It is surprising that there aren’t any space combat shooters available on the Oculus Quest. If it wasn’t for Oculus’ strict reviewing process, we might have had a few more, but right now, End Space has picked up that baton, launching us into space, the Tartarus system of space in
In End Space, you are a contracted pilot that’s in control of the most advanced starfighter in the United Trade Consortium, the Minos, a ship built to help protect the UTC’s secret jump-drive technology from insurgents of the Tartarus Liberation Front.
In each mission in the game, you are asked to carry out various tasks in the Tartarus sector. From escorting missions, seek and destroy, protect large ships, resource collection, scout assignments and more. Each mission is displayed on an overview map, projected alongside your supervising flight officer, inside the main hanger of the mothership.
Your first mission is a simulated tutorial so that you can begin to learn the ropes. It’s in here that you first discover the flight controls and test your firepower on a few innocent space cargo crates. It’s from here that you begin to discover the game’s visuals and core gameplay mechanics.
The cockpit of the Mino Starfighter looks great in VR on the Quest. The cockpit has been faithfully created on the standalone headset, with your own body in the hot-seat and each of your virtual arms are connected to its flight control sticks, either side of you. For me, the cockpit could be a little less busy. Key instruments such as your hull and shield display can be a little difficult to read at times, whilst in the heat of the action, and more so when everything is the same colour.
Beyond the cockpit and out into space, the world does look better in screenshots and videos than it does whilst in the game itself. In VR, ship textures are a little dumbed down, explosions and effects feel low-fi and the skybox around you projects a slightly blurry star system and planet textures. Add the removal of any expensive real-time shadows, and the overall result appears a little flat, lacking any kind of dynamic or a sense of depth in space.
The controls in End Space will take some getting used to from the beginning of the first tutorial. Rather than opting for stick controls, it’s default flight controls use a gaze mechanic – simply look where you wish to go and the ship will fly in that direction, with separate buttons to boost and slow down. Your mission objectives are displayed to the side of your cockpit, so it’s unfortunate when you first sit in the cockpit and look around, your ship immediately moves in the direction you’re looking, which can be immediately alarming.
In time, this control mechanic begins to settle in. With a game that has you flying around in circles, doing 180 turns in order to face the attacking rebel ships, I soon started to understand why this control mechanic was chosen as its default. Thankfully, you can adjust these controls, and opt for either virtual sticks or use the analogue sticks to control your ship. Independent to this you can swap from using gaze to control the ship to be able to gaze to target your weapons. In the end, I felt the gaze to control the ship was the best mechanic and caused less motion sickness for me.
The Mino Starfighter is equipped with a loadout of both cannons and missile rockets. Both carry infinite ammo, but with short cool-down periods to prevent you from spamming rebels with your rockets or continuous fire from your cannons. With credits earned in each mission performance, you can upgrade your cannon ammo and missiles as you progress in the game. These upgrades begin to reduce the time and effort to destroy rebel fighters, missile turrets, radio beacons, larger destroyers and frigates.
Each mission has you facing a different type of assignment that helps keep the gameplay fresh. Sadly though, for a narrative-driven game, I didn’t quite feel like I was part of the story being told. For the first few missions, I felt like I was doing all the work myself, rarely facing any ally ships or wingmen. I think because you are not being able to leave the mothership or land inside it at the start and end of each mission, it disconnects you from feeling part of the bigger picture that’s going on around you. X-Wing, Wing Commander, and FreeSpace 2 all did this really well, some being 20 years old!
Being thrown into the middle of the conflict in the game’s narrative probably doesn’t help build the story either, and most missions do follow a similar flow of warp in, follow waypoints, clear the area from waves of rebel ships and then warp back home. It is a classic space-sim shooter flow, but somehow I just didn’t feel connected to what’s going on out there and the core combat in the game can feel a little monotonous too.
Enemy AI can appear a little dumb and manoeuvre in short repetitive movements that don’t really give you the same sense of dogfighting as in games such as X-Wing or FreeSpace. These are two games that should become the template of any arcade space-based simulator. This approach to the game’s combat might be likely to avoid motion sickness and keep combat movement to a minimum, but there could have been better ways to avoid this rather boring feel in space combat.
If you haven’t taken too many sickness breaks from this Moderate comfort rated game, you could easily breeze through End Space in a few sessions and without any multiplayer or wave-based modes, it’s longevity is fairly limited once complete. With this in mind, it’s £14.99 price of entry on the Oculus Store is probably just about right. The game’s balancing gets a little questionable around halfway through, but with practice, you’ll soon get through to the game’s finale. If you’ve been longing for an arcade space-sim on the Quest, End Space can fill that void until the next, hopefully, more capable alternative comes around.