My first paragraphs to reviews have always been rousing speeches of passion or throwing Chris Harding under the bus for you know what by now. I’d detail a little bit about my pre-release thoughts on a title and mention some minute tidbits that weren’t too important to be mentioned in the full review. There will be none of that for Apex Construct, sadly. The wonderful and talented team who made this virtual reality title, Fast Travel Games, has members who worked on the Battlefield and Mirror’s Edge franchises (some of my favorite experiences ever). Yet, in my disappointment I wouldn’t have been able to tell based on the current status of this game.
Apex Construct has an interesting enough story where the player is summoned/resurrected from the “void.” A guiding, A.I. voice in your head, who goes by Fathr, decks you out with new equipment and guides you on a journey to restore a broken world. Life has all but ended as cities are haphazardly demolished and small machines roam the lands. You’re told the one responsible for this is Mothr, another advanced A.I., and you must help bring her down for the good of the planet. However, right off the bat there are collectibles, notes, and certain instances that make you question why you were revived and leave you unsure of who to trust. This isn’t just a post-apocalyptic story where a bad person must be taken out. It’s a post-apocalyptic tale that pushes you along an unsteady path of doubt.
Gameplay is a little more basic than I would like. As you can guess by the trailers, one of your hands will act as a bow while the other fires arrows. One appendage will remain vertical, imitating the tried and true instrument and the other will take the form of the projectile. As you progress you’ll unlock different types of arrows for combat and puzzles and other items like grenades. Unfortunately, this virtual archery never worked as smooth as it should whether I was sitting or standing. My movements didn’t fully match the animations and the worst was when my arrow refused to fire or lagged right out of my drawstring. Then I discovered you didn’t even need to perform a draw, pull, and release motion half the time. You could just press the trigger to nock and fire. Lastly, your bow has a shield that can block a certain number of projectiles at a time. So there’s that.
This wasn’t helped by the movement system either. It was clear that Apex Construct was originally created with a teleport move system in mind. The full locomotion does work for exploratory purposes, but not so much for battle. Traveling forward while holding down the Move button will feel like a crawl. This doesn’t go well with relatively fast-moving machines and often times you’ll find yourself focusing on blocking, dodging, and firing back while stationary. Which feels more comfortable as dodging a few inches to the right or left will probably be your best defense against enemy attacks. As you can guess the problems I had with shooting arrows didn’t help this situation where you’d find yourself stuck in one place until opponents are taken care of. For the first time ever I would have loved an analog stick on our eight year old controllers.
Movement troubles don’t stop there I’m afraid. If you can’t handle full locomotion and guiding yourself to where you want to go or holding a turn button, you’ll be stuck with the teleporting method. This will require you to hold square and point your hand around while an indicator will inform you where you’ll end up. Not terribly problematic. The concern is when you want to turn while under teleporting controls. To do this you have to flick your wrist to the right or left, depending on which way you want to turn, while pushing triangle. More often than not this game wouldn’t register the flick and I’d do a one hundred and eighty degree turn instead. The action you’d get if you just pushed triangle by itself. It grew very frustrating while I tested out this side of the movement options. This whole problem felt like the developers were stuck between a rock and a hard place. Like they had already developed a battle system, but didn’t know how to appropriately incorporate movement into it.
Level objectives and mechanics were not much better. Most of the level designs had you retrieving a power cell to open a door/machine you needed to pass through, acquire a computer code from other computers, or locate the same key items scattered throughout the area in order for the story to continue. As you go about these tasks enemies would naturally show up in between certain points of your progress. Not much variation here. The machines themselves didn’t even offer up enough diversity. These were poultry though compared to lag or actions failing to register when interacting with things in any given level. Too many times my grabbing failed to come to fruition or even invisible walls would stop me from picking objects up and I’d have to awkwardly readjust my in-game body. Yes, my room was well-lit and my camera encompassed my body accurately. There was even one time that an important clipboard lagged out of the entire game as I reached for it and had to restart the level. You best believe I thought this issue bled over into the troublesome combat.
One of the highlights of Apex Construct was the inventory system. By holding triangle and opening up your menu, you could actually pull things out of or place them in your possession like you were displacing space and time. This is definitely a neat concept that I’d like to see implemented elsewhere, but as you can guess I had trouble grabbing things once inside my inventory. This menu also let you select your weapon and types of arrows on the fly. Simply pushing down on each augmented readout would change what’s in your hand. Unfortunately, this can be a chore in a combat experience that was effectively designed for you to stand still. Deciding on where you want to move to while defending yourself and pulling up a menu that doesn’t pause time can be overbearing at regular intervals. Especially when you’re required to because you need a special arrow that takes out a protective shield is one example.
The artwork and music were nicely detailed and composed. The graphics are probably on the better side as far as PSVR visuals go. It’s just that we never really get to see them shine due to most levels being rather small. We rarely get a glimpse of a few dozen yards in front of us, yet when we do there is definite beauty here. That is when the walls of a building around you don’t render correctly and you can see some sunset orange screen tearing. On the replayability front are some “secrets” and collectibles to acquire in any given level. They could be documents, statues, or even little balls of RP that also are found on dead enemies. This is the in-game currency of Apex Construct and you can use it to purchase health or combat items and to level up your abilities. The latter of which you can do at your home base where you select the missions to go on.
While technically deficient there were small pockets of fun to be had here. When things were working, and working together, firing arrows and dodging projectiles like a mini-Neo was entertaining. You mostly didn’t have to worry about physical strikes so you could truly enjoy putting your archery skills to the test. The story also has a small glimmer of attraction like I mentioned above. There are definite winning formulas and ideas to like, but Fast Travel Games has a lot of polishing to do that may not be possible short of a complete overhaul.
Apex Construct PSVR Review
I know many likened Apex Construct to Horizon: Zero Dawn in some capacity and I’m here to tell you that notion needs to be ripped, stomped on, and thrown away. There’s too many problems that gradually grow to the unforgivable sort. A game can’t succeed when shooting and picking things up are hardcore victims to lag and registration errors and performing the same requirement to progress the story. There are small glimmers of light that shine in this title except it’s like looking for a hay in a needlestack. You may be proud once you find it, but there’s much pain to go through first.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using base PS4 and PSVR.