In the slew of new titles for VR, there's an overabundance of platform defense shooters with the occasional port of an already familiar game, some good, some bad. In all of that, Alchemist Defender VR by TreeView Studios. You can watch the things try to brave your gauntlet of towers, then descend from your cloud like the god-king you are and clear waves of enemies with a single swing of you hand like freaking Sauron. Were it not for the VR and the gimmick of entering the fray yourself, this would be a slightly below average tower defense game. There aren't many levels and there isn't really a ton of choice in weapons or towers. At the same time, the ability to wipe out enemy lines with one swing of your arm is as satisfying as it sounds.
Alchemist Defender VR is available on Steam for $9.99.
You are an Alchemist who has been blinded by power. You have unlocked the gates to new realities, and now seek to dominate these other worlds like some blend of Ghenghis Khan and Rick Sanchez. Though the story is functional and really doesn't come into play in the gameplay at all, it does raise a question for me. If you're the one on the attack, why are you on the defensive? I mean, the game doesn't really care much about the story so much so that I could only glean this from the trailer, so this isn't a big complaint, but I'd still like to know. My guess is that once you've built up your foothold the domination is child's play, but it would be nice to have some clarification.
All in all, I would say that Alchemist Defender VR does a very good job with bringing an old and rather basic genre to the realm of Virtual Reality. You lord over the battlefield with control over all you can survey. You can click and drag towers from your spellbook to special locations to create them. The places you can do this are so large it isn't really any sort of issue. What I do take issue with is the fact that you only have three towers with no options to upgrade or switch out during or between matches. Even those tower defense games played in Flash in the mid 2000s had more options as far as tower choices go. You have an arrow tower that is cheap and deals a little damage, an ice beam tower that slows as it damages and costs a middling amount of money, and a cannon tower which is wildly inaccurate but deals AOE damage. So while it does have the basic bases covered, I do expect more from tower defense games in this day and age.
Another major complaint is that there are really only four stages, eight if you count the hard variants, which as far as I could tell just made the towers more expensive and made gold harder to come by. Now, the levels were all wildly different: you have one more standard fantasy setting as you fend off rat people, a graveyard while you destroy undead hordes, a jungle where you are under assault from mushroom people, and a volcanic wasteland where you are besieged by lava monsters. The maps were all layed out differently, so though I really could have gone for more stages, they did not phone in the ones that are there.
Though it is a bit lackluster as a tower defense, Alchemist Defender does shine as a hack-and-slash. All of the weapons available have a satisfying kick, whether it's a giant warhammer, a crossbow, a flail, or a chemical sprayer. The melee weapons all feel roughly the same, but there's only so many variants of "hit a thing with a thing," but the ranged weapons are really diverse and each one felt great to use. It's a pity that you only get one melee weapon, one ranged weapon, and one mine in each of the four levels and they come pre-selected. So if you want to use the grenade launcher from the lava level on the undead, you're out of luck pal. You're going to use the alchemic crossbow and like it. My one exception may be the flail from the third level, it always just felt like I was swinging around a hunk of crumpled-up paper rather than an iron ball of death. You also can teleport around by clicking either D-pad, which is a smooth an intuitive means of movement.
Also, is it just me or is this game terribly optimized? I meet all the system requirements, but on the hard stages I still got a lot of lag that made it impossible for me to finish any one of them. Lag is something that's annoying in a normal game, but when it's supposed to be tracking my head realistically but it just makes short, jumpy movements, it made me physically ill. Performance has to be smooth in a VR game, because even a little lag is a death sentence.
Graphics and audio
This game does look and sound fantastic. The levels and creature all vary so wildly in design even within their own levels, you could never mistake one type of enemy for another. Each level has it's own distinct feel. This game has you playing as a dimension-hopping wizard and I can believe it thanks to the vast differences in visuals and ambient sounds. Whether you're observing the troops falling to your defenses from on your cloud or wading through the hordes as you cut them down, the game really shines in the visual department.
The graphics and audio can even help refresh what would be rather standard weapon archetypes. My personal favorite example is in the very first level. You decide to go down with your ranged weapon, which looks to be a want of some sort. So what, it will fire a beam or something to let you gradually wear down the lines? No, you pull that trigger and after a cathartic bang, the entire line of enemies you were pointing at falls over. What is almost universally a beam in these sorts of games is actually a darn good shotgun. . I'm also a big fan of that wicked looking ice sword in that last level, which doesn't do much different but man would I love to wield that if I were an evil overlord.
Though the tower defense itself is a bit lackluster due to rather standard and limited selection of towers, Alchemist Defender VR really hits its stride as a hack-and-slash fighter. The weapon choice may be limited on a level-by-level basis, but each still has it's own satisfying kick. Still, the problem I ran into with the lag is something to be keeping in mind. If you're looking for an in-depth tower defense game, this probably isn't exactly going to be your cup of tea. On the other hand, if you just got a VR headset and need a cheap but satisfying hack-and-slash, you could do worse than Alchemist Defender. Just be sure to have some dramamine on standby if you're going to do the hard stages.
|+ Satisfying weapons||– Lackluster tower selection|
|+ Distinct levels||– Weak story|
|+ Difficulty ramps up nicely||– Vertigo-inducing lag|