Anshar Studios, the developers behind Detached (2017), showed off a new arena shooter at Gamescom this year. Dubbed Telefrag VR, the game (still in pre-alpha) pits you against another player in a futuristic, gladiatorial-style battle taking place in impossible spaces.
Set in an alternative history where the Roman Empire never fell and eventually set out into space, Telefrag tosses you into uniquely designed arenas which were seemingly inspired by M.C. Escher’s famous lithograph of impossible staircases, ‘Relativity‘. Here, you fight in a one vs one duel to the death with an arsenal of guns and your ability to teleport inside the other player, effectively killing them instantly (hence ‘telefrag’).
Maps are littered with ramps that take you upside-down and sideways, keeping you on your toes as you have to watch out for enemy fire from all directions.
Image courtesy Anshar Studios
Strapping into an Oculus Rift, I went head-to-head with the game’s level designer Michał Sapiński for a few matches in what should have been a fundamental break in comfortable VR design. I say ‘should have been’ because in the end Anshar has pushed the envelope into uncomfortable play territory, but pulled back somewhat to leave you with your lunch safely in your stomach. Case in point: you have to walk up a ramp and twist your equilibrium into accepting a new horizontal plane, which isn’t always the most comfortable in VR—but it’s done in such a way to make it basically a snag-free experience.
When you go up a ramp and the world inevitably rotates around you, it’s basically carried out via a series of mini-blink teleportations, and not one single smooth-turning gut-wrencher. This, in effect, let me move up and down ramps at the sort of speed and carelessness you would need in a heated 1v1 battle of cat and mouse. I tend to hate those types of world-shifting ramps, which seemed to plague the early days of consumer VR, but this didn’t seem to even give me the dreaded ‘VR sweats’, a telling precursor to full on nausea. I should mention the game isn’t exclusively a teleport-only experience, but was also demoed with smooth forward locomotion.
Image courtesy Anshar Studios
Shooting was a fairly standard experience, but the notion that I could teleport and dodge shots, block them with an energy shield and get close enough to telefrag, all really emphasized the sort of balance the studio is going for. Get too close to your opponent, and you’re dead, which usually means you’re trying to use the level’s geometry to your advantage as you search for tactically useful angles to surprise your opponent. Since your teleport movements make both noise and leaves a whispy trail behind you, it’s important to keep an eye and ear out for your enemy at all costs.
So what’s the objective in all of this? The arena game mode, I was told, allows you to fill three slots with your choice of weaponry. In a match, your individual loadout is put up as a wager, with the winner taking the loser’s equipment. In-game currency is doled out at the end of the match based on your score. With enough cash on-hand, the loser can buy back their lost loadout; a currency multiplier is awarded to the winner, and can be increased even further depending in their win streak.
Telefrag VR is slated to arrive on Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, OSVR and PSVR, although it’s currently in pre-alpha stage, so there’s no word on release date yet.