While standing on the edge of a cliff, I look up and point my hand upwards as a grappling hook extends to connect to a floating orb. As I’m propelled through the air, I look down and launch a volley of grenades towards a group of enemies that were trying to capture the node at my base. Everyone immediately disperses. I take out a duo to my left after switching to my sidearm, and my teammate snipes the third enemy on my right. Just like that, we’re back in control.
Moments like these featuring a vast armory of weapons are now at my fingertips thanks to Larcenauts, the just-released team-based hero shooter from Impulse Gear for the Oculus Quest and Rift Platforms. The developers behind this chaotic slice of carnage are also the masterminds behind critically-acclaimed PSVR shooter Farpoint, and now they’re doubling down on competitive thrills to really make Larcenauts shine.
There are three different game modes in Larcenauts: Refuel, Uplink, and Team Deathmatch. Refuel plays out a bit like a Domination-style match in which you must take control of fuel stations that gradually refuel your ship so that your team can escape a hostile alien world. During the match, you compete against another team also trying to steal the fuel for themselves.
Uplink works a lot like Capture the Flag, but instead of a flag it’s a surveillance drone. You can do some zany things with the drone, like throw it to your teammates before the enemy grabs it, and when you’re uploading data to a terminal you have to physically hold it there with your hands, so it’s usually a good idea to have a buddy nearby to watch your back. There’s also Team Deathmatch, because obviously.
Just like in other popular hero shooters, Larcenauts is all about its colorful cast of characters. There’s the big half-plant guy with a mushroom head who can pummell bad guys with his fists, and you’ve also got the young, shifty operative who can dart and dash around. No squad would be complete without someone lobbing grenades, a grizzled war sniper, and a few others to round out the offerings. It’s a well-balanced crew that ensures every match has a nice blend of different Specialists on display.
Leveraging their background and past experience developing VR shooters, Impulse Gear really honed in on crafting a game that’s just plain fun to play from moment-to-moment while promoting the strengths of VR as a medium.
After playing Larcenauts, what really stuck with me was just how frantic everything felt. At one moment I’d be ducking behind a crate in a hallway, poking my head out to take shots at an enemy from the safety of cover, and then suddenly I’d get overwhelmed and be forced to move and think on my feet. One Specialist used a powerful shotgun that helped cure my anxiety about walking around corners because I always knew I had the upperhand in any close-combat scenarios. There’s a ton of variability for matches thanks to that variety because depending on which map you’re on, which game mode is selected, which Specialist you pick, and which abilities you use, everything can shift at the drop of a hat.
I appreciated that instead of the developers simply placing different weapons around the map, or assigning loadouts before a match starts, each character feels distinct and unique in and of themselves. For example, one of my favorites, Thal, has a personal shield that can block damage while it’s deployed and recharge energy when stored. This makes him an excellent squad member for situational game modes like Uplink where you may need to defend an ally.
Chi is another Specialist with a more support-focused skillset as the game’s primary healer. He can also function as a tank as his Chrysalis ability makes him invulnerable for a short time to block damage from incoming attacks. During that time he can’t move, but he does regenerate health, so you can return to the fight ready for action.
More so than other VR shooters on the market, Larcenauts is the type of game that is going to take some time to pick up steam. The appeal is apparent with the exciting gameplay, diverse maps, and fun characters, but once everyone starts to settle into their roles and figures out the playstyles they like best, that’s when it’ll really start to shine. Larcenauts is all about team composition and cooperation—well, that and how good of a shot you are with an Oculus Touch controller.