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Review

StarBlood Arena Review

Dead Space.

It’s still early days for PSVR and Sony’s bid to make PlayStation 4 the go-to platform for virtual reality. Since it’s launch in November and that initial cascade of launch titles, the software lineup has petered out somewhat. Notable, AAA show pieces like Resident Evil 7 and Farpoint are few and far between, leaving smaller studios to fill those idle gaps.

Created by WhiteMoon Dreams and backed by Sony, StarBlood Arena is easily the most fun I’ve had while strapped into a virtual reality headset. Hell, I’d even go as far as saying it’s one of my favourite games of 2017. However, with a wealth of factors conspiring against its success, StarBlood Arena looks to be dead on arrival.

Dogfights and space battles are a natural fit when it comes to VR. Unrestricted player movement paired with head tracked weapon aiming creates an incredibly smooth and immersive approach to gameplay. However, where titles like EVE Valkyrie and Ace Combat are looking to create huge or authentic sky duels, StarBlood Arena goes for something a little more arcade-y. Think of it as the Unreal Tournament or Quake of its genre.

Pilots from around the galaxy have been summoned to battle for fame and glory across a series of scrap-littlered killzones. There’s a claptrap feel to the game’s aesthetic that straddles the line between Ratchet Gladiator and Wacky Races.

StarBlood Arena also shares some similarities with Blizzard’s Overwatch and other character-led multiplayer games. Each pilot is defined not only by their look and personality, but also through a combination of weapons and abilities. For example, skulking assassin Dregg excels at hiding away and sniping foes, with his Ghost Gun able to shoot through walls and terrain. Meanwhile, Blade loves to get up close and personal with his lasers and a melee-like wing attack.

There’s a surprising amount of depth and nuance to each of the available pilots. Where I had expected a simple cosmetic change, each character and ship adds their own subtle changes to StarBlood’s core gameplay. Through playing matches and levelling up, you’ll unlock mods that allow for an even greater degree of customisation. There’s a minor learning curve as a result, though it’s one that never feels needlessly bloated.

Controlling your ship is done by using both sticks in conjunction with L1 and R1 to spin, granting full three-dimensional control at every angle. It’s a little tricky at first, but I soon found myself weaving between pillars and performing barrel rolls like a pro. The shooting holds up just as well thanks to smart head-tracking and generous hitboxes.

As I’ve mentioned in other PSVR reviews, I can often suffer from headaches and queasiness when strapped into the headset. However, despite being the fastest, most frenetic game I’ve played in virtual reality, I didn’t have a single issue playing StarBlood Arena. As with Fated: The Silent Oath, I suspect this is partly due to vibrant visuals instead of attempting a hyper-realistic look for the game, but it’s without doubt that developers are getting better and better at creating nausea-free VR. Having a condensed UI arranged around the centre of screen is another great touch.

StarBlood Arena features a basic yet fun spread of modes including your traditional deathmatch and team deathmatch options. These are accompanied by Gridiron, a mode that looks to combine american football and capture the flag. To score a point, you’ll need to hunt down the ball and launch it into the other team’s goal. It can also be passed between players, bounced off surfaces, and intercepted by enemies, allowing for some degree of tactical depth.

At roughly five minutes, matches run for just the right amount of time. The depressing thing about StarBlood Arena, however, is the time it takes to find these matches in the first place. While playing with bots is enjoyable enough, battling with and against other humans adds that unpredictable edge no AI grunt could ever hope to recreate.

During launch week I only managed a couple of online games at peak times, and there were periods where I sat patiently waiting for 20 minutes without a single connection. Wanting to try out the game’s wave based co-op mode, Invasion, I focused much of my attention on trying to get a match here, but even after a few days I’ve had no luck.

What’s Good:

  • Looks and sounds great
  • Fast-paced arena style combat
  • A surprising amount of depth
  • Comfortable to play, despite its speed

What’s Bad:

  • Servers are pretty much dead
  • Overpriced
  • Singleplayer options don’t stretch beyond bot matches

As we saw with RIGS and how Sony abruptly axed its life support, the same could very well happen to StarBlood Arena and that’s a bloody shame. I want this game to do well, I really do, but as a multiplayer VR title with a non-existent server population and an exorbitant price tag, it’s fighting an impossible fight.

Score: 7/10

Version tested: PlayStation 4 Pro

8 Comments
  1. The Lone Steven
    Never heard of him.
    Since: May 2010

    *sees a space combat MP game* OH HELLL YES! *See it’s on VR only* FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU

    Apart from it being on VR(I doubt my eyes could tolerate it and suspect it would make me feel a bit queasy), it sounds like a superb game. If Sony is giving up on VR, i hope that Starblood is ported over to PS4, given a ton of steroids and be the spacecombat MP game for PS4.

    Comment posted on 17/04/2017 at 11:30.
  2. Andrewww
    Member
    Since: Jan 2010

    Sounds promising, and as sceptical I usually am about PSVR offerings, I cannot follow your overall rating at all. It’s not been out a week yet, and you give it a measly 7/10 in spite of saying it’s one of your favourite games of this year, because servers are not flooded with players..?
    Of course, with the online offering being very important for the title, that matters a lot. But giving it such a score this early on may well add unnecessarily to killing off a title’s potential.

    Comment posted on 17/04/2017 at 12:57.
    • Jim Hargreaves
      Member
      Since: Nov 2009

      I think 7/10 is bang on for this game which is still a good score.

      Server population isn’t something the developer can control and that’s why I never deduct points for factors such as that.

      However, when a game pretty lives or dies based on server count, there needs to be some sort of back-up. Having a bigger spread of singleplayer modes would have been great, for instance, especially when you factor in the £34.99 price tag.

      Comment posted on 17/04/2017 at 18:32.
      • Andrewww
        Member
        Since: Jan 2010

        If you think it’s 7/10, that’s fine with me, and I cannot judge the game as I’ve not played it. Your review just sounded much better to me, so I was quite surprised about the score at the end.

        Comment posted on 17/04/2017 at 20:25.
  3. Byacca
    Member
    Since: Oct 2016

    Resident Evil 7 is clearly not a VR title. It only has partial support of VR and that’s that

    Comment posted on 17/04/2017 at 13:25.
    • Jim Hargreaves
      Member
      Since: Nov 2009

      Partial?

      You can play the entire game in VR. Wasn’t built from the ground-up for VR but still holds up well.

      Comment posted on 17/04/2017 at 18:27.
      • Byacca
        Member
        Since: Oct 2016

        50% of DLC’s don’t have VR support. And clumsy cobtrols in main campaign are pretty much all the proof you need.
        Game was made primarily for TV mode, and you can see that in almost every aspect of it.

        Comment posted on 19/04/2017 at 08:05.
  4. Tuffcub
    On the naughty step.
    Since: Dec 2008

    PSVR has a problem. The install base is small, but wants new games so getting playing to stick to a certain title is going ot be very hard, so a lot of the first wave of games will die off very quickly.

    Comment posted on 18/04/2017 at 10:15.
StarBlood Arena
  • Developer:WhiteMoon Dreams
  • Publisher:Sony Interactive Entertainment
  • Platforms:PSVR
  • Release Date:12/04/17

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