Wave shooters never really appealed to me on games with controllers, but in VR things get a little more interesting. This becomes especially so when the wave shooter is bow and arrow based and while we already have several great bow and arrow based titles in Hollowpoint and Sacralith VR, Archer VR comes in an early access form offering some of the most tiring and arm intensive experiences around.
The game starts out very abruptly, no real menu screen or tutorial really, you’re just thrust into a castle and told to shoot the targets. This is a good way to get used to how the bow feels and how far arrows will go based on your bowstring pullback. Rest assured these are some of the best bow physics I’ve seen and it works great to enhance the experience at hand. This being an early access title, there are only three levels to choose from, outside of a castle, an indoor area of the castle, and then another section outdoors of the castle. How it works is you have to take down 10 waves of incoming enemies. These enemies are a solid variety of goblins, orcs, flying creatures, monstrous ogres, and lizards. Each one of these enemies has its’ own set of weak points and strengths. Some are more resistant to headshots because of their armor and some are more vulnerable to fire arrows than others. The goal is to prevent them from entering a portal that chips away at your life bar which has ten pieces to it. To aid you on your mission are powerups that you can obtain from killing enemies with a glowing orb above their head. These powerups range from arrows that create blocks of ice to slow a whole group’s path or acid arrows that poison whoever gets hit by them. There really isn’t anything describing what each of these powerups does, to begin with though, and the vagueness was frustrating as I tried to get my bearings. A cool touch that the game has is the ability to light your arrows aflame at any time by simply dipping the tip of your arrow into the torches that are lit up around the various towers. You can travel to any of these towers at any point during the mission to get better vantage points on your attackers. Along to aide you are various explosive barrels set up around the level that can take out a few enemies at a time if shot at the right moment.
To prepare for this game I used a VR cover and a disposable VR mask for a more comfortable time while playing. This game can be played seated or standing up, though standing will be a much easier time as turning your whole body around is a must for much of your playthrough. Archer VR is a room-scale experience as well and while it’s not necessary to have a lot of space, it can make gameplay both more fun and easier to maneuver.
I tracked a 30-minute workout in Archer VR using a Fitbit to record my results.
Calories burned: 182
Calories burned per minute: 6.6
Average Heart Rate: 98
Max Heart Rate: 128
Active Minutes: 20
While the numbers there won’t blow you away, I will say that fighting off the Orcish hordes of Archer VR creates some incredibly intense moments and the urgency mixed with the physical output required to succeed in this game was an amazing workout experience.
Not since Thrill of the Fight have my arms been so shot after a 30 minute VR session. While the round wave usually starts off benignly enough, soon you’re firing arrows as fast as you physically can as the Orcs get stronger and faster and that alone causes a serious burn to set in on your arms. As if that wasn’t enough, the act of lighting your arrows on fire adds to this arm burn as you’re constantly having to reach behind you or in front of you to relight your arrows and make sure you’re keeping up with the growing hordes. Then once you think you’ve got things figured out, Harpies start showing up in the skies and you have to adjust your arm angle to hit them all while managing the forces marching towards the portal below. By the end of my session, I felt like I had just done an entire workout focused on biceps and forearms. If you’re looking to gain some arm definition, this is a fun way to do so.
There isn’t a ton of leg work involved in Archer VR, but what is there can give you a decent workout. Your legs come into play during the game in a few ways. First, you’re going to have to keep an eye on all side of you pretty much at all times and this means you’ll be shifting your stance back and forth a ton of times. Over a decent period of time, this can create quite the burn so get ready. The other way your legs are involved is when you need to duck to dodge the attacks of the Harpies. They fire these balls of blue energy at you and unless you want an annoying stun effect to hit you, you have to either duck, jump or dodge out of the way. These enemies are rare to appear though so mostly your legwork will be comprised of the shifting stances.
Core and Balance- 8/10
I thought this would be a strictly arm intensive game when I first booted it up. I’m happy to say I was wrong. I’ll paint the scenario for you. Around 10 massive trolls are marching towards the door I need to protect. They’re coming from in front of me and from a cave behind me. I’m basically reenacting that scene from Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers where Legolas has to shoot the Orc sprinting towards the gate before he blows it up. I have one torch on the tower I’m on and the only way to efficiently kill these things is to hit them with fire. For a solid 3 minutes, my motion sequence became shoot, dip to light the arrow on fire, twist to the other side to hit the other line of trolls, dip the arrow, twist the other way. Rinse and repeat and I felt it big time in my core as these bigger enemies take an enormous amount of punishment before they fall.
Time Perception- 9/10
This is one of those games where the mission at hand grips you so much that you’re not worried about how much time was passing. For example, I was tracking my 30-minute workout, and midway through a mission, I checked to see 30 minutes was already up. I logged it and hopped right back in for another 30 because I wanted to beat this level so badly.
This is an early access game and in Archer VR’s case, that means only 3 levels. Each of these levels lasts roughly 10 minutes each depending on how fast of an Archer you are. I found this game to be incredibly difficult to beat and will be returning multiple times to see if I can top my previous scores.
Fitness Scalability- 8/10
Archer VR can be experienced in short 5-10 minute bursts in order to get a light to moderate workout in, or it can be experienced for as long as your arms can handle it. I found the act of pulling back the bow over and over to cause my arms serious fatigue by the end of a decently long play session, so it’s really based on how much you can handle. If you want to beat this game, get ready for the pain.
Lack of Nausea- 8/10
Archer VR is a game that doesn’t really require you to move out of one place that often. However, teleporting from tower to tower while optional, occasionally made me feel a little disoriented which is strange since the teleport mechanic was designed to alleviate most VR sickness, and here it seems to be the only thing causing it. That being said the majority of my experience was nausea-free and I was able to play for a lengthy amount of time.
Social Competition- 6/10
While this is mainly a single-player experience, there is a leaderboard where you get to see how you stack up to other players and it’s nice to see if you’ve improved after each round you’ve had. There is no planned multiplayer for the moment.
VR FIT SCORE- 7/10
Archer VR provides an intense workout that gives you nice graphics, amazing bow physics and fun enemies to take down. It gives you the feeling of being the last line of defense as a goblin army marches on you, and that’s something I don’t see a lot of in VR.
It’s an Early Access title, so only three levels are available at the moment. The enemy variety doesn’t change much from level to level, so repetition can set in quickly if you get bored on the draw and pull nature of the gameplay. It’s unclear how most of the powerups work, and there isn’t any tutorial explaining what you’re supposed to do initially. It would be nice to see a story implemented so you have more motivation to defend the castle.
Archer VR is available for $6.99 Steam and playable on Oculus Rift, Valve Index, HTC Vive, and Windows Mixed Reality headsets.