It’s fairly common knowledge that multiplayer titles in virtual reality (VR) can offer a bit of a mixed experience. If they take off and become popular you’ll get some decent matches, otherwise it can be a barren wasteland of disappointment, even if the videogame is good. Arriving today from indie developer Craft Game Studio is a multiplayer focused pirate experience that’s about teamwork. Called Crooked Waters, it’s an Early Access title with grand designs on the multiplayer genre.
As mentioned VR multiplayers are hard, that’s even when you consider simple all-out deathmatch modes. Crooked Waters takes that difficulty and ramps things up by making every match a 4vs4 battle, you can start with less but that just complicates things.
The reason for this is the semi-simulator approach that Craft Game Studio has gone for. As you would expect an old fashioned pirate ship can’t be manned alone, there’s way too much to be done. Meaning Crooked Waters ships need a four-person team, one to steer, one to fire the cannons, one on the sails and one as a lookout. Realistically the latter can operate the cannons as well, but that still means three players are needed. VRFocus did attempt a solo sailing, however, there was way too much running around to succeed in one chore productively, especially when trying to aim the ship and fire the cannons at the same time.
Before you get that far you start off in a tavern, a nice little meeting area where you can chat with friends, invite them and choose your teams. There’s even a piano in the corner if you’re feeling musical. The trouble is, things do tend to glitch every now and then (which isn’t unusual in an Early Access title). Loading times can be somewhat erratic, occasionally fast but generally slow. And there was the moment VRFocus fell through the floor of the bar and into oblivion (not good if you suffer from VR nausea).
Those details can be fixed, what’s more difficult to arrange are players. Getting friends online and into a VR match is one thing, eight on the other hand is a little more challenging. The multiplayer mode has no AI to make up the numbers, so without a minimum of four people there’s not a lot of point to playing.
Craft Game Studio has included a Solo Challenge mode which can certainly help you to learn the basics. In a much smaller boat you do have to do everything which isn’t so much of a struggle. The mode is all about getting a highscore, so find rival boats as quickly as possible and sink them. Unfortunately the challenge is somewhat mute as the ships are completely stationary and don’t fire back, leading to a rather dull 10 minute battle.
The idea of taking four of you out on a pirate ship and going on the hunt for fellow seadogs is a great idea, and completely understandable. Achieving that goal on the other hand is fraught with difficulties which can only be overcome if the Steam community get behind the experience. If Craft Game Studio can add the right amount of finesse as well as some deeper options then Crooked Waters could be a decent team multiplayer.