Game: Ancient Amuletor
Publisher: Time of Virtual Reality
Ancient Amuletor is a tower defense game where you’re the tower doing the defending. You protect crystals by warping to predetermined spaces on the map and shooting at enemies walking on a set path towards the crystals. While this central gimmick does a good job of providing fun gameplay with tense moments, it leans so heavily on this central gimmick that it grows tiresome quickly.
As you’re shooting baddies, you get to choose between four different heroes to play as and can change between them mid-game. The ranger shoots powerful arrow shots from her bow. The gunner has two shotguns that deal strong damage at close range but need to be periodically reloaded. The mage summons orbs from his left hand, grabs them with his right, and lobs them at enemies. The puppeteer throws a robotic sentry who swings its axe and hammer in sync with your arm movements. Each hero also has a different skill that charges as enemies are killed, such as the ranger locking onto multiple baddies or the gunner rapidly firing her guns without reloading.
Everything is controlled by the Playstation Move controllers. You have to load arrows onto your bow as the ranger and then pull it back while aiming to fire. You have to reload your guns as the gunner by jerking the controllers upwards as if you were closing the breaks of the barrels. It adds an interesting new layer to the otherwise standard gameplay.
Getting through each wave of enemies requires you to constantly zip between different vantage points on the map. Spots give you ample angles to pick off enemies and take advantage of the enhanced awareness and perception granted with VR, but they can have blind spots or simply be too far away from enemies. In addition, there are different types of enemies with ones carrying bombs that do heavy damage against crystals or enemies that can block shots with a shield. There’s also traps to trigger to take down enemies such as exploding barrels. Since enemies attack your crystals on multiple locations, victory comes down to not only your skill as a shooter but how you prioritize your locations on the map so you can take down high profile targets more efficiently. This can create fun and often tense moments, and I can only imagine it getting even more fun with multiplayer.
The game has a nice art style, mixing cartoony graphics with fantasy elements. The heroes are all distinct and feature memorable designs. The environments and enemies are nicely designed as well but they’re not nearly as memorable as the heroes. I would have also liked a bit more context to the gameplay. The game’s website hints at a story but there isn’t much in the main game.
What I described so far is fun, but it unfortunately doesn’t stay that way for long. Either you’ll get sick of the game and put it down, or the game will end before you even have a chance to get sick of it.
I said you can play as four different heroes, but really you’ll be playing as the gunner most of the time. That’s because she has the most straightforward controls and is the most efficient at shooting. The other heroes aren’t nearly as intuitive thanks to the finicky and often inaccurate controls of the game as a whole. The ranger is powerful and great for long range sniping but it’s often too cumbersome to fire her bow, especially as the controllers desync (fortunately there’s a way to recalibrate them mid-game). The puppeteer is useful but his sentry is rooted to one spot and has short range attacks as well as a long cooldown after being out for a limited time, making him only useful in multiplayer. The mage is worthless as his orbs don’t do nearly as much damage as they should even with the small explosion from the impact and throwing them will have the orbs either arcing straight down or way off target. It kind of sucks when only a little over a quarter of the playable cast is viable because of the controls.
Ancient Amuletor is also yet another example of a game that thinks rising difficulty means throwing a mass of enemies and bullet-sponge bosses at the player. I was on the ropes when playing the final level on easy mode not because it was difficult but because enemies kept swarming me as a boss nearly annihilated the main crystal. It doesn’t help that I was more and more fighting with the controls than the enemies. I’m sure its more manageable in multiplayer, but that’s no excuse for having such cheap difficulty spikes.
But the worst offense of this game is its pitiful lack of content. There are only two worlds with two levels each in the entire game. The rest of the worlds and heroes on the menu are grayed out because they’re coming soon as DLC, according to an email from the game’s PR company. When I saw the end credits after playing for only about an hour, my jaw hit the floor so hard that it cracked the linoleum. It doesn’t help that many of the levels have you fighting the same enemies over and over again. Games on Early Access have more content than this and for less money!
Ancient Amuletor can be fun despite its numerous problems. Choosing between different vantage points while shooting down bad guys can be exciting and makes good use of VR to spice up the game. However, the game leans far too heavily into VR for its appeal. Once you take off the rose-tinted headset, your realize that it’s just a standard shooting gallery and just barely resembles a tower defense game. Add to that sloppy controls making some characters nonviable or even unbearable to play, cheap difficulty spikes, and only a thimbleful of content at the moment, and you have quite a subpar experience. Multiplayer may relieve some of these problems, but it won’t save the game from being yet another example of what happens when you try so hard to make a VR game that you forget to make a good game.
- Can be enjoyable and exciting to zip around the map hunting down enemies
- Actually wielding your weapons in VR can be charming and add depth to the gameplay
- Fun art direction, especially for the main heroes
- Gameplay gets old quickly
- Fiddly VR controls make some heroes nonviable
- Pitiful lack of content
- Cheap difficulty in last parts of game
- Not really a tower defense game