Magic duels make a lot of sense in VR because the technology can bring any fantasies about living in a world, like Harry Potter’s, into the virtual world around us. What’s intriguing about Wands, however, is that it was shown on the Gear VR by NUX Studios, which has grown out of position tracking startup Univrses. Wands started as a tech demo for the Univrses position tracking technology, but as the projects have grown it made sense to split them apart. Now Wands is launching independent of the position tracking efforts on Aug. 18 for Gear VR.
The Unspoken, in comparison, makes full use of head and hand tracking for a highly interactive magic-casting game that recognizes hand gestures to send out different spells. The version of Wands I tried doesn’t have anything like that, at least not on the Gear VR.
The company is considering additional platforms that make sense — right now you use the gamepad or touchpad and your gaze to select and target spells in Wands. It’s easy to imagine a Google Daydream version of the game using the tracked controller to make you feel like you are actually wielding a wand. An Oculus or Vive version might let you duck out of the way of the spells flying your way.
In Gear VR, I found myself trying to duck the very first spell thrown my way despite being fully aware the headset could not track that movement. I suppose that’s a telling sign of how visually impressive the game looks for running entirely on a mobile phone. Both the visuals and the sound are top notch.
Wands is best played in a standing position so you can spin around and warp away quickly to avoid spells from a well-prepared “wielder.” The company has a spectator mode planned so you can watch a multiplayer match from outside VR. You can unlock up to 15 spells featuring a variety of abilities to defend or attack with and you move in the game by picking from pre-determined teleportation spots.
Multiplayer is pretty uncommon on Gear VR, but there are some multiplayer standouts on the mobile HMD. There’s Anshar Wars 2, VR Karts, and Daydream Blue, trivia and only a few others. In that respect, fans of steampunk and magic should be psyched for another multiplayer game on Gear VR. Still, avoiding that urge to duck a spell is going to be difficult for many especially if you have some summoned creature flying at you.
We’ll plan to spend more in-depth time with the game for its release. Check back on Upload for a full review in the coming weeks.