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Per Aspera review

Per Aspera Review

Per Aspera VR is a little dry to start with. But the more time you invest in it, the more determined you’ll be to bend humanity – sorry, “Mars” – to your will.

That’s not to say Per Aspera VR goes full The Terminator. But casting you as AMI, an AI sent to terraform Mars, is a smart choice. Why? Because two minutes after picking up our Quest controllers, we were wondering if and when we’d get to go rogue.

It does certainly make sense: we’ve sent robots to Mars, so why not let an AI do the groundwork? Apart from the whole “invading the Earth with murder drones” thing. This colonisation sim is, admittedly, a little dry to start off with. When you’re watching a single truck potter back and forth, you’ll be grateful for its optional time acceleration.

You’ll also learn, very quickly, that Per Aspera VR is happy to let you mess up. There’s a lot of resource management involved, choosing what’s important and so forth, but it relies on you to keep an eye out. For example, we wondered why our solar plant wasn’t being built. It turned out one building was out of power, because we’d started slapping down buildings without thinking. The snag was that the resources it produced were needed for another building. That in, in turn, produced the resources needed to construct the solar plant. A key part of getting into Per Aspera VR’s groove is visualising the links between your various buildings.

But the more you move through the game, and the more you unlock, the more engaging Per Aspera VR gets. Eventually, you can turn the whole planet into massive network of factories, colonies and more. Standing back and admiring your handiwork is a joy.

Per Aspera VR Quest

As you’d expect, there’s a research tree to pore over, and if you’re a fan of hard science you’ll be grinning. We’re not going to pretend we’re qualified enough to know whether the science is accurate. But it’s plausible-sounding enough that we’re absolutely along for the ride.

Related: The Best VR Games on Meta Quest

You can play in sandbox mode, but Per Aspera‘s story is pretty appealing. You’re in regular contact with Earth, and get to discuss things – your own sentience included – with your Earth commander, Nathan Foster. Troy Baker voices Foster, also your creator, a man who seems well aware of what’s at stake.

You’ve got your own voice as well (Laila Berzins) which lets you reflect on your own status as an AI. You’ve just been activated which, again, seems like a huge gamble on humanity’s part. AMI does have some wry and faintly worryingly observations – though not, so far at least, “murder all humans”.

Just just watching Mars take shape is genuinely soothing. When something does go wrong, it doesn’t take too long to get back into the game’s relaxing rhythm. So far, our concern hasn’t been “Oh my God, Mars is doomed!”; it’s more “How do I stop this world from stagnating?”

However, Per Aspera VR isn’t without the odd issue. It’s not to everyone’s taste and it can take a little while to get going – that’s true. But you might have noticed we’ve not really talking about the game’s VR features.

There’s a good reason for that: there aren’t an awful lot of them. Per Aspera started life as a PC game and, playing Per Aspera VR, there’s not much going on that couldn’t be done on PC. Being able to look at your resource levels on a little screen is cool the first time you do it, but the novelty wears off.

Per Aspera VR

What we really wanted to do was to was zoom down to surface level and gaze up at the world we’d created. Even if we didn’t get to roam a domed city, just gazing up at the top of a factory would have been something. You can zoom in and out but, looking up, all you get to see is a fairly unconvincing skybox.

The lack of VR features is disappointing, but Per Aspera VR is still a rewarding experience. If you want something truly immersive from your headset, this might not be for you. But if you’ve not tackled Per Aspera‘s PC incarnation and you’re a fan of hard science, you’ll have a space whale of a time making Mars your own.


Per Aspera Review – GameSpew’s Score

This review of Per Aspera VR is based on the Meta Quest 2 version, via a code provided by the publisher. It’s available on Meta Quest 2 and Meta Quest Pro.

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