Sairento Early Access: How VR Gaming Should Be
I have been a gamer since the days of Atari. Over the past several years my interest in gaming has diminished. That was until the release of the HTC Vive which completely reinvigorated my love of gaming. After spending over a year with the Vive and over 1000 hours in over 500 games, I wanted to talk a little about why Sairento VR is my favorite game yet.
The Problem with Most VR Games
With VR we are able to experience games in ways we never could before. We can be truly immersed in an environment in ways you never could using a traditional monitor. The feel of “being there” or true presence is finally something we can experience in the comforts of our own home. That being said, many developers have struggled to really push the boundaries of gameplay. Many VR games are nothing more than traditional games with VR tacked on. Over the past year very few have tried to embrace the new medium in terms of gameplay. Yes, it’s great playing a game like Onward and being immersed in the combat and environment, but I’ve always wanted something beyond that. I want to do and experience things you never could in real life, be a super hero, a mage, a knight… or a Ninja.
Getting Movement Right
Currently, one of the biggest issues in VR is how to handle movement. How do you enable someone to move like a super hero and not have issues with motion sickness? The VR Sickness dilemma is a constant hot topic among the VR community and developers. Many games have designed their games around limiting movement as much as possible to avoid having someone possibly feel any sort of sickness. On the other hand, some have embraced movement and offered options for whatever you are comfortable with, or found clever ways to get around the issue. This is what Sairento really nails. It allows free form movement but with techniques that greatly reduce motion sickness.
When moving in Sairento, whether it be dashing or jumping, you get a slightly reduced FOV, a blur effect and “speed lines”. These simple visual tweaks are just extra effects to simulate speed, but they go a long way in helping with VR sickness. Sairento also offers a few extra comfort options for those seriously prone to motion sickness. The ability to leap great distances, slide along the ground and run along walls is not something I have experienced in VR. At least not in the way Sairento does it. With a few clever mechanics and a little tweaking, Sairento gets to have it’s cake, and eat it too. Exhilerating movement without motion sickness.
Out of all the games I have played not a single one has brought me to the level of feeling like such a bad ass as Sairento. You can jump into the middle of six guys, slow time, and putting a bullet in each of their heads. You can jump up to a magical flying geisha, lop her head off, then turn around mid air, double jump behind two guys and slice them to bits. The awesome power you wield in Sairento is unmatched.
Early Access Gameplay
So on to the game itself, Sairento is fairly simple for the time being. It’s still early access and good amount of planned features are not implemented yet. The basic gameplay revolves around randomly generated missions over the current 5 maps available. The missions are pretty standard variations of kill all enemies. The main mission hub shows you 3 maps which you can cycle through by spending some of the games currency. Each time you cycle the maps the rewards change, so a common practice is cycling the maps till a legendary item box is the reward. For the movement itself you have a couple options, the basic setup is teleport dash and jumping. You also have the option to allow standard locomotion which can be used in conjunction with the teleport dash and jumping.
For me, what really sets the game apart is the gameplay itself. There are currently have 6 categories of weapon (Pistols, SMGs, Rifle, Shotgun, Swords, and Projectiles) each one has a few choices with varying stats. Adding further customization is a ‘relic’ system. The relic system is similar to a lot of ARPGs where you get gems to socket your gear. Even your armor has relic sockets. Relics have multiple rarities with the highest legendary ones offering unique effects. Some of these effects can drastically change your play style like infinite ammo, wall stick, time slow on head shot, explosive arrows, even dual blade for one of the swords. The relic system offers you not only a progression system but also a way to completely customize how you want to play your character.
Finding fun and varied ways to slay the enemies is the core of Sairento right now. As simple as that may sound, it’s makes for a game you can easily sink a ton of time into. For challenge you get a few difficulty levels, on the highest it only takes a couple hits to kill you so you have to constantly be on the move. Normal and easy are rather easy but it’s nice to have the option. As I write this I have about 30 hours in the game and still play almost every night as updates with new toys to try are put in pretty often.
Progression Missing from Most VR Games
What draws someone to a game is obviously very subjective. For me a variety and sense of progression is pretty key. So far in VR very few games have any sort of progression system. That carrot to keep you coming back day after day which is so important in many monitor based games. For me, Sairento’s combination of great gameplay and relic system check that box.
One day I’ll be doing a bow based build sticking to walls sniping enemies left and right. The next day a dual sword build jumping in a slicing and dicing. You get relics from completing missions but you also get boxes from mission rewards that have even more relics. You can also craft relics for specific gear types by using resources you can gain through playing.
Another form of progression Sairento offers is skill trees. There are a variety of skill trees to enhance your playstyle. From weapon specific trees to skills that allow more chakra (mana) for longer time slow to more health or just longer wall runs or power slides. So despite the core game being rather limited right now there is enough to vary how you approach the fights to keep things interesting.
As I mentioned previously Sairento is still in early access but has a pretty big roadmap. Some of the planned features include:
- Narrative driven story campaign
- More enemy types (with boss fights), weapons, skills and relics
- More levels with some static and some procedural generated
- Bigger variety of mission types
- More variety in loot
The developers of the game have been extremely active with the community getting suggestions and gathering information on bugs and performance problems and generally have very quick turnaround times with hot fixes. The head of the company is part of the SteamVR Facebook group and is always happy to talk to people about the game.
A Personal Note
I wanted to write this to support a game I feel goes above most in trying to push VR forward into new territories. The freedom of movement and power of being an enhanced Cyber Ninja is something you can’t experience anywhere like you can in a VR game. As a huge fan of the Anime Rurouni Kenshin, acting out some of my Kenshin moves is a dream come true. One awesome moment was when the bow was first introduced I did some testing. I ran in, did a double jump high into the air, activated my slow motion and quickly shot out 6 arrows towards enemies around the room. I let off the slow motion and fell to the ground watching all 6 of them crumble into a bloody pile on the floor. If that isn’t some super hero shit I don’t know what is.