If there’s one thing League of War: VR Arena will be remembered for, it’s that utterly atrocious name. Seriously, it’s like a clueless investor looked at what’s popular right now and took a few buzzwords from that to form something slightly coherent. But alas, that’s not what we’re here to judge. The question is, as always: is the game itself any good?
League of War: VR Arena fulfils that fantasy you’ve held since Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones: the ability to engage in conflict upon a war table. You and the enemy will stand at opposite ends, and in-between the two participants a battle will be fought. Using the PlayStation Move controllers you’ll select units to place them on the battlefield, and once there, they’ll be off to either attack an opposing vehicle or damage the opponent’s defences.
This core gameplay loop remains the same throughout the entire experience, which eventually becomes a detriment. It’s a good base for any strategy game, but the lack of depth, new mechanics, or different ways to play becomes a serious hindrance even an hour into the game; the fun gives way to repetition as you realise the game is refusing to build upon its foundations.
The units on offer can generally be split up into three categories: ground troops, vehicles such as tanks and jeeps, and aircrafts. A rock-paper-scissors system is in effect where some units are weak to certain attacks, but they can also demolish another group with ease. As you progress through the campaign, your units will also be upgraded with more health and the odd new attack, but any hint of customisation stops there.
Once you’ve selected which unit you want to deploy, you can then choose which foe they’ll target. However, once that objective has been destroyed, you lose all control over what that unit does next. Generally they’ll either target another enemy or move up on the commander’s defences, which is fine, but it loses a lot of sense of any strategy if you wanted to concentrate all your fire in a particular place.
Once one unit from each category has been deployed, a meter will start to fill around the spawn points, indicating when another vehicle will become available. But what the game doesn’t appear to tell you is that you can actually pour all your resources into one meter to make it fill up much faster, thus spawning what you’ve chosen in a much more timely fashion. We discovered this mechanic by accident, and yet it becomes essential as you progress through the campaign. Using this, you could get an army of tanks out much quicker or command the air with a legion of aircrafts.
There’s nine different characters to meet and you’ll play as them all throughout the single player offensive, but if you were hoping for any sort of story to bring them all together, you’ll be left sorely disappointed. There’s no premise or backstory for the game to fall back on, as you’re put in the commanding seat from the word go. A tiny amount of exposition can be found before each mission loads as your selected character delivers a small amount of dialogue, but in most cases this can actually become frustrating. Certain characters come off as patronising and vain as they gloat about their successes, as well as speaking in an incredibly annoying tone. To make matters worse, you have to listen the dialogue all over again every single time you fail the mission in question.
There is a silver lining, though: succeeding in a level will grant you medals which can be spent in the game’s arcade mode. Here, you can trade your hard earned currency for units, as you try to amass the biggest and best army possible. Once you’re satisfied with what you’ve built, you can then put it to the test… Against the exact same enemies you’ve just been fighting in the campaign. While this does seem a little worthless, you can swap the AI out for a second player who uses the DualShock 4 controller and plays the game using your TV screen. The second player’s view of the war table is a little condensed when compared to the one found in virtual reality, but it gets the job done. Instead of the spawn points being spread out around you, the television presents them in a straightforward line across the front of the screen along with a narrower table to do battle upon.
League of War: VR Arena does exactly what it says on the tin. It provides you with a basic strategy experience that remains fun for a few hours, but as you realise that the game won’t be introducing any sort of innovation or new mechanics to mess around with, repetition sets in fast. Introducing a second player into the mix through arcade mode does shake things up a little, but it’s not enough to mitigate the feeling that what’s on offer here is slim on content and all a little too basic.