I remember when I was 11 and played Mario on the NES for the very first time. I was simply stunned and amazed at what I was seeing on that old 13” color TV. I had this same feeling when I played DOOM for the first time on an old 486 PC and also when I played Golden Eye on the N64. They were experiences that I will never forget. Playing through the first episode of VAST made me feel the same way. Maybe it looks like a regular ol’ sci-fi shooter from the outside looking in. But fire this game up on your Apple TV 4K and I guarantee that you will find it to be something much more.
You will notice when you first start VAST that it is very much a work in progress. But what is there already is not only good, but different. It somehow feels fresh and new and no matter how poorly I try to express my feelings through my writing here, it makes me feel like something great is about to happen with this series.
Your crew in VAST, while nicely designed and modeled, also seem lovable and caring through their physical design. The visual style of VAST differs from what the Apple TV has on offer currently and the effects, while cartoon-is, are quite gorgeous in a simple, but colorful way. The enemies are reminiscent of an old game that many Mac enthusiasts may recall, Marathon. But in their 3D form, they come to life with pretty snazzy lighting and shading. Bump maps create a depth to the characters while the shaders create a very “cartoon-come-alive” vibe. I can’t stress enough how this game, while still early and without a lot of content, is exciting.
There are many textures re-used and tiled throughout the first episode, but this does not mean the ship and objects inside and outside it look generic. It actually looks quite nice. The Apple TV 4K is a powerhouse and VASt proves it.
If I have any small gripes about the game they would be that the shadows seem off when it comes to the characters and objects in the world. But this is a small gripe. I am also assuming that Xander and the team are working on rectifying this in future updates to the game.
The lighting in this game is simply wonderful. Soft lights give off an aura that rivals Afterpulse. It is simply gorgeous.
There has been a lot of work put into the audio portion of VAST. The music incorporated is nice and gives you a sense of intensity. But I want to focus more on the voice acting.
The voice acting is well executed and gives the player a sense of what type of people these characters are. Your player sounds like a really “cool” guy for sure. ;) It might sound a bit “cheesy” when you first hear it, but it tends to grow on you after a while and the voice acting gives the characters a bit more life and this is a welcome addition in my opinion.
I am very excited about what the future holds in the way of character development in the VAST universe and the voicing is a key part of whether or not the characters are one, believable or two, lovable.
Gameplay / Controls
Ok, I am going to bore quite a few gamers with this comment, but it would be absolutely fantastic if an invert Y-Axis option could be implemented. Many gamers under the age of 30 might be fine without it and probably do not understand why this is a big deal, but for gamers such as myself, in their 40’s and stuck in their ways, really hate change and want the option in all of their FPS games. Sorry, had to say it.
Now, on to the rest of the gameplay. One word…. fantastic. The control is super tight and responsive and makes navigating the ship corridors quite easy. Firing and targeting are as you would expect and disposing of your enemies is quite simple with the tight controls. Movement is quick and smooth, even when the game is in 4K.
There are, of course, some issues that need to be resolved. The elevators can be clumsy and often times are above you and have to be lowered. Getting the placement right can be a pain at times especially when you are trying to use an elevator to get back down to a lower level to regenerate your shield strength before you get killed. But this is a bit of nitpicking on my part and I am sure improvements are coming.
The radar is a useful tool, but it could definitely be improved with longer range scanning and more precise enemy placement. But all in all it works and does help you know what is coming or just in front of you.
Considering this is the first episode and somewhat a work in progress, there is not a lot to say about the presentation of VAST. What is there is simple and subdued. The menus are easy enough to navigate. The way the game and story are portrayed through the lovable characters and voice acting is a nice touch.
Summary / Value
VAST is a work in progress, but you can see the greatness waiting in the wings. Let me put it this way…. I actually cared about the characters in this game and I wanted to make sure I protected them. That is something special in my book.
For the $9.99 USD, this game is a steal in my opinion if for nothing more than the potential it carries. I want to see this universe reveal itself before me and I want to become part of it. I feel something here that may not be immediately apparent to some gamers. But it’s there nonetheless. Don’t be afraid to give this game a try. The first episode is short on content and can be seen as a work in progress, but the signs are all there. The frozen star beckons me and will beckon you if you keep an open mind. Buy this game. Period!
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