Rogue Ascent (VR) Review

rogue ascent vr review 23041004
rogue ascent vr review 23041004
Rogue Ascent
Editors Choice

Three years into owning the Meta Quest 2 (and back when it was still Oculus), there have been few games that have impressed me as much as Rogue Ascent. This indie roguelike shooter by Nooner Bear Studio somehow manages to push the VR shooter forward by capitalizing on the Quest 2’s most underused hand-tracking feature. Best of all, Rogue Ascent doesn’t just craft a shooter without controllers. It’s also a polished game that looks amazing, runs buttery smooth and refuses to die with clever roguelike mechanics.

The development team at Nooner Bear might have watched 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Tron (1982) and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) one too many times. This retro-futuristic design gives Rogue Ascent a deliberate 80s sci-fi polish to it. Over the Quest 2, eyes will be darting over a hypnotizing blend of 3D textures with a neon-soaked colour palette. It’s a very digital world that sells players into something best described as Far Cry: Blood Dragon meets Returnal—all with the same blend of first-person action with roguelike progression and procedurally generated levels.

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No experience is ever the same in Rogue Ascent. The game cracks a code to replayability by shuffling its corridors, lobbies and control rooms aboard an enemy ship. The player’s job is simple; clear a floor of enemies, take an elevator up, rinse and repeat. Rogue Ascent takes its name literally by making its combat engaging and rewarding. Players also find ways to grow stronger during their bullet-hell-inspired carnage. The cycle was enough to keep me playing for hours. While dying in a run only tempted me to hop back in the elevator and try again.

Nooner Bear’s take on the roguelike shooter feels even more immersive without VR touch controllers. Players simply turn on hand tracking and see Rogue Ascent come alive at their fingertips. It never gets old making finger guns and watching my hands turn into weapons. To shoot, players simply point at enemies while the weapons automatically fire. This works in the most responsive way, without the need for controllers to pull triggers. Reloading is also easy by pointing the finger guns up. Like a space cowboy, my in-game guns twirl as the ammo counter refills.

“Three years into owning the Meta Quest 2, there have been few games that have impressed me as much as Rogue Ascent.”

Weapons are also satisfying to use against legions of blocky enemy troops, drones and other progressively tough baddies. As the enemy types pile on, players will find new weapons to work with. Early on, players can select a few unlockable characters with their own loadouts and abilities. They also start with pistols, which can be swapped with phasers, assault rifles, snipers, shotguns and magnums. But players can also mix and match their hands.

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Dual-wielding weapons are key to maximizing damage. While the crafting bench smartly uses a combination of weapons to build a new one entirely. I didn’t expect so much depth to come from obtaining weapons in Rogue Ascent. But Nooner Bear sticks to the basics of roguelike design. Best of all, players can also use credits from slain space enemies to buy new weapons or upgrade them.

What surprised me was how well Nooner Bear made the Quest 2 camera tracking work. Where other games have failed to fully track my hands or drifted away, Rogue Ascent never loses them, no matter how fast they move. The lack of interruptions and controllers deepened my immersion in a way that bodes better days for “games of the future.” Even more impressive, Rogue Ascent instantly recognizes my hand gestures and allows me to use its unique movement system before summoning my weapon like Dr. Strange with a Glock.

The game also does wonders for locomotion and comfort without controllers. Rogue Ascent teaches you to reach out to various floor markers to move to that spot. With practice, players can zip across a room in less than a second and chain directions. This helps with dodging bullet-hell levels of lasers sent by enemies. Time also slows down, allowing players to take out those finger guns and return fire. It’s a dynamic action that reminded me of Returnal, where I dodged, fired and stayed in motion.

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Hands are also required to work with various terminals aboard Rogue Ascent’s hostile spaceship. Players select things with a pinch, which is accurate and easy to pull off. This makes healing stations, weapon crafting benches and elevators a breeze to interact with button-free.

Rogue Ascent only ends when players die or decide to throw in the towel. Its procedurally generated levels keep things from getting stale. But in the trappings of early access, Rogue Ascent suffers from a lack of level variety. While most rooms start to look familiar under the same colour scheme and space background. Rogue Ascent begins to feel stale due to a lack of biomes. As for combat variety, Nooner Bear missed an opportunity to include melee combat that benefits from hands-free gestures.

Just as players are done with their main run, Rogue Ascent also offers more ways to play at launch. This starts with a highly replayable survival mode that pits those finger guns against surprisingly tough enemies. In between those waves, players can buy weapons, make upgrades and heal up before making another last stand. Another waved-based mode challenges players with shooting down attacking drones. A few power-ups let players clear their screens, slow time and turn those finger guns into small rocket launchers. The modes come as an extra bonus but are perfect places to practise before attempting another high-score run.

Rogue Ascent Vr Review 23041004 4

Rogue Ascent is more than just a tech demo for Quest 2’s cutting-edge hand tracking. But Nooner Bear has also crafted a confident roguelike action game that can keep players hooked for hours without dying on the controller. At launch, Rogue Ascent still lacks some other procedurally generated twists to stay fresh. That won’t stop players from jumping out of an elevator with itchy trigger fingers ready to do some damage.

Final Thoughts

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