Rogue Ascent utilizes hand-tracking to deliver a promising VR roguelike shooter. Available today on Quest 2, here's our full impressions:
Hyperbole should be avoided without good cause, but I genuinely consider Rogue Ascent one of the best Quest 2 hand tracking games I've ever played. Developed by Nooner Bear Studio, this sci-fi shooter sees you fighting through a hostile space station to save the planet below from an impending super laser. Using procedurally-generated levels to randomize your playthrough, each run lasts roughly an hour before ending with a boss fight.
My biggest concern coming into Rogue Ascent was how it handles hand-tracking, given the tech's fiddly nature and limited control options this usually provides. However, my concerns quickly disappeared after spending time in the tutorial area. Movement requires eclipsing floor icons with your hand for teleportation, and that's also used for opening doors.
Shielding involves clenching both fists in front of your headset to block. Make the finger gun pose to automatically shoot enemies you're pointing at, tilting your posed hand upwards to reload. You can bring up a mini menu and map by clenching your left fist with the palm facing down, while selecting options on any menu or interface uses a pinching motion. There were a few occasions where I accidentally spawned my gun when trying to pinch, but everything else soon became natural.
As you ascend this space station, each floor packs a considerable range of challenges. You could be taking down guards to steal the elevator key, defending uplink points against enemy waves over a time limit, collecting crystals, controlling heavy turrets and possibly more. One level placed me against a mighty bounty hunter, rewarding me with their powerful sniper rifle. There's substantial variety between these objectives that keeps life interesting. Once you're done, a phone call with non-player character allies fills you in on the story before starting the next floor.
Defeated enemies drop coins and scrap, usable at crafting benches to create new weapons or add modifications to your existing arsenal. That encourages experimentation with different builds and weapons, as each contains different stats for damage, fire rate, capacity, load rate, and crit rate. Loudness too, so if you’d rather be stealthy, you could engineer a quiet weapon, take down security cameras and pick off foes individually.
Weapons are also available at vending machines if you wish to keep things simple, alongside items that grant additional perks. For example, you can give your shots fire damage, doors could automatically open as you approach to save time, or marked enemies can take bonus damage. Other power-ups are found across floors at random, offering benefits like increased max health, and there's significant depth to this customization system.
Once a run's finished, your items and weaponry reset, putting you back to square one. However, further Ascents are unlockable by hitting set criteria, like collecting 20 intelligence files or spending 200 scrap on crafting table upgrades. Each Ascent gives you different stats, like varying health bars and shield energy to provide other challenges.
I have yet to see everything, like the Airspace and Onslaught game modes, but I'm very impressed with this sci-fi shooter after several hours. While Touch Controllers are supported, they don't do this experience justice, so you're better off going hands-only. Between its in-depth customization, well-considered control scheme, and entertaining gunplay, Rogue Ascent is a fine showcase of what hand-tracking games can achieve.