Space sims and Oculus Rift - two things which have rightfully earned plenty of buzz in the last two years at video game conventions and trade shows. The space sim genre, a dominant force of the '90s, is back and bigger than ever thanks to the record-breaking success of Star Citizen, and the virtual reality showcases put on by CCP Games with EVE: Valkyrie and Frontier Developments with Elite: Dangerous (another Kickstarter-powered project) but these are just two of many that are in development and on the way.
In the last few years, since Kickstarter proved to be a viable platform for funding independent video game productions, we've seen all sorts of space sames and space builders, big and small, entering development as they do we're see all sorts of new types of space-based titles. One particular project that's caught our eyes is GoD Factory: Wingmen, a game that blends space combat gameplay with MOBA-esque mechanics.
Developed by Nine Dots Studio, GoD Factory: Wingmen is the first entry in a hopeful GoD Factory franchise and it hit Steam Greenlight in March 2013. It made quite a name for itself as being one of the better examples for how the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset can be implemented in games. It supports the original dev kit but not the DK2 at the moment.
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Wingmen released last week and is available on Stream for $20. It's built around one type of multiplayer gameplay mode, a 4 vs. 4 match that pits one team's carrier versus another. Each carrier is comprised of seven main components and the first team to destroy the enemy's before losing their own wins. Each component destroyed directly impacts gameplay, giving team tactics another layer of importance, and there's a sense of urgency because every few minutes the carriers shoot each other, knocking one of those seven health bars away. Destroying the enemy carrier's radar affects their team's ability to detect your team's fighters for instance, and taking out the enemy carrier's cannon will slow its rate of fire against yours. You can play with and against AI bots as well and use voice commands to issue orders.
Although played as a high-paced and very dynamic space shooter (in first and third-person views), GoD Factory: Wingmen embraces some elements of traditional MOBAs in that players enter matches with their chosen and customized hero, in this case they get to bring in two different ones. Customizing and building your ships is one of the game's biggest features and there are over a thousand components to choose from, separated among four different species (humans and three alien factions). Each have very unique technologies and design aesthetics and customizing the look of your starfighters is on of the most gratifying parts of playing the game, especially since you need to level up to unlock tech and play to earn credits to buy them.
These ships are crucial and it's of the utmost importance to keep yours alive during the match, since losing one means it's completely gone and replaced with a significantly weaker drone ship. You can share ships with your teammates if both parties agree and this can come in handy when an ace pilot needs a better vessel.
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In building a ship, you customize everything from the main computer, wings and body, to primary, secondary weapons and special abilities. And yes, you can change colors too! All that stuff will however, take time and that might be the one thing working against GoD Factory: Wingmen. It's not a game you can casually step into. Learning the controls, mechanics, interface - even how and when to attack or pursue enemies is all very difficult.
There's a long list of mini tutorials that we say are a must for players jumping into GoD Factory. Without these, you'll be lost. This is the type of game for players who know they love it from watching gameplay or have at least one friend who will dedicate to playing it with you for a while. The game supports any control scheme too, so you can play with mouse and keyboard, gamepads or a joystick. In my six hours with the game, I've primarily stuck with an Xbox 360 style gamepad.
GoD Factory: Wingmen is a beautiful, slick and polished title. It's ambitious and it's unique. It's fun, but challenging. Unfortunately, there aren't many players online so finding a match in the server list can be a pain. Your best bet is to keep trying the Quick Match function and wait for one with balanced teams. It's highly competitive so it will require a player who's willing to invest their time and learn.
GoD Factory: Wingmen is currently available on Steam.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.