On paper, real time strategy and virtual reality are a match made in heaven. In practice, no one has quite managed to merge the two together in an exciting way yet. League of War: VR Arena has the basic idea of having you watch over a battle in a war room and deploying troops to attack your enemies. The concept isn't a bad one, but can it sustain the whole game or is this league not packed with enough war to go around?
You'll follow one of eight commanders with paper-thin personalities as they go about fighting the other seven. Each commander's story can be summed up as follows: they're hired by a country/company, they suspect they'll be betrayed, they are betrayed, and then they get revenge. The story is told through quick voice-overs during the loading screens, and each commander comes off as a terrible person. One is a scientist that "doesn't understand why people need concepts like freedom", while another thinks it's silly that a group of people want to secede from a country because they're not getting financial support after a category 5 hurricane. It wasn't long before I was skipping each voice segment and just quietly wishing each character would just go away.
Using two Move controllers as your hands, you'll sit at one end of the table surrounded by different units. You can play any of these units simply by picking them up and placing them on the table, which will cause them to march forward towards the enemy. You can sort of direct them to attack specific targets by pointing at that target, but your units will ignore absolutely everything to do this one action. The idea is to use this to make sure your units are picking the correct targets, but in practice the aiming is a bit too finicky and more than once I targeted a turret in the background and watched in annoyance as my units would ignore every enemy and get killed.
Units come in five types: infantry, recon, tanks, artillery, and aircraft. Each type of unit has different advantages and disadvantages and you'll have to play them somewhat smart to succeed. For example, artillery do massive damage from long range, but are really weak and have no anti-air defenses, meaning sending an aircraft after them is an easy way to remove them from the battlefield. Furthermore, each type has different subtypes that have different uses. There's a world of difference between a flamethrower unit and a sniper. Units work off of cooldowns, meaning you don't need to worry about spending resources on deploying them. You can also choose to cause one unit's cooldown to recover at double speed, at the cost of all the other meters pausing.
The longer you play the more apparent the problems with the spawning system become. You can't pick which of the subtypes you actually want to spawn, and instead the game just cycles through them. Just spawned a mammoth tank and want a second one? Well too bad, as there's three different kinds of tanks you need to spawn before you can get another mammoth tank. I quickly realized that having a big army was actually a disadvantage, and many of the later stages of the game became challenging not only because of the more difficult enemies, but because having more units was actively hampering me. It's not like Clash Royale where I could at least play similar units as long as I had enough points. Here every unit ran at their own cooldown and I was trapped out of those units and often forced to spawn ones I didn't want to get to the ones I did.
Every campaign plays the same. You'll face off against eight opponents in four minute matches where your goal is to destroy all the turrets at the other side of the field. It was quickly apparent that the enemy commander was not actually restricted to the same rules related to spawning that I was. While the first few campaigns were easy enough, later levels quickly became entirely luck based. If I won or not seemed more dependent on if the enemy would spawn an impenetrable ball of units or not. In addition to this, some of the commanders have absolutely terrible unit sets. Davidson, for example, has early matches against aircraft heavy commanders but his only anti-air units are recon vehicles. Worse, only one is really made to be an anti-air unit but Davidson's whole shtick is that he has the most recon vehicles. Want that anti-air unit? Then you have to wait for two or three other units to spawn, and by then the enemy has likely already spawned more aircraft. League of War quickly became less fun and more of a recipe for frustration and annoyance.
Win or lose, you'll gain medals for playing the game. You can use these medals to buy and build a personalized army for arcade mode. Then you can go to arcade mode and play the exact same kind of matches you were playing in the campaign. There's no online mode available at all, though there is a local competitive mode that's hidden away. At the general selection screen you can have someone press a button on the DualShock controller, letting them play on the TV while the other player uses the PSVR headset. While that's a good idea, it quickly becomes apparent that there's a massive problem. The person playing on the TV can't order their units like the VR player can, putting the VR player at a massive advantage. While that can at least be patched in, it also made me wonder why the game even requires VR in the first place as it worked perfectly fine with a controller and no VR. There's also no reason for this mode to be as difficult to find as it is, as I had to look outside of the game to figure out how to activate it.
While I thought League of War: VR Arena could have been a clever take on RTS gameplay, it has way too many issues for anything good to shine through. I hated every character, I loathed every time my units did the wrong thing, I despised the spawning system that made no sense, and I detested the weird unbalanced multiplayer mode. There are some good ideas here, deep under the surface, that I would love to see explored better. In its current state this league is just far from legendary.
League of War: VR Arena was reviewed on PlayStation VR using a copy provided by the developers.
League of War: VR Arena is a sloppily made RTS that suffers from bad mechanics, poor controls, extremely unlikable characters, and an unbalanced local competitive mode.(Review Policy)
- A Few Decent Ideas
- Barely Any Story, Terrible Characters
- Broken Unit Spawn System
- Cheating AI
- Clumsy Controls
- Local Competitive Mode is Unbalanced