Admiral Wars, out February 24th as a free Oculus Quest alpha, allows you to take command of a naval fleet and lead them to VR victory.
At least, that’s the theory. In practice, being directly in danger (sat on the bridge of your command carrier) does some very funny things to your brain. Admiral Wars’ interface takes a little getting used to, but once you’ve come to grips with it, you’ve got the tools you need to take on the enemy fleet that’s lurking somewhere else in the archipelago.
Want to send out a patrol boat or plane to track down the enemy carrier? Sure, you can just click and drag, but Admiral Wars lets you draw the specific patrol route you want the vessel to take. There’s the risk that your map starts looking like spaghetti, but you’ll appreciate the degree of control it gives you.
There are distinct shades of Carrier Command here, but you’re observing your orders in action, not micromanaging each vessel. You can modify attack patterns and switch weapon types – your destroyer has a very, very cool rail-gun – but it’s the vessel’s AI that handles firing the big guns.
But, like I said, that’s in theory. What makes Admiral Wars entertaining, and also quite harrowing, is that being in the middle of things really puts you on edge. Getting a little closer to the enemy carrier might give you a clearer view of the battle, but you’re putting yourself in harm’s way. Lose your carrier, which is very lightly armed, and it’s game over.
And so, while I was manipulating the vessels on the map, I was also glancing around myself like a nervous meerkat. Developer DB Creations gave me early, early access to the alpha but, due to technical issues, I wasn’t able to play against another human being. Instead, I took on the AI which I was convinced was smarter than myself.
I fared… okay, to be charitable (there’s no campaign, just a skirmish mode) but even losing was entertaining. The tension of knowing you’re in the firing line does wonders for Admiral Wars and, while it’s a little thing, being able to poke buttons with your finger also gives immersion a kick in the pants. Likewise, being able to reach out and move the map table around helps make you feel like you’re really there.
This being an early alpha means there’s a lot of work to be done to Admiral Wars still. My biggest bugbear was that the carrier turned around too quickly, so much so that I felt I was cheating. And I’m looking forward to Admiral Wars’ formal(ish) alpha launch, this February 24th, so I can take on some human opponents.
So when can we expect the full version of Admiral Wars? That’s largely down to how much interest is drummed up by the alpha. It’s an Applab game, which means you’ll be able to download it via the Oculus Quest (or Meta Quest, as I suppose it’s now called) Applab or side-load it using SideQuest. That may sound a little bit naughty but it’s really just a way of getting games, including pre-release versions, out there without going through Meta’s formal certification process.
I have previously compared Applab to Steam Early Access, but I was a little off the mark. As DB Creations’ Blake Gross and Dustin Kochensparger explained, visibility is a big issue on Applab, compared to Steam Early Access. If you want to find Admiral Wars, you have to type in the full title into the Meta store, scroll down to the Applab section and then hit “View App”.
If I put in “wars”, or “war”, Admiral Wars won’t come up. But, by contrast, if I type “combat” into the Steam store, early access game Tiny Combat Arena will be one of the results. This isn’t DB Creations’ first rodeo (it has produced several VR and AR titles) but it’s counting on finding a publisher who will allow it to develop Admiral Wars into a fully-fledged title, complete with a single-player campaign.
As of 24th February, you’ll be able to download Admiral Wars for Meta/Oculus Quest 1 and 2, via Applab, or SideQuest (though the latter is a little bit fiddlier) and it won’t cost you a penny. Even as an alpha, there’s a lot of promise here, and I’m eager to see where Admiral Wars‘ journey takes it.