Star Shaman is the first game to be developed by French studio Ikimasho, and it has just been released for PC VR headsets and for Oculus Quest.
I played it over two days before writing this review, putting in around 3 hours gameplay in all, and I'm glad I didn't rush into writing a review on the first day, because my initial impressions changed the more I got used to the unique combat system, which at first I found tricky and very frustrating, but found that over time it became more intuitive and I started to really enjoy it. I still feel it needs some tweaks, as do certain other areas of the game, but overall I found Star Shaman to be one of my favourite experiences in VR so far, with it's stunning visuals and fun absorbing gameplay. I hope you enjoy my review.
I played the game on the following system specs -
I5 3570 @4.2ghz
12 GB RAM
My play area is around 2.2m x 2.4m, and I played standing with no problems.
Not much of a story, but just enough to inspire you on your quest to save the universe from an evil force hellbent on changing everything into purple blocks and destroying life in the process. It is your job to stop them, by driving them off each planet, and converting all the planets back into the lush green havens for life that they once were. There is a short intro at the beginning explaining all this, with a fully voiced narrative which I really enjoyed, and it was the first glimpse too of the fantastic comic book artstyle that persists throughout the game, which brings me onto the wonderful graphics...
The graphics in Star Shaman are some of the best I have seen in any VR game. They are not highly detailed, or highly textured, they are not meant to be, but what they are is smooth, colourful and stylish, and they do a brilliant job of making you feel like you are inside some fantastical high-energy comic book adventure, with their vibrant colours and wonderful dazzling effects scattered throughout the game. The sequence each time you teleport to a new planet is just spectacular, and I can't see anyone failing to be impressed by the graphics in this game.
The environments too are just incredible, enormous in scale and I found the universe I was playing in to be really spellbinding at times, with the word "wow" leaving my lips on more than a few occassions. Also, the very next day when I fired up my PC and dived back into the game again, the graphics had the very same effect on me all over again, bringing another big smile to my face. They really help to make the game super-immersive too, so you feel like you're really there in the game, which is what VR is all about, though some games don't quite pull it off, leaving you with no feeling of presence whatsoever. This game does however, in bucket loads.
Sound was a highlight of the game too, with some seriously catchy tunes going on that stayed in my head long after I'd finished playing. In fact they persisted throughout the night (I woke in the early hours with them still in my head) and into the next morning, a sure sign of how catchy the tunes are, and not in a bad way either, as I found myself humming the tunes, which would make me think of the game, and I'd suddenly find myself wanting to dive back into it for a bit of shooting and dodging action, though I'm sure my wife wouldn't have approved, especially at 3 o'clock in the morning! Sound effects were all spot-on too, the narration at the beginning was excellent, and there were even a few shouts or cries during combat, which I think were cries of support and appreciation from your NPC buddies. Just small touches like this can help elevate a game but sometimes go unnoticed.
The gameplay was all about the combat, and although the game mentions about casting spells, I never really felt at all like I was casting a spell in the game, and it felt more like a shooter more than anything else, with the combat and dodging very much in the same vein as Space Pirate Trainer, albeit with a layer thrown in where you have to do a bit of hokery pokery to pull your weapon from a sphere, which at first got very frustrating , but seemed to click after using it for a while and I began to really like the way it is done, finding it uniquely satisfying when it worked first time. I did struggle with trying to equip my offhand in the same manner however, and eventually gave up trying to equip the shield, which no doubt hindered my progress through the game so was a little frustrating, so I do think the devs could perhaps adjust the system a bit to make it a little bit more forgiving, especially for the new player, and especially for your non-dominant hand, which doesn't have the same coordination as your dominant one. Over all though I really enjoyed the combat, it was fast and fun, and I'm sure with practise I will get much better, I just don't want it to put off new players who may find it a bit tricky and may not be as perisistent as I am.
The game is also very unforgiving if you do die, as all the planets you have managed to save turn purple again and you have to start back at the very beginning of the map, revisiting each planet all over again. I found this a bit frustrating having no checkpoints or save game feature, as I got to the first boss twice, only to get one-shotted and sent back to the very beginning, and although there is a certain level of procedural generation going on with each planet every time you play, over all they still felt fairly similar with each play through. Perhaps the devs could add a difficulty setting option to the game, allowing the more casual players like myself to opt for an easier option with perhaps the ability to save, though also having a hardcore option for those who like the current challenge and can play in longer sessions than I can sometimes afford. Save game options are great for when you want to just dip in for 10 or 20 minutes when you have time, but don't want to keep redoing the same thing. Having said that the game is fun and to win a planet only takes several minutes sometimes, so it's not a major gamebreaker, perhaps I'm just getting too casual in my old age. It would be a crying shame though if I didn't get to see the whole of the game through, as what I have seen so far is often jaw dropping.
The game also gives you an immense feeling of achievement everytime you do beat the foes and bring life back to a planet, treating you to a brilliant spectacle as the land around you magically transforms from a vast boring world of purple blocks into a lush green biome, with trees and plants, and wonderful enchanting creatures that gracefully glide through the air around you. I only wish you could interact with these creatures, even if just a small reaction when you touch them with the controller pointer, perhaps making them change direction, or having them let out a sound, perhaps like that of a whale song or something. I feel it would be a nice touch and make the experience even more rewarding, almost like the animals are saying thank you for saving them. OK time to reign in my wishful thinking and wrap up this review, but on to value and replayability before I do...
The game is currently around £18 here in the UK, and considering I am not past the first boss yet I think this game will offer good value. I'm not sure how many stages and bosses there are, but I'm pretty sure there are more than one, I just really hope I can get past the first! as this is a wonderful game and I want to see everything it offers. As for replayability, with its procedural generation and with the devs already stating that there is more content to come, this is definitely not a play a few times and forget type of game, besides, it's just too good for that and I can see myself getting many many hours of enjoyment from it for the forseeable future.
It may not be for everyone, but if you like the sound of it, and like what you see in the trailers (though I feel they don't do it justice at all), then I urge you to give it a go as it is definitely one of the most fun and immersive titles I have played in VR, and I now consider the game to be my happy place, as I just love the vibe it gives me when I'm playing it.