be chosen with the end goal in mind, and have to place on designated spots on the map.
The visuals are quite beautiful, you can choose between more than a dozen floating islands which will serve as a battlefield against furry invaders, and can zoom in or out of the field as you so desire, choosing the best camera angle and position from which you can have a better command of the map.
The cartoony aesthetic, bright colour palette and stunning visuals make sure that the kitty massacre is stunning to watch, but hopefully, you’re more of a dog person since you may find yourself struggling to attack those cute little furballs.
We have thus given you a variety of games to choose from in the RTS genre which is still in its buds in VR world but is slowly gaining ground with the advent of new games. Hopefully, there will be even more of these VR gems in the near future, as developers find new ways to breathe life into a genre which we all know and love.