Roguelite shooters are all the rage at the moment – some games are even adding roguelike elements in updates – but if you’re looking for one that definitely tries to do something a bit different then Rogue Ascent is what you’re looking for. Why? Because it’s the only roguelite shooter that’s dedicated to utilising Meta Quest’s hand tracking feature, for better and worse.
Meta Quest needs more hand tracked videogames to showcase how much fun the technology can be. It’s a very bold move by developer Nooner Bear Studio to go for a fully hand tracked experience though, as there are some things the tech does very well such as interacting with objects and menus, for example, whilst locomotion is by far one of the weakest areas. All of which is required in a game like Rogue Ascent that’s mostly wall-to-wall action.
Rogue Ascent pulls on those nostalgia strings with its core gameplay component, shooting stuff with your fingers. The classic childhood activity of making a gun by pointing your index finger forward whilst putting your thumb in the air has very literally been used, turning your hand into whatever virtual gun you have equipped at the time; a pistol, phaser, revolver or sub-machine gun are the four options. Add to this the fact that reloading simply requires pointing your finger in the air, whereby the gun spins around in your hand like some futuristic western and you’re all set for some badass shootouts.
Dual wielding is totally an option so you can just stand there firing away, reload, and then shoot some more like you’re a kid again. Just this time it’s in VR and you don’t have to imagine all the visuals and sound effects. The premise is cool and there are moments playing through the levels where you get that 80s action hero vibe, where endless enemy projectiles meet a wall of your own and there’s that sense that you’re invincible. Oh, and shooting is automatic, no controller means there’s no trigger button to press.
Hand tracking being what it is Rogue Ascent is less running and gunning and more about standing your ground and pummelling enemies. This is because the locomotion is entirely point-to-point teleportation, pointing your palm at the next location to move to, taking less than a couple of seconds to do so. In non-combat moments it’s quite easy to move about a level becoming more erratic when several hostiles are present. You can sacrifice one gun so one hand can shoot whilst the other teleports but after a few levels, it was plainly easier to stand my ground and go for an all-out attack.
There wasn’t any indication of a narrative, you’re plonked on a space station of some sort and have to kill everything on each level before jumping in the elevator up to the next area. Being a roguelite, the endless runs add greater depth by giving you several character classes to choose from, each making the gameplay tougher in their own way. Whilst in-game you collect coins to buy new guns or perks that can up stats like critical hits or adding fire to your projectiles.
Rogue Ascent on App Lab is doing some amazing things with Meta Quest’s hand tracking technology, pushing it to the limit of what’s possible with its accuracy and speed. It’s easy to get the hang off and the perks in combination with the procedurally generated levels make for an experience with plenty of scope to come back time and again. However, the hand tracking can be a mighty bit twitchy with all the action going on especially if you want to multitask, combining moving with reloading or quickly swapping between hands for certain actions. With Meta’s upcoming 2.0 hand tracking update on the horizon, hopefully, Nooner Bear Studio has plans on implementing it as this could really take Rogue Ascent to another level and make the experience shine.