Dark Legion VR First Impressions

Disclaimer: This first impressions article is based on the SteamVR version of Dark Legion VR, played using an HTC Vive. The gameplay experience using a Windows Mixed Reality HMD & its motion controllers may differ. Also, the game is still in Early Access, which means it’s currently unfinished but can be purchased and is playable.

Dark Legion VR is a fully motion-controlled room-scale sci-fi FPS by independent developer Ice World, which you can watch a trailer for above. If you don’t know what room-scale VR is then please refer to my Bullet Sorrow VR first impressions article. Unlike Bullet Sorrow VR you’re not limited to small areas to clear before you progress, this is like any non-VR FPS game where you can go wherever the map allows. To navigate in Dark Legion VR you can choose between 2 locomotion methods by pressing the menu button on the left controller (at least on the Vive version), which also lets you choose the language, although only English and Chinese are currently available.

The first locomotion method is labelled “Teleport” which works by touching the touchpad on the left controller, pointing the teleport cursor where you want to go then lifting your thumb off the touchpad to teleport where you selected. It either zooms forward a lot faster than Bullet Sorrow VR or it instantly teleports you close to your selection then zooms forward slightly, it’s hard to tell. Unlike Bullet Sorrow VR however you can teleport as much as you like in quick succession, there’s no recharging, plus I think you can teleport further.

The second locomotion method is labelled “Smooth” which works by either putting your thumb on the part of the touchpad in the direction you want to go or putting your thumb in the centre of the touchpad and pointing the left controller in the direction you want to go. This moves you in the same way as non-VR games. Touching/pointing left and right makes you strafe left and right, to turn you have to physically turn your body. To sprint you have to press down on the touchpad. This locomotion method isn’t recommended if you get motion sickness in VR. I don’t get motion sickness in VR but I actually used “Teleport” locomotion as it’s quicker and also seems to make the game a bit easier so I could play more of it for this article.

Dark Legion VR is an amazing Halo-like game, the best VR game of its type I’ve played so far and at least hints at what Halo VR should be like. You feel like a real sci-fi hero on an alien planet once the campaign starts. You play a character that as far as I have have currently played has only been referred to as “Commander” and you start the game in a training area with your companion Elina (or however it’s spelt), who seems more like the boss since she’s training you and tells you to “Hurry it up!” if you’re not moving fast enough for her, lol! In the training area you have to complete various tasks including getting certain hit rates for each weapons at the shooting range. You grab weapons off the wall and put them on your belt. The weapons on your belt are not the real scale while they’re on your belt though. All your guns and the bow are on the outside of the belt whereas your grenades, explosive charges and health syringes are on the inside of the belt. I found taking items from the inside of the belt a bit finicky at times, but this might be fixed in the finished game. Also, the belt sometimes gets turned to the left or right and you have to shake your head a bit then look straight forward for a couple of seconds to re-centre it, but again this could be a bug which is fixed when the game is finished. You can watch a short clip of the shooting range in action below, but please note that it no longer has the grass and trees seen in this clip:

 

 

The guns available are a pistol with seemingly unlimited ammo although you still need to reload, a bolt-action automatic rifle, a shotgun, a sniper rifle and an RPG launcher. These are handled fairly realistically as not only do you have to aim realistically and manually reload by putting your empty hand behind your back, holding down the trigger until you hear the magazine being grabbed then inserting the new magazine into the weapon, but on all of the guns apart from the pistol and RPG launcher you have to also perform a secondary action such as pulling back the bolt on the bolt-action rifle. Unlike some VR games you don’t have to eject the empty magazine before reloading. Also, the RPG launcher obviously doesn’t have magazines, instead you pull an RPG from behind you and load it into the back of the launcher. All the guns can be dual-wielded but all apart from the pistol work better if your holding one with both hands as they’re more stable that way. Also, if you have a gun in both hands you’ll always have to put one away while you reload the other. I played using only one gun at a time.

The other weapons are a bow, which you have to realistically load by pulling the trigger behind your back to grab an arrow then loading it into the bow and pulling back, and grenades which the game doesn’t explain properly how to use. It tells you to use your empty hand to pull the pin by putting your hand over the pin, pulling the trigger on that hand’s controller to grab the pin then pulling the controller away to pull the pin out. But it forgets to tell you that you should also hold down the trigger on the controller you’re using to hold the grenade then when throwing the grenade (by performing a throwing motion just as you would in real life) you release the trigger to release the grenade from your hand. You also have magic, but it’s only available when the magic meter on your right glove is full and I’m not sure how it gets filled. So far the only magic I’ve had is fireballs, which you don’t throw but shoot by pressing the menu button on the right controller. I found them tough to aim at first but I discovered later on that if you hold down the button you lock on to enemies. I don’t know if you can lock on to more than one enemy at once though, I haven’t tried that yet.

The other items on your belt are are explosive charges and health syringes. Explosive charges can probably be used as a weapon but generally they’re used to blow certain things up or open. All the places I’ve used them so far have taken multiple charges, some more than two. You use them by simply grabbing them off your belt using the grip button like everything else then holding them where you want to put them and pull the trigger to place them there and active them. Make sure you run away a good distance from them after they’re activated as they’ll do you damage if you’re too close when they explode. The same goes for the grenades. The health syringes are used by grabbing them off your belt with your right hand (which has to be empty, so you have to put your weapon away) then plunging the needle end into your left forearm where you health meter is. You don’t need to always look at your health meter though since you’ll know when you’re taking a lot of damage as your vision gets bloody plus a voice tells you when your health is really low and you’re about to die.

Another thing you have is a holographic map of the area you’re in. To activate this your (in-game) left hand has to be empty and you have to rotate your left arm so you can see your health meter then press the grip buttons on the left controller. You can also pick up shields in the game. You pick them up using the trigger but you have to keep the trigger held down the whole time to keep hold of them which is a bit annoying. Unlike Bullet Sorrow VR the shields in Dark Legion VR are indestructible, as enemies in the game carrying them like to often boast, which makes the game a bit too easy while I had one I thought. I did lose shields a couple of times but I’m not sure how, I think it was glitches and they fell through the scenery when I put them down to collect items or something. You do also lose your shield if you die and have to continue though, plus the flying wizards’ magic balls can’t be blocked using a shield.

At various points in each map are crates which you open by either putting your (empty) hand on the handle, pulling the trigger on that hand’s controller and pulling up or just pointing the hand-shaped cursor on the circle icon on the handle and pulling the triggers. In the crates are various ammo and/or grenades and/or explosive charges and/or health syringes and/or new weapons. I think there are way too many health syringes though as you’re more likely to die because you’re getting attacked too much to have time to use a health syringe than actually running out of health syringes. You don’t have to bend down and realistically pick up items if you don’t want to, you can just point the hand cursor on them and pull the trigger to collect them.

After you have completed your training, created a new save file and selected “Start Game”, Dark Legion VR begins with you crash landing on a planet. You leave you spaceship with your companion Elina and a little round flying robot to inspect the damage. Elina says you need to find some energy modules for the engine then spots a beam of light way off in the distance, says it looks like the glow of an energy module. Then she spots a crate close by and tells you to open it and this is where you get a pistol for the campaign since for some reason despite having all your weapons at the weapons range on the ship you forgot to bring any when you left the ship and can’t be bothered to go back and get any apparently. Finally Elina tells you to go explore the planet to find the energy modules and says she’ll wait at the ship for you. That’s the last I’ve seen of her so far, but your little round flying robot does go with you to help guide you. Unfortunately it can be a little annoying sometimes, flying into your face or more often getting in the way during combat. You would have thought it would fly right out of the way during firefights!

Dark Legion VR 004 624x351(Click on pic for larger & less compressed image.)

At the start of Dark Legion VR’s campaign you’re outside and in caves with colourful lighting in both environments and you’re mostly fighting various alien creatures apart from one mid-boss fight with a woman in a dark red suit and mask firing rockets from a Mega Man-style arm cannon. The aliens you come across include large spider-like bugs that come out of the ground, even larger beetles that either come out of the ground and scurry towards you or fly at you from the rocky hills, demonic-looking reptilian aliens wielding spiked clubs, xenomorph (“Alien”)-looking aliens who are pretty vicious and can kill you quickly if you don’t kill them first (my advice is always try to go for head-shots) and round flying aliens with tentacles and one big eye that shoot plasma balls very slowly. If you’re new to VR you’ll probably be freaked out when aliens manage to attack you up close, especially the flying beetles when they fly fast at your head, even I got a bit startled at first and it can get tense when a lot of enemies are attacking.

Once you’ve made your way through the caves you enter a big complex where you start fighting humans (presumably) in suits and masks. All these enemies, including the mid-boss woman who appears again later, have a breathing sound effect that sounds exactly like Darth Vader! These enemies include yellow-suited enemies that are just the standard enemy with a pistol, but later also carry shields. Blue-suited enemies with automatic rifles. Grey and red-suited snipers who use red laser sights so you can see when they get you in their sights. Flying wizards who throw magic balls of energy. Plus there are various bosses, although I’ve only encountered two so far. The enemies don’t have the most sophisticated AI, but I’d say it’s possibly slightly better than Bullet Sorrow VR’s AI. I think their bullets move a little bit too slow though as they’re slightly too easy to dodge if the enemy is far away. Especially the snipers whose bullets move even slower than the other enemies’ shots for some reason.

Unlike at least the first level of Bullet Sorrow VR, the cover in Dark Legion VR is high enough for me to just duck down a bit to use so you don’t have to crouch right down. Plus there are plenty of doorways and edges of walls to use as cover too. Although like I mentioned previously, once you pick up a shield you can use that to protect yourself throughout large sections of the game. Hopefully the developers will change it so that the shields are destructible after a certain number of hits. You do have to come out from behind your shield in order to shoot though, so you can still be shot while carrying a shield if you’re not careful or if you’re surrounded. Or by the flying wizards as I mentioned before. You can watch a short compilation video of combat inside the complex, including one of the bosses, below. Please note that this was an earlier build of the game which didn’t have the belt system implemented, plus I’m sure the enemies’ bullets were slightly faster than they are now too:

 

 

Other than combat there are also a various other tasks to do such as pulling chains to open cavern doors, pulling levers to open doors in the complex and finding security codes then punching them in to keypads beside locked doors. I haven’t seen any cut-scenes yet but you can pick up tablets next to skeletons that tell the story of another crew that was on the planet before you and reveal what’s going on there as you progress. I’m currently about 3 hours into the campaign, not counting the training, but there doesn’t seem to be any indicator of my progress. However, the developers have said that the finished game will be about 12 hours long which is a good length. It’s got a good price too since Dark Legion VR is currently only £14.99 (UK) / $19.99 (US), although that’s likely to increase a bit when the final game is released out of Early Access.

Dark Legion VR’s graphics are pretty good for a VR game, about similar quality to Halo 3. As I said in the Bullet Sorrow VR article, that may not seem very impressive but graphics appear more impressive (other than the slightly low-res look, due to being close to the screens) when you’re in VR due to the immersion created by the 3D effect. They are slightly aliased though and although I got a sharper image by increasing the supersampling in SteamVR not only does the amount of supersampling you can do depend on the game and how powerful your PC is but I don’t know whether the Windows Mixed Reality interface will allow you to change the super-sampling amount like SteamVR does. Unfortunately there don’t appear to be any in-game graphics options at all in Dark Legion VR so other than increasing the supersampling, if that’s possible in Windows MR, you’re stuck with one graphics quality setting unless the developers add more options by the time the game is finished. I don’t know how Dark Legion VR performs on hardware at the lower end of the specifications. Also, the game does currently crash whenever it has to load a new area, but I’m pretty sure that bug will be fixed when it’s finished! Luckily my progress saved each time it crashed, so I just had to reload the game and start from where I left off.

Overall I think Dark Legion VR is worth at least an 8.5 judging by what I’ve played so far and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s worth a 9 by the end of it, so I can thoroughly recommend it, especially if you can’t wait for Halo VR and want to play something similar in the meantime since there’s not even a hint of a release date for that.

If you’re getting Windows Mixed Reality do you plan on buying Dark Legion VR? Have you played it on another VR system already and if so what did you think? Let us know in the comments below or create a discussion in our (PC) Windows Mixed Reality VR Games forum.

 

Screenshots

(Click on pics to enlarge.)

 

Source: Huang Hu Ping's (Ice World developer) YouTube Channel