Developer Funktronic Labs is no stranger to crafting interesting, meaningful roguelike experiences. Look no further than Nova-111, a fantastic game released back in 2015. Fast forward a handful of years, and the developers have revisited this ever-fruitful well, delivering the rogue-lite The Light Brigade for Sony’s new headset. Armed with the power of PSVR2 and a rock-solid core, the game offers yet another excellent option for any intrepid VR players.
The core of The Light Brigade is pretty simple. It’s a procedurally generated rogue-lite that sees you assume the role of a holy warrior trying to halt, and hopefully undo, a calamity that has befallen the world. To do so, you must fight your way through a variety of environments while wielding a number of iconic weapons from World War II as well as a smattering of spells. The game doesn’t get too crazy with its central mechanics, though. Funktronic has decided to focus on the basics with this title to great effect. You have basic levelling mechanics to permanently upgrade weapons, an item shop, intermittent boss fights, etc. You see most of the tenets you’d expect to encounter when booting up any rogue-lite, but it’s all executed at a high level.
A roguelike/lite lives and dies by its combat, and the gunplay in The Light Brigade feels absolutely incredible. Aiming and firing weapons in the game feels brilliant. Accuracy is impressive, allowing you to line up shots handily from great distances, and the minute-to-minute combat is a ton of fun. Each weapon has unique handling characteristics, and their strengths and weaknesses can change based on which class you use.
The class system is probably one of the most unique elements of the title. Each class feels distinct, and places emphasis on different areas. The rifleman has a Gewehr and sizeable inventory space, for example. Meanwhile, the Pistolier — our favourite — carries dual Colts, and can quick-reload in a more traditional light gun game manner. There are pros and cons to all of them, and you have to sample every class to unlock them all, which is perfect for allowing you to figure out where your preferences lay.
While learning the strengths of each class, things can also get pretty stressful. If you alert a large number of enemies to your presence without a plan of attack, you can easily get overwhelmed. Between the enemies pushing your location and the plethora of bear traps and other snares scattered across the map, you can dig yourself into a hole you won’t quickly recover from if you’re not careful. This is when the game is at its absolute best, pushing you to your very limit. With such solid and engaging gunplay, every combat encounter is a joy.
Though these madcap moments are great, it’s disappointing that the game has no melee system. We assumed in one instance when an enemy was pushing us and we were out of ammo that we’d simply be able to punch or stab them, but there was no collision whatsoever.
This lack of interactivity is one of the game’s weaker areas, in fact. Outside of select pots that you can pick up and smash to collect currency, most things in the world are indifferent to your presence. You can’t smash boxes or crates that you run into, or other things you’d likely expect to interact with in most VR titles. This may be a product of the game’s procedural elements pushing the software to its limit, as load times between new environments can already be quite lengthy.
This is perhaps a concession made to ensure the world looks as excellent as it does. While enemy design is generally homogenous from type to type, the actual worlds you navigate through are varied and really quite breathtaking. The early levels focus on frigid forests and mountaintops, coating everything in a rich, dense fog that lends an ominous feel to the world. This is punctuated by the intermittent twinkle of snowflakes littering the ground. Many of the environments thrive on this duality of stark beauty in bleak environments. The game looks its best when it pairs the brutal intensity of combat with the barren, frigid emptiness of nature. This dreariness can make a lot of the levels look a little samey early on, however, as it’s not until later in the game that you really start to see colour seep into the world.
Sound design plays a key role in this believability too, delivering howling winds in every direction. Environmental sound design is exceptional both as a mood-setter and as an intel device. You can hear the crunching footsteps of enemies out on patrol if you listen, though sometimes the directional audio doesn’t properly point you in the right direction. The game has an excellent soundtrack as accompaniment, with a number of solid combat tracks, and some truly phenomenal ambient loops.
As for comfort settings, the game has a jaw-dropping number of options, with a menu that seemingly goes on forever. This flexibility of options is staggering to a level that we rarely see in VR titles. Outside of the basics, options are hard to come by, but The Light Brigade offers more than enough. Which is good, because the game functions well no matter how you want to play it. Smooth locomotion is excellent for those of you with iron stomachs, but the game is just as fun and satisfying using the teleport system. Something for everyone, then.
The Light Brigade is one of the shining stars of PSVR2’s launch. A game that doesn’t feel the need to reinvent the wheel, developer Funktronic Labs instead decided to focus on making the best rogue-lite that PSVR has yet seen rather than get crazy with new systems. With unique, varied classes and brilliant gunplay, the title does a great job of ensuring that we want to keep returning to its chilling, bleakly beautiful environments again and again.