EVE Valkyrie Hands On: New Eden's New Hope

If CCP is savvy enough to get EVE Valkyrie bundled with the Oculus Rift and the Sony Morpheus, it will become the Super Mario Brothers of the VR revolution. It is an absolutely amazing game, and almost a religious experience for those who have never used a VR headset for the first time. Valkyrie puts you into the game entirely, and not just 'a game', but the very science-fiction fantasy role which many of us have envisioned after decades of watching X-Wings dogfighting TIE Fighters, or Vipers launching from the Galactica. 

And that was true before CCP got Katee Sackhoff - Starbuck from the new Battlestar Galactica - to command you in your missions, her voice in your ear as you catapult at ludicrous speed out of the launch tubes into deep space to fight and die and fight again. 

I've played every public build of Valkyrie as it has evolved, from EVR at the 2013 Fanfest, the E3 build, the HD build at Eve Vegas, the Morpheus build with the Unity engine, to finally the DK2 Rift build, complete with Kattee Sackoff's voiceover and the Unreal 4 engine. The game was amazing merely as a tech demo, and it has become an all-encompassing experience. I ran through three rounds with the DK2 build yesterday here at Fanfest, and moments ago the older Morpheus build. 

The game itself is vastly improved. The imagery is photorealistic to a point that is difficult to describe in text, as VR is a sensory experience beyond just the visual. Being able to lean forward and look up and under your cockpit dashboard due to the new DK2 technology tracking your head movements adds yet another layer of immersion. The Starbuck voiceovers and the launch catapult immediately invokes the Battlestar Galactica experience. The head tracking missiles continue to be a highlight, and the roll controls have added much more maneuvering complexity to the fighting process. I often found myself wheeling right while scanning up and down with my head to search for targets like a World War II pilot scanning the sky. The game has come so far at from its first beginnings that it beggars belief. The level of detail in the cockpit, the weave of the insulation on the pipes, the frost on the cockpit windows, the gut-punch sound of the autocannons firing, every aspect has been developed with an attention to detail and an intentionality which is often missing in other titles.  

Let us speak frankly: CCP does not make visceral games. Being unable to create intrinsically fun gameplay is a cross the company has borne since its inception. EVE and Dust are interesting,complex, and allow for grand narratives and unique adventures, but they do not provide the instant gratification fun of a game like World of Tanks, which is why every Eve player has a Tanks account; the yin to Eve's yang. If part of Eve's new player experience involved some kind of instant-action fun, the game would triple in size within a year. 

CCP has at last discovered how to create raw fun. Perhaps it is because the game was originally developed independent of company processes, with EVR thrown together by a team of interested, engaged developers in their off time. For whatever reason, Valkyrie is intense and grabs you by the balls and won't let go. It scratches the itch that every single spaceship nerd has. 

It is absolutely critical for us, as Eve players, that CCP not screw this one up. If Valkyrie takes off and is bundled with the Rift and Morpheus, the game will be massive, and a number of players who get a taste of the Eve Universe through Valkyrie will flow back into Eve Online. Where Eve is ultimately a niche MMO, Valkyrie has what it takes to go big - absolutely massive - as it is perfectly positioned to demonstrate the capabilites of immersive VR just as major companies like Sony and Facebook are pouring money into developing these platforms. VR is the next big thing - a transformative experience - and Valkyrie is poised to be its Super Mario Brothers: the first game of the platform that absolutely everyone, everywhere, has to play. 

The Valkyrie devs all seem to understand at a certain level that they have produced a work of art; there is a driven quality to them, an intensity that comes from long hours of crunch time justified by a cycle of positive feedback from players and press raving about their game. The future of New Eden and the hope of its expansion beyond that of being a niche MMO rests firmly on the shoulders of the CCP Newcastle office.

No pressure, gentlemen. 

Goonswarm Federation CEO, Space Tyrant. Likes yoga, Alaskan Malamutes, bacon, and delegation.