This is not going well. It’s our fault, in fairness: a couple of minutes into our first play of Korix, we had watched as our laser turrets ripped a small troop of enemy soldiers to shreds and joked that it was too easy. “You’ll see,” creator Mark Taylor said – and we did. The threat in Korix’s singleplayer campaign ramps up quickly, and exponentially; before long the masses of onrushing troops are smashing down walls, destroying units at a canter and marching on towards our base, which falls in seconds. Win or lose, a campaign level of this pacy blend of RTS and tower defence will never last more than 12 minutes.
That’s perhaps a necessary design decision for a game that is played exclusively in VR, where short sessions are considered best practice. But it’s a matter of pacing as much as it is comfort, the constant, sharp uptick in enemy strength requiring you to work quickly. Early on, once you’ve sent workers out to gather resources, you’ll need walls to funnel the opposition’s footsoldiers; atop them you’ll build artillery to shell them from afar, laser turrets to take out the ones that break through, and Pulsar units to slow them down. You’ll spend more resources on upgrading your turrets with greater range, fortifying walls, perhaps improving your base’s defence. But just as you start to feel comfortable, a mass of troops bursts through a wall. An airborne unit sails straight over all your hard work, and starts shelling your base. Worst of all, the well of resources that your workers have been siphoning is starting to run dry. When war is designed to last no more than 12 minutes, things can go wrong awfully quickly.
The solution to the resource drought is the collector unit, which can be placed anywhere
The goal is to destroy the enemy’s base, but you needn’t be aggressive about it
on the map and saves workers from schlepping all the way back to your base with their haul. “We built the collector for online play,” Taylor says. “If you have four players, and a lot of resources in the centre of the map, you can build a forward base, capture the resources, build a collector and defences around it and then you’re all fighting over resource points.”
While our demo is only playable offline, it’s clear that multiplayer is Korix’s beating heart. The campaign serves as part tutorial, part progression system: each of its 12 levels unlocks a new unit type, and each is designed to showcase said unit’s capabilities. Once the campaign is complete and all units are unlocked, solo players can head to Skirmish mode to play on campaign maps against AI opponents with a full selection of toys. Or they can head online where up to four players can play across 14 maps, where the AI can control any vacant teams, and players can play competitively or cooperatively. The latter sees each player given their own base and resources, but lets them destroy, build on or upgrade each other’s fortifications and units.
The goal is, naturally, to destroy the enemy’s base, but you needn’t be aggressive about it. Yes, you can build your base forward, pushing your opponent back until the units you’re deploying are right on top of them. However, you can hang back, too, building a strong base and hoarding resources until you can afford a nuke. At 2,000 energy, it’s the costliest unit in the game, and sees your base open like a silo, a rocket arcing up through the air. The counter-nuke costs half the price, flies twice as fast and automatically neutralises the threat providing it’s deployed in time, and Taylor describes some chaotic climaxes to internal playtests, where 20-minute turtling sessions end with some frantic atomic fireworks.
The nuke is a particular delight in VR: we loom over Korix’s playfield and look down as it launches from our base, then move back a little and trace its arc with our head before the payload slams home. But the whole game is an excellent fit for VR, its diminutive scale making it feel as much a god game as it is an RTS or tower defence, the Move controller offering a fast, accurate way of placing units, and a one-button teleport that moves you between four compass points allowing you to shift perspective as the action demands. The result is a smart, intuitive and keenly paced genre mashup that, crucially, still manages to feel fun as the enemy streams forth, smashing our base to smithereens yet again.
Map size, and complexity, scales according to the number of participants. This example is designed for two players, but fourplayer maps are much larger, and often multi-tiered
ABOVE Korix isn’t exactly pushing PS4 to its limits, but when we meet, Taylor is mulling over how the game could best take advantage of PS4 Pro. Nothing’s been confirmed, but one idea would be a first for PSVR
TOP LEFT A fully upgraded set of defences is an intimidating prospect indeed. You can instruct your forces to focus their fire on a specific wall or unit by pointing at it and holding a button down.
ABOVE In multiplayer, your opponent’s current perspective on things is shown by a floating head and a replica of their controller. Since you share the same four positions, you can try to put them off by waving your Move around in front of them
Focusing on worker units is key early on, since you’ll need resources if you’re going to stand a chance. Cost per unit increases the more of them you build, too
LEFT While the field of play may look small, the action ramps up so quickly that it’s all too easy to fail to notice that things have gone wrong somewhere. Keeping track of the entire map is a vital skill to learn