We see a lot of the same ideas overdone on PlayStation VR these days, so I love it when a developer brings something different to the platform. Agharta Studio have done just that with Stardust Odyssey: a first-person sci-fi adventure that sees you weaving through convoys of space-traffic, stealing goods, and defeating enemies that try to hunt you down.
Stardust Odyssey’s takes place in a sci-fi universe where convoys of traders are led through space and protected by drones and guardians, each of which are constantly on the lookout for space-thieves such as yourself. You’re not just a petty bandit out for himself though, but actually looking to stop a vicious villain known as The Alchemist from gathering nine relics in order to bring balance to the world. What other way is there to do this than by stealing, right?
Stardust Odyssey challenges the player to constantly loot ships in traffic-filled convoys, all whilst ‘trying’ to keep out of sight of any patrolling enemies and then shooting down those that begin to pursue you. It blends together sci-fi shooting action with a little bit of stealth – I actually though the combination was a peculiar one to begin with, but the ease of movement between ships and the fact that you can also hide behind them ensured that it all worked smoothly in-game. There’s a balance of sneakiness and aggressive-shooting required in order to gather loot and the Ether needed to progress, and it really makes for a satisfying experience.
You’re constantly unlocking new abilities for your ship as well as upgrading it, so there’s a nice sense of progress to be felt. It’s a good job too, because the game keeps throwing new challenges your way with a varied selection of enemies to face off against, deadly traps to avoid, and even some impressive boss encounters, each of which will challenge your skills in varying ways. Stardust Odyssey certainly isn’t an easy game by any stretch of the imagination, so you can expect to die a fair bit.
This could actually be a little frustrating, especially since checkpoints could be few and far between. Whilst I appreciate a challenge in a game, having to replay through up to ten-minutes’ worth of gameplay at a time could be a little annoying, especially since players will lose loot they collected in-between. The later levels come with quite a harsh difficult spike too, so it’s even more unforgiving the further you progress through the game. Stardust Odyssey definitely isn’t for the faint-hearted…
At least the controls of the game are straight-forward though, with your ship’s speed easily controlled by moving a lever and your position shifted by controlling a hologram-like sphere that’s always in front of you – I’ve probably made it sound a little fiddly there, but trust me, it controls well in-game. It helps that you’re constantly moving in just one direction, with your ship continually following the flow of traffic in the convoy. It makes Stardust Odyssey feel very comfortable to play and allows gamers to focus their attention on looting ships and avoiding (or killing) baddies.
The only complaint I really had with the controls came with the UI, with the ship’s dashboard so busy in design that it was often difficult to keep track of everything. There are plenty of little features that you’re able to fiddle about with, so having it all lumped in front of you on an alien-like ship could certainly be a little overbearing at first. Of course, after a few hours of play it becomes a lot easier to deal with, but initially it just felt like there was too much going on inside your ship.
Stardust Odyssey has plenty of levels to progress through, but sometimes you’ll have to replay earlier stages to gather the Ether needed to progress. This is simply looted from other ships, so it’s not too hard to come across, but some require specific abilities that you unlock when playing to find. Fortunately, the game itself is fun to play so it’s never a burden to re-visit previous levels, especially since you’ll be better equipped to take on the challenges they offer that would’ve caused you problems earlier on. That being said, a lot of levels follow the same structure throughout, so some players may find some of the action can get a little repetitive over time – especially since you’ll be re-visiting some levels on multiple occasions. It never gets boring by any means, but it can be a little samey.
Those who prefer to do their convoy-looting with a friend will be glad to see that Stardust Odyssey features online co-op, with players able to work together with a co-pilot as they grab some loot and take down baddies. Not only does this make those aforementioned difficulty spikes all the more easier to deal with, but it also just so happens to be a lot of fun – especially when you consider that each player can carry over their abilities from their own save file. Whilst Stardust Odyssey is certainly a game that can be enjoyed alone, it is at its best when played with a pal.
One area in which Stardust Odyssey really excels is with its visuals, with the impressive landscapes all looking incredibly vibrant in design and full of colour. I really enjoy playing games in PlayStation VR that go for outlandish visuals over realism, and this is something which Stardust Odyssey offers a whole lot of. It all looks notably sharp on the PlayStation VR headset too, whilst the sense of scale found across levels kept me in awe throughout.
Stardust Odyssey offers an enjoyable sci-fi adventure that’s blend of stealth-looting and all-out thrills makes for a fun virtual reality experience. It’s even better when played with a friend, where you can work together as space-bandits and tackle each challenge in co-operative action.
The only real issues I had with the experience came with the harsh difficulty spikes with a lack of checkpoints and the cluttered UI, though only the former caused any real frustration. The game could be guilty of being a little samey at times too, but given the seven-hour runtime it never became unbearable.
Either way, there’s a lot more good than bad on offer in the game and it impressed me throughout – PlayStation VR gamers who’re looking for something different to play on their headset this holiday season really ought to check Stardust Odyssey out.
Developer: Agharta Studio
Publisher: Agharta Studio
Platform(s): PlayStation VR