An irresistible spacefaring roguelike
Developer Gunfire Games have made a bit of a name for itself in the VR arena over the past few years. Fresh off the success of last year’s atmospheric RPG Chronos, and, more recently, the demonic wild west shooter Dead And Buried, the studio is taking things in a new direction with From Other Suns, a spacefaring rogue-like shooter set deep in the hostile cosmos. Featuring a vast, procedurally-generated galaxy to explore and some of the most engaging multiplayer action found on the Rift, it’s a game that will keep you coming back for more despite its often sadistic difficulty.
Outside of the brief opening tutorial to get you acclimated to its controls, From Other Suns does little to hold your hand. Instead, you’re cut loose and given free reign to explore a galaxy one jump at a time as you try to race an oncoming alien onslaught back to earth. With countless star systems standing between you and earth, you’ll have total freedom over how you progress – that is, so long as you have the fuel to take you to your next destination. You’ll never know where each jump will take you, either. This gives the game a bit of an RPG overworld feel, as you’ll constantly stumble across hostile pirates, merchant vessels, derelict cruisers ripe for the raiding, and friendly space stations in need of assistance.
How you go about these situations is entirely up to you. Do you bargain with pirates and comply with their demands? Exchange laser and torpedo fire and hope for the best? Or do you suit up with a boarding party of your crew and storm the pirate ship, taking every last piece of treasure from their cargo hold for yourself? The choice is yours! The degree of freedom FOS affords the player is almost overwhelming. There were countless times where I found myself mulling over whether or not to spend my precious funds on hiring new crew members to keep my ship fully staffed or upgrading my skimmer’s tactical systems to ensure I can survive my inevitable next encounter with a heavily-armed pirate cruiser. The choice is never easy, but that’s what makes things so exciting.
While you’ll have plenty of opportunities to talk your way out of conflicts in From Other Suns, sometimes violence is the only answer. Combat comes in two flavors: ship-to-ship skirmishes and first-person shooter assaults. When fighting other spacecraft, battles always unfold in one-on-one showdowns. Using your ship’s tactical systems, you can target your enemy’s specific systems to knock them offline. Basic weapons range from torpedoes to laser turrets and beams, all of which can be updated at friendly space stations. Once you work your way through an enemy ship’s shields you’ll be able to inflict damage on the hull of the vessel. This is simple enough when battling low-level ships, but large ships and space stations can present a real challenge as you work to knock off their shield systems just long enough to inflict some real damage before they come back online.
It’s not the deepest system, mind you. But it’s fun and engaging, and when you add raiding boarding parties to the equation, things can get pretty crazy. I personally prefer going toe-to-toe with enemies on their own turf. The FPS-style combat is incredibly responsive and satisfying thanks in no small part to the responsive Oculus Touch controls. It’s easy to swap and holster weapons, deploy ballistic shields, and unload on enemies with volleys of laser fire. The only issue I have is that most of the guns are rather bulky and ridiculous looking (think Borderlands), which can make aiming down the iron sights pretty awkward. I often found shooting from the hip to be my method of choice. While not perfect, it’s definitely serviceable, and combat still packs a satisfying punch. Just don’t go in expecting Killing Floor: Incursion levels of precision and you’ll be fine.
The Final Frontier is better with friends
While it’s certainly fun to explore the galaxy solo, multiplayer co-op is where FOS truly shines. Not only does having some back up make things much easier, it also provides a much more immersive experience. Joining a game is painless thanks to its drop-in nature. Adding another player to the mix definitely spices things up and helps level the playing field during assaults and ship-based battles. However, the fun really begins when you amass a full crew who knows what they’re doing.
There’s nothing quite like taking the helm of your ship, trading plasma torpedoes with the enemy while your crew rushes to repair oxygen-sapping hull breaches and damaged vital systems, all while beating back waves of heavily-armed hijackers. Likewise, grouping up and taking on an entire space station makes you feel like a complete badass – that is until you die in a blaze of glory thanks to the FOS’s relentless difficulty. I’m not exaggerating when I say one wrong move can stand between you and a nasty demise, booting you back to the beginning of your voyage.
Thankfully, the game isn’t over for good until your last humanoid crew member bites the dust. Until that player dies, everyone else will continue to spawn as robotic crew members. I often found the best strategy was to keep my last humanoid player on board my skimmer while sending my robotic allies to get their hands dirty on enemy ships and bases. This isn’t a win button though, as a space battle or boarding party could – and often would – put an end to my journey with the quickness. That said, whenever you have the opportunity to hire additional crew members, you’ll probably want to do that. Trust me, they’re worth every last credit.
Deep Space Fine
No doubt about it, From Other Suns is a challenging game. However, for every time I watched the earth crumble at the hands of interdimensional invaders, the sting of defeat was fleeting. No matter how close to earth I made it before my bitter end, death never kept me from diving right back in. My failures simply made me consider what I could do differently in the next playthrough – a hallmark all quality rogue-likes should possess.
Out of all the games I’ve experienced for the Rift this year, few have grabbed me in quite the way Gunfire Games’ latest offering has. Its borderline sadistic challenge isn’t for everyone, but rogue-like fans should appreciate the high-stakes experience the game provides the player. The single-player experience is fun, but often unbalanced, however. That said, if you don’t play nicely with others, you’re going to find your journey to earth an uphill battle. Still, if you don’t mind teaming up for the trip back home, From Other Suns’ sublime blend of ship-to-ship combat, resource management, and high-energy FPS gameplay delivers one of the most robust and satisfying multiplayer experiences on the Rift to date.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: Oculus Rift (Reviewed); Publisher: Gunfire Games ; Developer: Gunfire Games ; Players: 1-3 ; Released: November 14, 2017 ; ESRB: M for Mature ; MSRP: $39.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of From Other Suns provided by the publisher.