Developer: Orange Bridge Studios
Publisher: Orange Bridge Studios
Genre: Action, Flying, Simulation
Platform: Oculus Quest
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 29/08/2019
A code was provided for review purposes.
All VR experiences hark back to older game mechanics – especially drawn from retro games – which didn’t quite make the cut with their hardware at the time. VR takes the more recent and up-to-date technology to be able to take advantage of the power offered fully, and, in the case of End Space, I found myself intrigued as while playing I could not stop relaying my experiences flying through space for the first time to my first ever experience with the 1993 DOS space fighter, Star Wars: X-Wing.
It’s amazing the connection that these games can draw over such a large near-three-decade gap, but overall, after ploughing through End Space’s clunky controls, straining visuals and subpar sound design that if given the choice again, I would much rather sit back in front of that old floppy-disc-taking brick than struggle against my overwhelming motion sickness and battle with three-dimensional flight in VR.
End Space pits you in the cockpit of your very own starfighter, destroying waves of enemies with an arsenal of lasers, missiles and more as you protect secret jump-drive technology and plans from opposing rebellion fighters. It’s a cool concept, and while I find the inspiration and setting truly fun and unique, I often found myself struggling even to attempt to enjoy this story at the mercy of the game’s ‘unique’ controls. VR has a wealth of different control options at its disposal, and End Space takes advantage of the Quest’s touch controllers and gyroscopic control in the headset itself for tandem synergetic relationships between head movement and thumbstick/controller movement.
By default (the only close-to-comfortable controlling experience), you look in the direction you wish to fly, point in the direction you wish to shoot with your touch controllers and use the thumbsticks to accelerate and decelerate. A nice touch is that you can ‘invert’ these controls and you can also connect up gamepads to play, but I couldn’t imagine controlling a game of this manner in VR this way. No matter how much I trained myself to be able to shoot down enemies with this system, I found it rather clunky, messy and overall a strain in my desire to continue playing.
However much I wanted to be able to look at the UI and menus in my cockpit, if I even turned my head slightly, the ship would start spinning in that direction. This, overall, gave me extremely bad motion sickness, sometimes even before the fight would begin – and I’ve never experienced motion sickness in VR before this.
Another gripe on my end was something I was confused about during my time with the game. The game is meant to be played while sitting down, or so I assume, as your character sits in a cockpit. However, any time I would play the game while sitting up, I would get unbearable neck cramps from the amount I would have to turn my head, whether that was with head movement controlling the ship, guns, or whatnot. In the end, I found my experience better played when standing up, which within itself is a strange concept, but I found it to be the most comfortable way to play overall.
I found the visual design in End Space to begin to intrigue me, but overall constantly fell short of any real immersion. While the cockpit itself sports a lovely, detailed, washed-metal look, I found myself only ever to be immersed for a few seconds before the gameplay began. The scenery is nice, but it feels blurry, overly compressed and sometimes plain annoying – especially when the background (on multiple occasions) was the same colour as the markers for enemy ships or when I would lose myself in a field of debris that looked almost identical no matter the direction in which I flew.
Sound design was not much better, objectives and exposition were usually given out in radio transmission, much like Star Fox. However, half the time I could hardly make out the dialogue as the filter used on the voices was too grainy, or the sounds of the engine and lasers being shot completely blasted over the exposition. It was annoying, and it made me stop caring about a significant portion of the story as I missed or couldn’t make out what I was doing.
Aside from the controls, graphics and sound design, the gameplay loop of End Space was exactly as you’d expect from something akin to a mobile space-shooter. Fly through space, kill a few ships, wait for more ships, kill those, finish the mission. It began to create interest with a couple of different types of weapons, but nothing stuck with me or made me want to continue the same bland, gameplay loop. Blowing up ships never felt exciting past the first few times and dogfights are terribly slow and tedious, never giving me the same satisfaction or dramatic suspense other space shooters usually had me feeling in situations such as these.
It’s a shame End Space didn’t live up to its predecessor’s standards, and while VR is still in its infant phase, it’s not unexpected that this genre didn’t play as well as I’d hoped. End Space has promise, lots of it. It has ideas that I think could genuinely work if adequately fleshed out for a future entry. I believe that End Space is still worth the pickup if it’s cheap, as it is a great introduction to arcade flight-sim if sci-fi is a setting you enjoy. However, its lack of challenge, bland gameplay loops and questionable control, visual and sound design all make it an experience in which I most likely wouldn’t recommend when there are so many other immersive and unique titles on the Oculus store.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase End Space from the Oculus Store.