When one thinks of eSports you generally navigate to the thought of a bunch of people sitting around gaming systems and using their skills with a mouse and keyboard to win the day. This could all be changing as we insert Sol Raiders via Zero Latency VR to the mix. This would be a new experience for the locations around the world that not only let gamers have fun in a warehouse-scale VR environment but also allows teams to go head to head as we would expect in a sports arena. At least on the surface that is what we see for Sol Raiders here, but I had the privilege to test this new game experience out and see if it will be viable of the eSports realm or just another weekend experience for a group of friends to have.
Before we dive into the details of Sol Raiders and gameplay, some of you may need a bit of a background on just what the Zero Latency set up is all about. For starters, unlike traditional VR setups one would have at home or an office, you are set up with a fully wireless system to go into the VR space. This includes a backpack about the size and weight of a laser tag vest, set of headphones, and a modified VR headset to track your global position in the play space. The space we had in this instance was somewhere between 200 to 400 square meters to move around in with five other players. Something that is fully used once all of the configurations are set and the weapons are handed out.
As for Sol Raiders, we were split into two teams of three and then tasked with three different objectives over three different maps. The first being a capture the flag style match where both teams compete to push a "Soul Orb" into our opponent's side of the map. All while killing each other and trying to navigate the quarters offered up. Something that became tricky as clipping through walls led to instant death to alleviate cheating in the match. This was all something that was a bit more difficult to do than say as things became hectic even when communication was flowing between the team. Sadly, we lost in our match but only due to the number of deaths and not the opponents completing the objective.
This led us all into the second mission of Sol Raiders, which had us stalking through dark corridors and rooms to find "Data Banks". Something that sounds easy enough, but when you have to worry about your opponents hunting for the same things and then doors that open, close, and kill you, everyone needs to work as a unit to get things done. This had to be one of the more frustrating of missions though as you always had to keep track of the doors opened and then your spatial awareness all while still tracking players and objectives. The doors you open close seconds later and instant kill you if you are even partly in the way. More or less, space was the only issue here but it led to some amazing gameplay and our team coming out on top this time.
The final round of Sol Raiders brought us to another mission similar to the first with us trying to claim the "Soul Orb" in a similar manner, but new elements were introduced to mix things up. For instance, this one had a lift you had to ride in to get to the main map, which reduced the play space just a bit. It also had a sniper tower so the party could be split in Sol Raiders to try to complete the mission. This is where it felt like the true sport of it all came in with the other two round feeling like tutorials to this one. Not the best when trying to offer the whole experience as one big PvP VR event, but it is still relatively new out there so it gets an easy pass on all of that. Especially as the developers are still working hard to improve and expand it all for the casual and hardcore gamers in general.
That was my experience with Sol Raiders, but what do I think of it terms of repeat play and the move into a full eSports event? Well, as a casual weekend excursion for friends it was absolutely amazing and has me wanting to head back for more. Something that many other VR spaces are not able to harness very well. The gameplay modes were a bit on the basic side of things, but given the physical and technological demands needed, it blended extremely well and feels to be fully worth the time and money to experience. It will definitely lead to you and your friends having some great experiences and conversations later about it all. Especially since you can track everything through Zero Latency's website.
When we are diving into eSports, I will say Sol Raiders is a huge step in the right direction if we ever want to see VR and PvP VR get to the forefront, but it still has some room for improvement. Not that the game was or setup was terrible, it was not at all, but it is obvious this is a baby step in the direction. There is a ton of potential and will offer up opportunities for more gamers to be able to participate in eSports certainly. In fact, I did vastly better in the FPS of Sol Raiders than I ever do in the traditional style and I equate that to being able to actually move in the 3D space instead of mouse and keyboard. It is just going to take a bit of time and few tweaks to get it perfect for us all.
If you are interested in giving Sol Raiders a go for yourself, it does look like the Las Vegas, NV location is the only one hosting the game as of this writing with availability starting on February 9th. I am certain this will open up or be updated on the websites to get more players and feedback in the future, so be sure to check out the 25 different locations around the world to see when and if you can partake. It was definitely an amazing experience that I will keep talking about into the future and hope to see Sol Raiders gain ground into the eSports realm. It is definitely a viable contender in my eyes.
Sol Raiders — Trailer
Form your crew and prepare for blistering, team-based combat across 3 diverse maps, complete with unique objectives.
The ultimate virtual reality eSports title for up to 8 players.