Vox Machinae VR is Messy, but Great Potential

Vox Machinae VR was on my Steam wish list for awhile, but I never pulled the trigger. Now it’s on my Viveport Infinity subscription with a full single player story (was always multiplayer only), so I finally dove in. Without a doubt, it’s messy and very much an indie effort, but damn it has so much charm and character. I played the whole thing.

Beneath the Janky Parts is a Lot of Potential and Character

Vox Machinae VR menu with computer in the foreground and Grinder in the background
Loving the Menu with that Mech in the Back

I hesitated buying Vox Machinae for awhile. The graphics lean more toward Quest VR game level and I didn’t want just another multiplayer VR game. Once it hit my Viveport Infinity subscription, I learned there’s now a single player campaign, so play time.

Right away, I loved the menu. It’s a mech style computer with my full body avatar sitting in front of it (IK arms and all). Looking beyond that computer, I noticed I’m inside of a giant hangar with a huge battle mech (game calls them Grinders) in the background. I snapped back to my childhood and instantly flashed back to the movie Robot Jox.

It’s actually a great comparison to that movie. Even in my nostalgia clouded memory, I remember the movie was janky, but with a lot of character too. In fact, I’m tempted to watch it again to see how well (or badly) it’s aged.

Between Missions is Rough, but Where the True Potential Lies

Vox Machinae Jess and Frank in front of the vending machine
Jess and Frank plotting a vending machine robbery

The animation between missions is very low quality. It’s polygon level planets and asteroids with a basic model ship. Space is mostly empty, but the quality of the animation could improve by miles. It’s really just dressing for some loading and narration, but still.

Inside the Grinders is where the magic happens, but I left a whole section for that down below. The planet surfaces are not as low quality as the space animations, but still more Quest 2 level graphics rather than PC VR. The Grinders are where all the detail is and that’s for the best.

Vox Machinae VR Characters with Some Character

Since there is a full campaign, I was happy to see walking around the ship between missions is a thing. The animations remind me of Borderlands, but with plenty of arms clipping through things and the character’s bodies. It’s a bit distracting, but obviously something the developers can patch up.

Their interactions are choppy, especially handing and taking things from them. It’s basically snapping to the hand, then disappearing. Seems a bit weird and rushed, but again something with a lot of potential for improvement. Almost feeling like part of the ship’s crew is important.

But, I liked the characters. The banter between Jess and Frank was always fun, while the other crewmates all had their own charm. Their facial animations were definitely better than the body movements, adding to their presence.

Only character I did not like, was Blue, the on wrist AI of my character. The computer/voice combo was annoying. Her lines were also a bit annoying, which didn’t help that she chimed in whenever she wanted.

There’s side tasks on the ship that add additional gameplay, but most I could skip. Talking with the characters is usually optional, which is nice to share additional dialog when I wanted and just walk away when I don’t. There’s a lot of room to add an polish there.

Vox Machinae VR Grinders (Robots) are Strong

Vox Machinae VR Grinder pilot cockpit with mech in my sights
Grinder Pilot Cockpit, Where the Magic Is

The first time piloting a Grinder was magic. Quality and style of the cockpit is equally as good as the menu computer. Most of the controls inside of the cockpit are functional. The basic controls include a joystick style automatic transmission shifter to set the forward/backward speed. Another stick is there to turn the Grinder left and right.

There’s a radar/map to the left with adjustable positioning to swivel closer to the front. On the other side there’s a similar setup listing current objectives. Pulling those screens back and forth in VR is pretty satisfying.

A video call screen in the upper left corner is functional to talk to other pilots during missions. Behind it is a fuel gauge for jump jets (refills after cooldown). To the upper right displays status of available weapon and countermeasures. Behind those is a temp gauge to avoid overheating the system.

Near the left joystick, there’s a knob to pull up and activate jump jets. It goes straight up and in each direction of the compass, all while using the fuel (basically has a cooldown). I frequently had issues finding the right boost balance. There’s also an ignition switch to turn everything off.

All weapon aiming is done head tracking. There’s also TV screen to zoom in for long range attacks, complete with VR controller joystick adjustments. A great addition for things like railguns. All these tools come together for proper mech gameplay.

The story is mostly okay, but definitely elevates the Grinder gameplay over what I imagined multiplayer death match offer. I both enjoyed and was annoyed by fighting giant worms and a rogue AI. Gameplay needs some additional bug testing with some definite janky points, but I mostly enjoyed the journey. Grinders are just fun to pilot.

Multiplayer is Next Up

The plan was to complete the story for some pilot experience, then jump into multiplayer. I did just that and enjoyed a few deathmatch sessions. Managed to score a few kills, but mostly lost early and often. Although Vox Machinae VR is rough around the edges for single player, I look forward to spending more time where it got it’s start, multiplayer.

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