Archangel is a story-based, on-rails Virtual Reality game in which the player is tasked with controlling humanity’s last bastion of hope, a giant bipedal mech, to defend whatever is left of society. As one of VR’s few story-heavy games and Mech titles, Archangel has a lot of expectations to live up to, but does it succeed?
Developer: Skydance Interactive
Platform: PSVR, HTC Vive, and Oculus Rift
MonsterVine was supplied with a PC code for review
The answer is an unambiguous sometimes. Archangel’s roughly six-hour story is full of overused tropes and overly condensed characters. There are a few genuinely emotional moments and surprises, but for the most part it’s a gruff and rugged underdog, male or female, fighting against a generic sci-fi force. The enemy is largely one-dimensional, most of the moments that were intended to feel emotional feel forced or rushed to the point where I was aware I was supposed to feel something, but simply didn’t. Archangel’s most-compelling story features lie in the Archangel Mech’s artificial intelligence, as various scripted glitches and hacks reveal more details about both the main character’s past as well as the AI’s true functionality.
Gameplay fares better than the rather generic story, but not by much. At first, sitting in the pilot’s seat of a five-story robot is just about as cool as it sounds. Unfortunately as time goes on the game’s restrictions and lack of variety really starts to show.
As previously mentioned, Archangel is an on-rails experience, meaning the player doesn’t actually control where the character or their mech goes. The Archangel unit simply marched on while I eliminated as many enemies I could until the story dictated that we stop, either to complete an objective or to combat waves of enemies. Being a rail shooter definitely simplifies the movement issues of Virtual Reality but, as simple as Archangel is, freedom of movement would’ve at least added another element to the mix.
When enemies begin to attack, fighting back can be fun for a short time but is ultimately too simple. There’s only a handful of weapons, and only specific weapons can be equipped on each arm. Both arms are equipped with an energy shield that can be held for a short amount of time. The combination of shields and weapons usually resulted in a spartan-esque tactic, in which I’d hold up a shield on one arm and deploy my weapons with my other. Most of the game is pretty basic, a simple point and shoot will solve most scenarios. There are a few encounters that require a bit more thought, but too few to shake things up enough.
Because of its simplicity most of Archangel is pretty easy, but there are a few difficulty spikes in which the game goes from a linear story experience to a bullet-hell. These moments are both the most enjoyable and frustrating in the game. When done right, eliminating hordes of enemies and managing shields and health feels powerful, but make a mistake or become overwhelmed and you can lose five minutes of progress in an instant.
Any other mechanics in the game don’t work all that well. There are a few moments that require grabbing or punching objects or enemies. Unfortunately, when I had to do anything with my hands in Archangel it didn’t feel nearly as easy or intuitive as other virtual reality experiences.
Rounding out the mediocre experience are the visuals, which are about as sub-par as many other parts of the game. They aren’t bad per se, but not good either. Backgrounds look obviously drawn, which can be jarring in an otherwise semi-realistic visual style. Flashbacks have some cool visual effects, but overall the game has an unattractive grainy look to it, and the semi-frequent scenes in which NPCs speak are horribly dubbed over in what look like animated facial loops that barely match the words they’re saying.
The Final Word
Archangel is not so much a bad game as it is an extremely average one. Combat’s fun for a time, but simple and lacking in variety. The story is present and not bad, but again, nothing about it is particularly riveting. Visuals seem a bit outdated and plain, but are serviceable. Archangel is an example of a single-player VR experience working, but only barely.
– MonsterVine Review Score: 3 out of 5 – Average