Funktonic Labs is a developer known for its colourful games like Starbear Taxi and Fujii. So, the arrival of The Light Brigade is a welcome one, seeing the team stretch their VR skills into new territory. Namely, a stylish roguelike with a strong narrative and plenty of action. The roguelike genre has seen an explosion in VR in recent years thanks to its replay factor, encouraging players to keep returning for more. It’s this factor that puts The Light Brigade among the top of its class.
Almost like an In Death/Wolfenstein mashup, The Light Brigade combines WWI-era weaponry and very Nazi-looking enemies with religion and magic. There’s a narrative where you’re in a world gone to ruin thanks to mysterious dark forces. You are part of the titular ‘Light Brigade’ a seemingly good religious cult trying to fend off the darkness and return the world to light. Various cutscenes deliver more of the storyline but at the end of the day, this is about shooting your way through as many bad guys as possible before you die.
Going rogue in The Light Brigade
As The Light Brigade is a roguelike death is inevitable, useful in fact, so long as you were successful in that past life. You initially start with the Rifleman class, armed with a Gewehr 43 and not much else. Levels are fairly small and compact, so they don’t feel too overwhelming and are easy to navigate. They’re littered with collectables, urns and cases are tucked away containing coins, ammunition, souls and Tarot cards all uniquely useful.
Coins can be spent with the merchant on new upgrades and Tarot cards provide useful bonuses for each run. However, souls are the main currency here. Collect enough and you’ll be able to level up. Gain enough and when you die, you’ll be able to permanently upgrade your gear. Much like any roguelike, certain perks only last for a single run-through, while others stay with your character.
This means you’re presented with an ever more exciting array of options the further into The Light Brigade you get. Your standard weapons can be greatly enhanced with more firepower or add magical abilities with charms and crystals. Once the magic wand becomes available you can then completely alter your play style to edge that little bit further.
Guns, guns and more guns
One of the best components of The Light Brigade is definitely the guns. All are manually reloadable, and the feel and handling is exceptional. Funktronic Labs has done a commendable job with each of the weapon characteristics, from the bolt action chambering to the actual weight of each weapon. For example, you can hold and shoot the rifle with one hand, but you’ll struggle to hit anything because its bounces and moves too much.
This is very much a gun-centric game though. There’s no melee whatsoever, so you won’t be running around gun-butting folks. You’d be dead before you got too far.
When it comes to movement and options in general, The Light Brigade has everyone covered. With no climbing ability available, traversing the landscape falls to a mixture of teleportation and smooth locomotion – the latter is optional. You can then dive into the myriad of gameplay options to tweak settings such as seated or standing, gun placement, cross-hair colour and more. It’s quite frankly dizzying.
The not-so-good bits…
It’s not all good news, however. Ammo, grenades, health and other items are all stored in a belt around your waist. It wasn’t until I got into my first hectic firefight that I noticed the belt didn’t track properly with where I was looking. It could be all over the shop – sometimes at 90 degrees – meaning I couldn’t rely on muscle memory to grab an ammo clip. I had to look down to check where the belt was. Not particularly useful when trying to keep a boss in view.
Another gripe is the visuals. While they might be better on other platforms, for The Light Brigade review on Meta Quest 2 the graphics are quite muddy and drab. None of the locations were particularly exciting and the fog draped over everything didn’t add any atmosphere, it simply made long-range shots harder.
The Light Brigade excels in so many areas that it’s easy to forgive its few flaws. Yes, it isn’t the nicest VR game to look at and the belt issue can be a pain. But the gameplay is solid, with a decent selection of enemies who aren’t completely stupid, as well as providing a decent difficulty curve. Its real hook though is the variety of ways you can tackle your next run and those weapon mechanics. There was never a moment where I got bored or couldn’t be bothered to continue playing. A game built on repetition – even if it is procedurally generated – that doesn’t become a slog is a welcome one.