Anyone who has purchased new hardware over the past decade will understand the baby steps that developers make with software. Early adopters of VR headsets know they won’t be playing something along the lines of Half Life within the first year of its life, but they will get to experience some really creative games that utilise the hardware in interesting ways.
On the other hand, early adopters will also witness a sea of derivative games, all looking to do the same thing as one another. In the case of VR, these games come in the form of wave shooters. We aren’t saying there’s anything wrong with wave shooters, but with the sheer number of them on Steam, developers need to do a whole lot more to impress Vive owners.
We took a look at Blasters of the Universe, a game that attempts to mix the bullet hell genre with, you guessed it, a wave-based first person shooter. Blasters of the Universe is an Early Access title on Steam, featuring only a small chunk of the gameplay so far (one level, to be precise). Let’s see how The Secret Location, the developers of the game, have managed to make their game stand out in a crowd of similar titles.
Blasters of the Universe starts up by placing you in a target practice room. The front of the room contains several targets, and to your left and right are various weapon parts to alter your gun in any way you see fit. Personally, I couldn’t tell the difference between the frames of the guns, but aside from that, almost every other weapon part makes a big difference.
The target practice room gives you the opportunity to test your customised weapon, showing off the unique attributes of each of the different parts. Ignoring the main game for a minute, it was quite fun just testing out each part of the gun to see how that changes the way you shoot targets. There are plenty of options to choose from when it comes to picking your weapon, though I have to question just how worthwhile some of the parts are, but I’ll get to that later…
It’s important to know that you only take damage from bullets that you can see. You can block any incoming projectiles by using your shield (located on your left controller). The shields don’t appear to have any durability on them, though we aren’t sure if this is a bug or an intended feature. If this is all starting to sound simple, I should mention that your left hand also supplies magazines for your gun. Try dodging a barrage of projectiles while shooting several enemies, then try alternating between keeping your cover up and replenishing your ammo supply. It’s hard work!
Your head is the only place you take damage, allowing you to move freely across your play area (providing you aren’t getting shot in the head as you do so). You’ll have to keep moving around if you intend on staying alive for more than a few minutes. You can easily dodge projectiles by moving side to side, and I even found that crouching can work particularly well too.
Starting the game with only ten lives, you must dodge your way through the bullet hell while taking out waves of enemies. The enemies range from weird humanoid-looking robots that attack you from a distance; little green robot bugs that will get close to you while firing projectiles at you; floating heads that shoot at you from the sky; and there are annoying yellow bugs that rush directly towards you. While killing the enemies is obviously the priority, a big part of the game is choosing the correct weapon that will allow you to do this as efficiently as possible.
The Secret Location have not announced any information relating to mod support at this time, though that could potentially change closer to the game’s launch. It would be interesting to see what other people would do if they could create their own weapon parts, but it’s easy to understand why the developers may be hesitant to include this feature as it may ruin the balance of the game.
Weapons & Abilities
There are plenty of variables to choose from in Blasters of the Universe, including: the size of your weapon, the type of magazines it takes, a shot modifier that changes how the bullets react when they hit a target, the barrel of the weapon that affects the speed and rate of the projectiles, and the projectiles themselves which all come with their own individual stats.
Initially I set myself up with a pistol that shot projectiles at a fast rate. The idea behind this was that I could shoot one moving target without having to account for their distance travelled. Unfortunately, what I quickly realised after only a minute in the main game, was that this game is very difficult. The first few enemies were dispatched rather easily with my customised pistol, but it didn’t take long before I became overwhelmed with the number of enemies on the screen.
The target practice room is not representative of what the game actually entails, but in hindsight, why would it? It’s a target practice room, not a room designed to teach you how to fight against hordes of enemies. The pistol I set myself up with may have been great for shooting individual targets quickly, however it was no match for swarms of enemies.
At first it seems you can choose most weapon parts in the game and you’ll succeed, but it doesn’t take long to realise that some weapon parts are definitely more useful than others. An example of this is the auto-reload magazine which saves you time swapping clips during the game. Every weapon I used with this auto-reload magazine resulted in my gun running out of ammo far too quickly. The only thing you can do during this downtime is block incoming projectiles, but really you can only do that for so long before you end up dying.
One of the weapon modifiers gives your gun a laser sight making it incredibly accurate. You might think that the increased accuracy would be useful, however the trade-off for equipping this modification means you lose out on some of the most powerful modifications the game has to offer. Funnily enough, the laser sight says it “helps noobs aim”, but in reality it just makes the experience that much more awkward when it ends up hindering the player.
As with all VR games, the minimum requirements for Blasters of the Universe are relatively high in order to maintain the 90hz refresh rate.
OS: Windows 7 SP1 or newer
Processor: Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater
Memory: 8 GB RAM
Graphics: NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD 290 equivalent or greater
Storage: 2 GB available space
You can purchase the early access version of the game right now on Steam. Blasters of the Universe does not have a set release date, though if the game’s Steam page is anything to go by then it should be released within six to twelve months from now. The developers say they want to work with the community by allowing them to shape the game. As of right now, players will have access to only one level, but the developers have stated that they plan to include a full story mode.
Overall, there’s enough to keep most players entertained without feeling like you’ve been ripped off. Yes, there is only one level available right now, but you can tell how much potential there is in the game based off that level alone. Blasters of the Universe is difficult, to the point where the difficulty might end up putting some people off the game. Be prepared to die a lot, because the game is unforgiving.
The balancing of some of the weapon parts could do with some work, though this probably doesn’t need to be a priority. Having modifications that are designed to help new players is a great idea, but these players shouldn’t have to pick between something like a laser sight and a modification that makes projectiles significantly better. If the developers want to keep the game difficult, maybe they should consider including a ‘recommended weapon selection’ or something along those lines to help new players.
One last thing that bothered me was some of the dialog in the game. I understand the game is supposed to be somewhat cheesy/goofy, but hearing the boss say the F word was a bit of an odd decision. I like the way the boss talks smack to you as you fight enemies, it just seemed strange that the phrases went from ”you suck!” to ”what’s in my fanny pack? A big ‘fuck you’, that’s what!”. It doesn’t bother me (aside from the swearing seeming out of place), though I could see it putting off some parents who just want their kids to play this colourful VR game.
Most Anticipated Feature: Trying out some new levels in the game.