Larcenauts is a worthy entry into the VR multiplayer scene and will likely satisfy fans of this genre.
Unfortunately, it feels a bit early access at this point with a few things needing to be added or tweaked before it could be considered for a ‘Certified Explosive’ rating of 8.5 or more.
Thankfully, looking at the development roadmap, it seems we might see some of these improvements coming this year.
Larcenauts is a 6v6 multiplayer romp with three familiar game modes: Team Deathmatch, Uplink (capture the flag), and Refuel (hold points A, B and C).
It is clear from the get go that Larcenauts takes inspiration from popular team based shooters like Overwatch. There are eight playable characters, and each character comes equipped with two weapons, a tactical ability, a unique grenade, and a deployable item.
Characters have their own individual strengths that are designed to complement each other in a skirmish to encourage team based play. For example, Calmia is a fast character with a dash ability which is useful for scouting ahead and capturing territory, whilst the robot Thal is slower but has a one way shield and beefy weapon that can provide covering fire to help Calmia secure a captured point.
It is important to get familiar with each of the characters abilities as you could find yourself getting taken out all too easily if you go head to head with someone whose abilities give them the upper hand in a given situation.
However, even if you are familiar with the different character classes, the game can feel a bit unbalanced and unfair at times. The grenadier called Salter is able to launch a bunch of explosives in quick succession and can take you out before you know what has happened, whilst Calmia can drop an AOE ability that increases her rate of fire which feels too overpowered when she is dual wielding SMGs.
Despite these balance issues which will probably be ironed out at some point, one of the highlights of Larcenauts is mixing and matching character combinations to find the best strategies to approach combat.
As an example, the medic class character Chi has a healing beam that will typically make them a key target for the opposite team. If Chi teams up to heal the heavy weapon tank character Thal, you have a pretty devastating combo!
Whilst there are a wide range of character abilities to explore, the variety of maps feel much more underwhelming.
There are only four maps at launch with more to be added in the fall of this year (see the Future Road Map image below). The environments look refreshingly different from one another and sport some nice features like the grapple points you can use to launch yourself in the air and doors you can close to create chokepoints.
You will need to spend a little time getting familiar with each map in order to take full advantage of their layouts but even with each map being quite different to the last, having only four to choose from does mean they become a bit stale after some time.
Added to this, the maps are on the smaller side which means you get into the action fairly quickly and matches last about 15 minutes or less. However, it would be nice to have a few larger maps for a more drawn out tactical experience.
There are also loot boxes you can earn by playing games and earning a currency called ‘Solars’ that you can use to buy unlockables at the in-game store. Another way to earn Solars is by completing the daily challenges such as ‘get 2 kill streaks with Thal’ or ‘kill 240 enemies with Vod’.
These smaller features are extra padding that helps keep the game exciting and fresh.
Larcenauts has online matchmaking and allows you to invite friends, but private lobbies are not here yet and are coming as part of the future development road map.
If there aren’t enough human players the game will match you with AI bots which are fairly dumb. Bots tend to clump together around objectives and so aside from practice matches you will probably want to play with as few bots as possible.
It also features crossplay between Quest and PC versions, however at the time of this review it currently only works with Oculus headsets due to a last minute issue encountered by the development team.
However, Larcenauts is promised to run on SteamVR headsets like the Vive and Index at some point down the track as the team are currently working hard to resolve this issue.
Larcenauts has a strong, consistent art-direction featuring a bright and bold colour palette.
It’s not the best looking Quest game but the visuals compliment the fast-paced gameplay nicely and allow you to clearly see all the enemies and action happening on the map.
The audio compliments the gameplay quite nicely.
Larcenauts features a lively electronic soundtrack with a few catchy tunes, as well as character voices that come in the form of infrequent one-liners during the game.
There is nothing particularly outstanding about the audio but we do hear the voice of Jane Lynch as Captain Kas which is a welcome addition.
Larcenauts is set in the fringes of the Ludus galaxy where a team of misfits compete with others to plunder the resources from different planets.
There is a bit of a backstory here, we are treated to a brief snippet of history for each of the maps and a biography for each of the characters you can see on the website here.
However, it’s not a story driven game and you could easily play this one without knowing a single thing about the characters or the environments.
As mentioned previously, the game is currently lacking in the number of maps to select.
There are currently a total of four maps to choose from; Relay, the remote abandoned relay station, Excavation, which is an ancient alien digsite, then there is Blight, a purple alien planet with oversized mushrooms, and finally Hazard Pay, a mining planet with rocky terrain and a big crusher located in the middle of map.
More maps are planned to be added in the fall of this year. Whilst players are stuck with a limited selection of maps for now, there is still quite a bit to get stuck into here in the form of unlockable content.
You begin the game with a single character and need to unlock the other eight as you go. Each character has twenty levels and levelling up provides the character with new skins, weapon load-outs and ‘Power Slates’ (modifiers) to upgrade their abilities.
For example, you can use Power Slates to increase the number of times Calmia can use the dash ability before it needs to cool down.
The developers tell us that it will take about 30+ hours to unlock everything in the game which is an impressive amount of content provided you are okay with some grinding.
Larcenauts could do a lot better in the immersion department.
The combat doesn’t allow for physically dodging attacks or using your hands to communicate with your teammates.
Larcenauts mostly relies on the controller sticks for movement and buttons for abilities, even for reloading. The developers mention that automatic reloading was chosen to keep the game fast-paced but it seems to take the fun and skill out of reloading manually.
Whilst every game doesn’t need to have manual reloading, seeing the gun reload automatically in Larcenauts doesn't feel quite right. Gun handling also feels a bit strange as it is only your main gun hand that contributes to the gun's movement.
The developers say this is something they will fix but for now, it breaks the immersion to have one arm that doesn’t have any effect on the gun when holding it.
The grapple ability suffers from the same lack of interactivity as the guns. Instead of launching a grapple and using your arm to yank yourself up, it's done by a simple push of a stick.
There is 3D audio and some exceptions to the button pressing interactivity, such as the alien Vod who has punching attacks that are initiated by making a punching gesture!
However, there are a lot of missed opportunities here to captialise on the sense of immersion this platform brings, making the game feel like a hybrid between a VR game and a flatscreen game.
Larcenauts does not offer teleportation movement and only provides smooth locomotion.
It’s also a fast paced game that will have you sprinting, strafing, turning quickly and launching yourself in the air with the grapple.
Needless to say this game is definitely intense so if you are a newcomer to VR or experience motion sickness, beware. Having said that, it does run smoothly and has some comfort options which includes smooth-movement, snap/smooth turning, and adjustable field of view blinders.
Learning Curve: 6
You can get into Larcenauts and begin playing straight away. That being said, you’ll probably die pretty soon if playing with others and that’s because it can take a while to get acquainted with each of the characters, their individual abilities, and loadouts.
There’s nothing overly complex here, there’s just a lot to learn and so it will take you a bit of time to become familiar with all of the characters and their features.
Value for Money: 6.5
As it stands, Larcenauts currently feels a like an early access game that needs a bit more to be completely worthy of its $29.99 USD price tag.
It’s a blast to play and for the most part features solid visual, audio, and gameplay mechanics. However, it still needs a few fixes and more content when it comes to maps.
As we saw in the future roadmap there are more features being added by the development team and so the game is set to become better value for money as time goes by and these features are added, making it feel more complete.
Summary: Heart-pounding thrills in majestic locales… Concerted mayhem and lawless mischief… Welcome to the Tern system.
Game Modes: Multiplayer
Genres: Action, Arcade, Shooter
Platforms: Oculus Quest
Developers: Impulse Gear
Publishers: Impulse Gear
Release Date: June 17, 2021
Version Reviewed: 1.36939