Above: Archangel starts out with a stealth mission. Image Credit: Skydance
Archangel is almost the opposite of PWND. It is a story-driven Mech combat game where you get into a giant mechanical robot and use heavy firepower against your enemies. The story has cinematic cut scenes created by Digital Domain, and it has some pretty serious voice-acting talent as well.
“It has the sensibilities I was talking about — Skydance’s passion for world-building and storytelling, as well as their connections to be able to pull someone like DD in the door to partner with,” Akemann said. “We made sure we’re delivering a game that’s got that kind of rich, full-bodied, end-to-end treatment. If someone has a shot at going for triple-A VR, that’s what we’re aiming for. I feel like that’s something only Skydance could have, or would have, pulled off.”
I started out in a futuristic city that has been destroyed. A bunch of sand dunes cover the city, and you lead a team that has to escape from the city in stealth. But the team runs into enemy patrols, both land-based and aerial. You have to use your hand controls to target the enemies and take them out with guns and rockets.
Since it takes place in VR, you can turn your head in any direction and shoot at enemies. But you can play it sitting down, and you rarely have to spin around 180 degrees. I enjoyed it. It was a serious combat game, though I can’t say the experience is that much better than playing on a console of PC game.
Since Skydance is new, it deliberately targeted VR as a potential market.
Above: Archangel lets you play in a giant mech in VR. Image Credit: Skydance
“It’s not just budgets. It’s that there’s an open field. VR is a brand-new space,” Akemann said. “It’s only just now that real game companies are starting to take it seriously. By jumping ahead of that and being willing to bet big and bet confidently on this thing from the beginning, that’s given us a chance to be part of telling the next chapter of the gaming story. I couldn’t turn that down, as a developer.”
He added, “With PWND, obviously, we’re not one of the biggest budget shooter companies. We’re also a new company in terms of the gaming space. We’ll build our way up. We definitely come from a triple-A background. Everything we worked on as The Workshop for years was of that nature. We’re bringing a triple-A sensibility and developers who know how to do that to this smaller space. I think we’ll build up our reputation. I expect to be there in a few years.”
Akemann said he knows that the VR market isn’t going to grow extremely fast at first.
“We all know the barriers that are there. The technological barriers are high,” he said. “It’s all still first-gen products. The basic user experience is not commoditized at all yet. It’s going to take a longer time than we thought just to get the hardware out there. Even the way information spreads these days—it’s not something you can easily spread on the internet, what it is and what it’s worth. The software has to come in to justify it. A platform without compelling applications that you can only get there is never going to fly. It’s a chicken and egg problem. A lot has to go right.”
He added, “But we’ve all put our hands on the controls. We’ve felt the magic of it. We can see that there is absolutely a viable, original, novel gaming landscape to be drawn there. It takes companies like ours that have the resources and the confidence to see far enough ahead and say, ‘Yeah, that’s going to go. This year? I don’t know. Two years from now? I don’t know. Five years from now? Yeah.’ We’re willing to jump in and play that game.”
And we’ll find out soon if gamers are willing to do that too with Skydance.