Hands-On With The Horus Heresy: Betrayal At Calth (HTC Vive)
For the purpose of transparency, this hands-on was completed using a code provided by the company or their respective PR company. The use of a free code does not affect my judgement of this product.
Please note this hands-on was created using a product that is currently in Early Access, meaning some of the issues could be resolved over time. Also, I am only looking at the VR mode, the game can be played in standard/flat mode.
Steel Wool Studios have brought the world of Warhammer 40k to the VR platform in the form of The Horus Heresy: Betrayal At Calth – which is based on the board game of the same name. But, does the transition from board game to VR really work?
The Horus Heresy: Betrayal At Calth does come with a campaign/story mode, but while it is in Early Access you can only play Act 1 of the campaign. Meaning you will only get a taster of the story, but more should be added as the development continues in the Steel Wool Studios offices. However, the game tells the story of the Word Bearers as they take on the Ultramarines head on. You will be following Sarc, who is taking the betrayal on using knowledge to get one over the Ultramarines. The story is played out with cut scenes throughout the Act you get to play.
The game is labelled under a fantasy strategy game, and as aforementioned is based in the Warhammer 40k universe. The gameplay reminded me very much of XCOM, rather than your traditional real-time strategy games. This is due to campaign giving you goals, which were down to getting your leader to set points of the map or defending points. The battle is turned based, where you will either move your units to cover, advantageous points or use different attack methods. When moving units to cover you have take notice of the environment you move them to. This is down to some parts of the environment being destructible and others indestructible – with as expected the later of the two offering a lot more of an advantage. During the opening Act you play, the war isn’t on a grand scale, and you will control a maximum of 10 units at a time – I am not sure if the later acts will bring larger battles into the game.
When it comes the presentation of the game, it shows some high production values. Overall the game has strong visuals, the world is well designed and even when getting close up to units or the environments they keep a solid look. At the moment there’s a slight issue with the text in the VR, but the notes received with the code informs they are already working on a patch to fix this issue. With the audio it really was a mixed bag though. The atmospheric sounds of the Warhammer world and the situation you are placed in are all done really well. But, I found at times the voice acting comes across a bit mediocre – which can drag you out of the immersion the game creates.
Control wise the game isn’t that difficult, but at points of the game will require some experimentation. This was down to an issue I found where some of the VR controls were not really explained, or not in enough detail – I can not vouch if it is the same for the standard PC version. Other than the few times experimentation was needed the controls are really simple to use. All the commands for your units are done using the right Tracked Motion Controller. All the commands are placed around the touch pad, so you will select your units using the trigger, select the action on the touch pad and then implement that action with another press of the trigger. Another thing that reminded with of XCOM was you can move about the battlefield to check on your best tactics, your enemies positioning and to easily select your troops. This is where the left hand Tracker Motion Controller comes into play – using the trigger on this will control your teleportation around the area. The game is recommended to be played in a standing position, but to be perfectly honest I didn’t have an issues when trying it out seated.
When it came to playing through Act One of the campaign it took me just over an hour – but please remember there is five Acts planned for it leaving Early Access. In order to try to cover for the campaign not being complete they have added multiplayer to the game. At the moment the game includes four maps and two modes, again more could be added throughout its development. The multiplayer can also be played against people using the same platform as you, or VR vs PC – meaning if you are playing in VR it is open to play PC players. However, I can’t really tell you much about the MP, as I never really got a chance to play it. This was down to the lack of players – but remember I was playing this prior to the release of the game. So, I am hoping that the player base will grow and the multiplayer will be more accessible moving forward.
One final issue I would like to cover, is although my PC is well over the recommended specs for the VR mode, I found a slight issue when putting it on high settings. A few times when on High the game would freeze and then load upside down in the headset, although when looking at the PC it was still the correct way around – this was fixed by closing the game and reloading it. This is an issue I have never faced before even on more graphically demanding games – so I don’t think it is a PC or headset issue. I tested it on medium and it worked fine through the whole playthrough.
Overall from what I have experienced with The Horus Heresy: Betrayal At Calth, I am looking forward to the campaign being extended, and hope to get some games on multiplayer. The game has a great core mechanic behind it, and brings the Warhammer 40k universe to life in VR. It has enough lore included in it for fans who love all the universe, but keeps it interesting for those who are not up on the lore.
Lastly, I would like to add Steel Wool Studios recommend the HTC Vive for the VR mode of the game, but have pointed out it will work on the Oculus.