Developer: Fast Travel Games
Formats: PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift
Release Date: February 20th 2018 (PlayStation VR), March 20th 2018 (HTC Vive, Oculus Rift)
Check out our interview with Erik Odeldahl, the creative director behind Apex Construct at Fast Travel Games, about their upcoming virtual reality action-adventure:
How would you describe Apex Construct to someone who had never heard of the game?
Apex Construct is an action-adventure game built from the ground up for VR, where the player is the only living human being on a post-apocalyptic earth. The player wield a high-tech bow and shield and has to fight machines run by another AI as she explores the world. Apex Construct’s narrative is heavily driven by the player’s exploration, so the more you rummage around, the more fun you’ll have.
One thing I can really appreciate about Apex Construct is its world – I love the fact it seems to have been destroyed and that robots are ruling the streets, and I’m intrigued to find out more about what has happened. A rich narrative isn’t always something you see in virtual reality titles, but how important was it for you to have an actual story to go along with all of the robot-slaying?
The most important thing for us was to build a world for the player to immerse themselves in. It looks the way it does for a reason, but it’s up to the player to figure out why. The narrative in the game is to a large degree based on what the player learns during exploration and how she connects the pieces of information.
Some of the gameplay footage you’ve revealed seems to suggest that the game world is actually going to be quite big and that there’ll be plenty of puzzle solving and exploration for the player to take part in. How much freedom do they have when exploring the world? Is it broken down into specific areas across levels, or does everything take place in an open-environment?
The game takes place in different level-based areas, with a safe house hub you return to after each completed mission. If you want to you can return to previously played missions to look for secrets or just explore further. While each mission has a main objective, the player is always encouraged to deviate from that path and explore.
What sort of balance would you say there is between exploration/puzzle solving and taking on enemies? Does the game focus in one direction over the other, or is there a balance in place to ensure gamers never tire of any particular aspect of gameplay?
We have built the game to be around 50% exploration & puzzle solving and 50% combat. This varies between missions though – some are more focused on exploration while others are heavily combat-driven.
I absolutely love using a bow in virtual reality, so having a bow that’s equipped with a shield to deflect incoming projectiles naturally has me even more excited to check Apex Construct out. Does the bow change up at all in-game though? What sort of upgrades can players make to the weapon?
We love the bow 🙂 It comes equipped with an upgradable shield and a never-ending supply of upgradable standard arrows. As you play through the game you will unlock other arrow types. These are also upgradable and aren’t only used in combat but also as part of solving puzzles. In addition to the arrows and the shield, the bow itself is also upgradable.
A good weapon would be nothing without enemies to destroy and so far we’ve seen plenty of robots to take down in gameplay footage. Are these the only foes players can expect to take on or will there be even more enemy types to vanquish? I’ve seen a big robot head in one of the trailers, so I’m kinda hoping for some big boss battle at some point…
One of the coolest things with VR is to play with scale and let the player experience something awe-inspiring, such as standing on the precipice of a steep cliff or being in the presence of something big and threatening, so of course we will let the player fight something much bigger than the spider-like robots or dogs you’ve seen in trailer and images so far!
Judging by some of Apex Construct’s trailers, it doesn’t seem like the robots are always aware of the player’s presence. Does this mean they’re able to sneak their way around robots to try and get through areas unscathed, or are they always tasked with taking them down?
There are absolutely times where the robot enemies aren’t aware of your presence, and where the player can use other means than the bow and arrow to get past them if they so wish. You need to be careful though, because they aren’t easily distracted.
I’ve also seen that there’s a teleportation form of movement in the game, allowing players to quickly warp to different areas to get around. Will there also be the option to use free movement in the game?
Yes, we have added free locomotion to the game. The default style of movement is teleportation, but ýou can change this in the settings menu. When using the free locomotion alternative, you always have the teleportation handy and will have to use it at times to for instance climb ladders.
The development team previously worked on the likes of Mirror’s Edge and Battlefield in the past, which are two great series’ which I’ve personally loved playing. They’re both two very different kinds of games though, as is Apex Construct – the fact it’s VR-exclusive is a big example of that. What inspired you to develop a game exclusively for VR and what would you say is the best thing that Apex Construct does to take advantage of the hardware?
All the founders of Fast Travel Games (and a lot of our employees too) have spent a lot of years in AAA game development. At least for me personally, what really pulled me toward VR development is being able to build something that takes immersion to the next level. As a designer, I love being able to put players inside a world and let them not just interact with it not just by button prompts but by lifting, throwing and examining objects you can hold in your hands.
How has developing for virtual reality been? Whilst the team has clearly got experience with a good variety of first-person titles, I can imagine that developing for a platform that plays in an entirely different way must have brought on a range of new challenges for the team.
I’m not going to lie and say that it hasn’t been challenging. We have a truly fantastic team, but of course we have made mistakes during the development of our first VR title. These range from underestimating complexities in our interaction models or locomotion schemes, to performance related issues with rendering. The good thing is, that since everyone is so experienced we have always been able to react quickly.
Finally, can you tell us a neat fact about Apex Construct that no-one outside of the development team knows?
In the first pitch I did for Apex Construct, the environment wasn’t a post-apocalyptic Scandinavia/Stockholm at all. Instead the game was supposed to take place in a tropical climate. This idea was tossed away after we did the first few pieces of art with a more northern style and I think the game became all the better for it.