Developer: Fast Travel Games
Publisher: Fast Travel Games
Release Date: Out Now (PlayStation VR) 20/03/2018 (Oculus Rift, HTC Vive)
Platform(s): PlayStation VR (Reviewed), Oculus Rift, HTC Vive
Ever since I first laid eyes on Apex Construct I’d been eagerly anticipating the narrative-driven virtual reality adventure. There hasn’t been a vast amount of full-fledged single player experiences released on PlayStation VR so far, so having one with an intriguing sci-fi setup – and where you get to use a futuristic bow to destroy robots – had me excited.
For the most part, it delivers on everything I wanted. However, there are too many awkward bugs and clumsy design choices present that currently prevent Apex Construct from striving towards greatness.
Apex Construct puts you in a warped-and-twisted world that’s suffering from the aftermath of a mysterious event. In the midst of it all are two warring A.I.s: Fathr, who is the good guy and brings you into the world to help ‘protect’ it, and Mothr, who is the antagonist of the tale and has a little army of robots that are set on bringing you down.
The story remains mysterious throughout, and you’ll constantly be second guessing as to what Fathr’s intents really are. What adds to the intrigue are the documents you can find on computers throughout the game, with some addressing the history of the companies involved with the A.I.s, the state of the world, and even the mysterious Overture Project. Here’s a hint: if you find a ‘missing file’ in-game, try opening a specific keyword that’s in this paragraph…
You’ll control Apex Construct with two Move controllers, with each one representing one of your hands in-game. There are two different movement schemes on offer: a teleport function used by pressing the square button on one of the Move controllers and aiming where you want to go, and free movement that sees you holding down the move button and pointing the controller forward or backward to get around.
Turning is a bit more awkward, with the player having to flick the Move controller in the direction they want to turn whilst pressing the triangle button at the same time to make turns across a 30-degree angle (this can be customised in the game’s options). The problem is, pressing the triangle button also causes you to make a 180-degree turn – if you don’t time your flicks properly, you’ll constantly find yourself turning all the way around rather than making the quick turns you want to. Sometimes you’ll find yourself strafing back-and-fore between enemies, which led to plenty of moments where my mistimed flicks of the Move controller would see me accidentally turning around and leaving myself vulnerable to enemy fire instead.
You can actually have smooth turning on in the game though, and that assigns left and right turns to two buttons on one of the Move controllers. I just don’t know why this isn’t the case with the incremental turning too – those buttons aren’t used for anything else, so it would’ve made sense to have utilised them in both control schemes as opposed to having to awkwardly flick the controller around all the time. Hopefully, it’s something the developers will fix in a future patch.
Outside of movement, you’ll also get to use a bow and a selection of different arrows: a standard arrow, electric arrows, and explosive arrows. You can upgrade the different arrow types by collecting Radiance from defeated foes too, so you’ll constantly see both your skill and armoury improving as you progress through the game.
The combat mechanics were one of my favourite aspects of Apex Construct. Don’t get me wrong, it’ll take a while to master your aim, but there’s nothing more satisfying than picking off your robotic foes with some perfect Robin Hood-eqsue shooting. You can also quickly defend yourself with a shield, so there’s a bit of strategy involved in picking when to shoot and when to defend. There’s a decent variety of foes to fight that each offer different kinds of threats, whilst there’s also a pretty epic boss encounter that offers one of the game’s stand-out moments. Overall, the combat is a lot of fun and offers a stern test to the player.
The only real issue I had with it was that your arrows would stay in enemies after shooting them. Now, this wouldn’t typically be a flaw and it actually adds to the immersiveness of the game, but they end up acting as mini-shields for your enemies. If you shoot them again and you hit the same arrow, your shot will seemingly deflect off them. Weird, right? For the most part enemies have plenty of spots for you to shoot at anyway, so it’s not a deal breaker – there was one scene in the game though where I had to protect an object from explosive enemies, but I found that some of my shots weren’t landing because they were bouncing off my existing arrows. It led to a few failures, and a few frustrating moments.
The game is set in a post-apocalyptic twisted world that blends together modern architecture with a lot of futuristic sights, and it really is quite impressive. Fast Travel Games did an amazing job as far as their world building is concerned, with each level not only being incredibly attractive to look at but also being cleverly constructed. Seriously, the world is surprisingly vibrant and full to the brim with little details, and it’s one of the most interesting locales I’ve got to explore in PlayStation VR so far.
There aren’t a massive amount of areas to explore though, with just five environments to visit across each of the game’s missions. Each time you visit a location for a new mission, you are at least able to reach an all-new area of it that was inaccessible before so there is some variety – they’re just not always massive additions, nor do they really extend the exploration aspect of the game. It’s not a big problem because it doesn’t stop Apex Construct’s world being any less impressive or fun to traverse, but it does show that the scale of the game across all of the missions isn’t as large as is initially let on.
At least each area has different little puzzles to solve, though they’re never too complicated – it’s typically a case of finding a power source or working out the passcode for a door. There are also stealth mechanics in place for one level though, whilst other times you might be tasked with simply defending a spot from a constant onslaught of robotic enemies. There’s certainly a good deal of variety to the experience, even if the levels themselves will start to feel a little familiar.
One of the biggest problems with Apex Construct is found with the bugs littered throughout the experience. These aren’t just visual bugs either (though seeing the world covered in pink because the environment hadn’t loaded in was pretty weird), but game-breaking bugs that’ll force you to restart entire levels.
There was one occasion where I dropped the keycard required to get through a level, but couldn’t actually pick it up again. Typically, items will automatically pull up to your hand if you hold the trigger down whilst pointing at them, but it just wasn’t doing anything. I had to exit the level and restart it to try again.
Then there was the time when I had to open a drawer to get a notepad with a password on it, only for the notepad to somehow get warped into the drawer and become inaccessible. It was a freak bug which didn’t happen twice, but it did mean I had to start the level all over again.
The finale of the last mission of the game bugged out on me too, with one enemy seemingly loading into the level but not actually moving or taking damage – it was just floating there motionless, with a restart of the level demanded in order to progress. This actually happened to me twice, which was a real pain.
There are definitely a fair few bugs in Apex Construct and they can be incredibly frustrating to come across. The only good thing is that I know the development team are in the process of releasing a patch that’ll address a lot of these issues, so hopefully most players won’t have to experience these like I did. The game is fun to play as a whole, but having to frustratingly replay multiple sections all over again wasn’t really enjoyable.