E McNeill, the developer behind VR strategy games Darknet (2015), Tactera (2016), and Astraeus (2018), is launching a new VR title soon that aims to bring a strategic bend to the melee combat genre.
Called Ironlights, the still in-development game is setting itself apart from other physics-based melee titles by offering up a dynamic ‘back-and-forth’ combat scheme, which is designed to further eliminate careless controller waggling by way of a novel turn-based combat system. During a turn, only the attacker can land strikes while the defender must do their best to dodge or parry the incoming blows.
As a physics-based game, all weapons have weight and momentum. However striking an enemy automatically enters you into slow motion, forcing you move your body in slow-mo in order to maintain “optimal control” of your weapons.
In Ironlights, you’re also only allowed one hit per swing, as weapons shatter after each hit instead of bouncing off. By design, this is meant to side-step the sort of disconnect you might feel when you strike a virtual enemy and your physical controller keeps moving. McNeill says to think of it “sort of like a VR version of Street Fighter or Soul Caliber, mixed with SUPERHOT and maybe a dash of Beat Saber.”
Although Ironlights is said to be nearly finished, with launch slated for Spring 2020, the studio is searching for $15,000 in extra funding via a Kickstarter campaign, which promises a 25% discount off the full game ($20 MSRP) when it goes live later this year on Oculus Quest, Rift, and SteamVR headsets. The funds, McNeill says, will help bring to the game more armor models; backers at the $30 and above will get early access to the game.
The game is set to include five classes at launch, which includes the Knight (two-handed greatsword), Duelist (rapier & buckler), Monk (staff), Ninja (dual katar-style daggers), and Crusader (flail & shield). And while it promises a single-player campaign, which will include duels, tournaments, and exhibition matches, the game is also targeting cross-platform multiplayer, featuring online and LAN-based modes.
Starting out in VR development is 2013, McNeill has since produced four VR games, including the early Gear VR hit Darknet. He’s been secretly working on Ironlights for some time now with Rockstar Games veteran Geoff Barber, something he calls his “biggest game yet.”
In addition to McNeill’s VR development chops and Barber’s programming expertise, much of the 3D art was built by SuperGenius, a high-caliber art studio which has worked with Blizzard, Double Fine, and Oculus. The game’s thumping soundtrack was composed by EDM artist Jordan Aguirre (aka bLiNd), who also created a few of the game’s sound effects.