I recently got ahold of a preview build for upcoming sci-fi action-RPG Scraper: First Strike, by Labrodex Studios, the first episode in an upcoming series of Scraper RPGs. While it’s a seated experience, there are some parts of it that will provide a decent micro-workout for VR users who either don’t have the full use of their legs or would prefer a seated experience.
It’s also a promising game on its own, offering VR a native, bottom-up experience that promises to be decently thick and satisfies a shoot’n’loot hankering that I didn’t know I still had from when I first played Borderlands 2.
What’s It Like To Play Scraper?
In Scraper, you play as the operator of a hovering combat pod which is light and maneuverable, which you’ll control using your thumbsticks. You can upgrade it with different tech, such as enhanced shields, and what’s hinted as a nice big selection of weapons that feel punchy and fun to use.
In terms of combat pacing, I’d summarize it as something between the likes of Ratchet & Clank and Mass Effect. You’ll spend a lot of time strafing and exchanging fire, but from the perspective of being in VR.
You can look around and mess with your cockpit controls, like in Vox Machinae, but the combat pod is much smaller and its controls are much more slippery.
Granted, the slippery smoothness of Scraper’s locomotion may be too much for some people, and I did often feel like I was sliding around on a glass floor during my two hours in the preview build.
However, I managed to clear those two hours of gameplay comfortably and didn’t have any lasting problems getting into the control arrangement or running into any motion sickness.
So, will Scraper: First Strike be worth the buy when it releases on November 21 for PC VR and December 18 for PSVR? My preview experience consisted of the first three levels, and while it’s too early to give a conclusive opinion on technical things (like handling) or game length, the following features are what made Scraper stand out to me.
Item-Based Progression + Craftable Weapons
Scraper wants you to shoot, loot, craft, get more powerful stuff, and do it all over again. That’s the core gameplay loop that it offers, and frankly, it works just as fine here as it does anywhere else.
The difference between Scraper and other games with the same loop is how adamantly it wants you to craft a new weapon and play with it in your combat pod, using your own arm as an extension of the pod and feeling some of the weapon’s weight in your hand.
You don’t ever quite get that sense of weight in a flat game. And it’s the compulsion to build a new weapon just to play with it that makes Scraper’s gameplay loop fundamentally satisfying. Granted, this is not unlike other VR FPS games, but there’s something enticing about Scraper’s proposed laundry list of craftable weapons that brings out my inner child.
Scraper is chock full of weapons, and I got to play with only a few of them; an automatic blaster, a shotgun and an electromagnetic grenade launcher.
You can dual-wield weapons if you own duplicates, and each weapon you own has slots for weapon mods. You can collect mods by fighting enemies, completing side-quests and opening containers, not unlike other shoot’n’loot action-RPGs.
I’m excited to see how Labrodex mixes VR presence into the design of their weapons. You’re already given an “ultimate” weapon ability off the bat, in the form of a focused laser cannon which you can only activate every so often. As you rack up kills, your “ultimate” meter fills up until it’s ready for you to use, at which point you can physically pull back a lever located in your cockpit to set it off.
Your guns also double as melee weapons, which you can swing around to crush enemies. Even though it’s a seated game, you’ll still want to give yourself plenty of frontal space to move your arms around. This is because you’ll be desperately swatting around as enemies swarm in faster than you’re able to shoot them.
Combat is easily the part of the game that will make you sweat, as it is still far more physically active in Scraper than it would be with any regular flatscreen game.
You’re also equipped with a short-range EMP (and a shield regenerator, which is also worth mentioning here), both of which eat up resources that you can collect from dropped enemies and containers, like any other item in your inventory.
Scraper‘s combat system is also simple enough that you might seriously benefit from putting on some wrist weights whenever you play.
Scraper is all about its exploration. It centers itself around different fully-automated skyscrapers, otherwise known as the titular Scrapers, that have been affected by a rogue AI named Cifer. Each skyscraper has different floors that you can unlock and visit, each facilitating a different story purpose that help flesh out Scraper’s world.
Naturally, the skyscrapers you visit have all been vacated by all humans and are now populated (or overrun) by killer robots called “Humechs”, which isn’t unlike the basic layout of immersive sim games such as Deus Ex or Prey.
You can hack into terminals to perform “network scans”, which is the Scraper version of spending keys on treasure chests. Once you run out, you can use a central elevator to return to the game’s quest hub for more keys. But inside of each terminal is some kind of context clue, like a recorded log or a stray email left by a vacated facility, which adds to the ambiance and builds lore around each of the explorable zones.
I didn’t see this so much during my preview experience, but Labrodex’s founder and CEO, Jim Ivon, did tell me over the phone that branching narrative is an important part of the structure of his game’s story moving forward. It’s difficult to tell how much of this will exist in Scraper: First Strike, but the game is the first episode in a series of fifteen total episodes slated for release across three full Scraper games.
Right now, it seems like this first episode will be much more about getting you established into the basic narrative and gameplay beats. Labrodex will continue building on these over time, which is dandy, but I do hope that branching choices become a forward focus for the series sooner than later.
Scraper promises to have enough meat on its bones to present a nice, long VR game for people who’ve been waiting for VR to get more content-heavy games.
That said though, it’s not going to be the game that you play if you’re actively trying to burn fat and lose weight. You’re always going to want standing or room-scale experiences. Preferably, you want to play higher intensity games.
But for some gamers, it’s going to be nice for seated games like Scraper to populate shelves with full experiences to explore. Astro Bot: Rescue Mission is already one of those games, and it’s received critical appraise on PSVR for doing seated gameplay so well.
The fact is that there are some users that can’t get up and play intense games for long periods of time, or at all. Scraper isn’t devoid of physical activity, and for those people, it might actually be a useful trick to burn some calories.
It’s also introspective sci-fi. And I love introspective sci-fi.
Scraper will be out on Oculus Rift, Windows MR, and Steam VR on November 21, 2018. It will be out on PSVR on December 18, 2018. Both versions will cost $29.99 at launch.
Is Scraper: First Strike on your holiday watchlist? Let us know in the comments.