Ghost Signal: A Stellaris Game - Stellar addictive

Ghost Signal: A Stellaris Game - Stellar addictive

Ghost Signal: A Stellaris Game is a hot contender for VR game of the year.

There is a lot of whining going on in the VR bubble: There are just not enough good games. Well, that can hardly be true for the beginning of 2023, because a lot of excellent VR games have been released.

Okay, not everyone owns a Playstation VR 2 and can enjoy VR hits like Gran Turismo 7 VR or Horizon Call of the Mountain. But for those who have a Quest 2 or Quest Pro, Ghost Signal: A Stellaris Game, is a game that, for the first time, brings that magical attraction to VR, that PC strategy gamers know so well:

Just one more turn.

Note: I didn't include my own screenshots in the article because the Quest screenshots don't do the game justice at all.

Ghost Signal: A Stellaris Game review in a nutshell

This Stellaris spin-off (note: it's not a VR version of the grand strategy game Stellaris, but a game in the style of FTL: Faster Than Light) will keep you hooked under the VR headset: the mix of challenge, reward, luck, and skill in this roguelite is currently unmatched in VR. The constantly changing path through the seven stages with their many, randomly generated maps will remain exciting even after you have played it 20 times.

The controls are intuitive and straightforward. Lots of upgrade options and decisions for your ship keep you motivated, and the research after each round turns even a traumatic failure right before the final boss into a complete success.

You should play Ghost Signal: A Stellaris Game if you …

  • love strategy games in space,
  • like to play roguelites,
  • want to see cool space creatures in action,
  • love fast, intense and challenging space battles,
  • are looking for long-term motivating gameplay,
  • and want to see great 3D universes.

You should not play Ghost Signal: A Stellaris Game if you …

  • expect Stellaris to be a VR game,
  • don't like the roguelite concept, and
  • are not really into strategy games.

What is it about?

In a diorama view, I control the spaceship Aurora as its captain. A spooky signal attracts my attention - and that of the artificial intelligence named Vir, who explains the game, gives tips, and sarcastically comments on my regular demise.

In seven stages, I must find my way through different maps, where either battles, giant space creatures, random events or merchants await me. The goal: Survive all challenges, including the final boss fight, and find out what this ghost signal is all about.

If I die, I have to start over - that's Roguelite. Though, that's not as bad as you might think. I'll tell you why in a moment.

Ghost Signal: A Stellaris Game - How does it look?

It looks fantastic. Diorama fans will love the detailed spaceships, including various alien ships, and the great effects.

But the secret star (!) of the VR game are the space backgrounds: Huge planets, such as desert or city planets like in Stellaris, hang in space. On the other hand I see massive space stations or black holes. Space creatures, such as dragons, not only make for exciting encounters: It's an impressive spectacle when a giant beast erupts from a planet.

Enriched with familiar Stellaris sounds and beautiful music, the VR game exudes real space magic and seems more relaxing than the gameplay would suggest.

How does it play?

In my preview from Gamescom, I had my doubts about whether the gameplay would be motivating in the long run. Those doubts turned out to be unfounded. Developers Windswept Interactive and Fast Travel Games (Guardians Frontline) have created a perfect roguelite flow for Quest 2 & Pro that will keep you glued to your VR headset.

There are seven stages, with many sectors displayed as different large circles in front of me. Some show question marks for random encounters, an exclamation mark announces an elite fight against particularly tough enemies, others show merchants or space creatures. In between are small sectors where smaller battles await me.


Sector map in VR game Ghost Signal: A Stellaris Game

Sector map in Ghost Signal: A Stellaris Game. | Image: Fast Travel Games

Using the VR controller and touch (the game supports hand tracking, but I like the mix of controller and touch), I select the destination system into which the little Aurora will jump. I can scan asteroids in space with a tracking beam. Some contain "scrap", a currency I also get from killing enemies, which I can use to buy ship modules from merchants or upgrade existing modules to level three.

However, before I can start mining, enemy ships usually warp in. They come in different sizes and have different abilities: Small fighters are hardly a problem, while big ships with missiles try to blow me up.

But I am not unarmed: There are three weapons on the right controller that I can switch between with a quick tap of the analog stick: projectiles, missiles, and lasers. The latter is good against shields and has a fairly long range, projectiles like to pierce ship hulls at close range, and missiles provide that special extra impact from infinite distance.

If I'm fast enough, I'll shoot down enemy missiles. I select targets by pointing with my right hand. It works well, and I feel a bit like a divine puppeteer. There's also a boost that allows me to quickly escape from dangerous situations.

The trick is to choose the right weapons and have the right distance in time. I can set up to three waypoints and destroy my pitiful opponents during flight time. This creates a fluid flow of combat, enhanced by the various modules I can buy from vendors or capture from elite ships and shipwrecks. More scrap, more damage or range, shield and hull improvements - there is plenty to choose from. If necessary, I simply disassemble modules to repair the Aurora or earn some quick cash.

Merchant race in VR game Ghost Signal: A Stellaris Game

Merchants in Ghost Signal are borrowed from the races of the original universe, as are some of the more aggressive encounters. | Image: Fast Travel Games

Space monsters are giant creatures that intervene in battles by attacking me directly or making the battlefield rather unpleasant. For example, with a deadly laser beam that announces itself briefly and then burns away anything that was too slow. There are great modules as a reward, but I don't want to spoil them.

At the end of Stage 2 and Stage 4, there are big boss fights that differ in mechanics and are a real challenge. When reaching the final battle in stage 7, I find the signal - but not the actual end. You'll have to figure that out for yourself.

If I die, the game starts again from the beginning. But not without progress (it's a Roguelite): I spend the research points I gained by destroying enemies in three tech trees, unlocking powerful bonuses. After a while, the normal game gets easier and easier. That's when I can add challenge levels and start the game with handicaps - for example, less scrap yield, stronger enemies or more boss fights.

If that's not enough, you can play the Daily Challenge with a leaderboard. You won't get any research points, but you will get points compared to other players. The Daily Challenge comes with different modifiers that change daily and change the game. For example, you can't see all the maps beforehand and each system is a surprise.

Ghost Signal: A Stellaris Game review conclusion - Perfect for VR, perfect for Quest 2 & Pro.

This VR game is also a surprise to me because it's a VR game that the Quest 2 and VR in general needed. It skillfully transfers addictive Roguelite mechanics to VR without being overwhelming, but brings enough depth and rewards to keep you motivated for the long run.

Add to that the great visuals, the sound, the music, and I've rarely felt the need to put Quest 2 back on my head so often. Each time I played for the full two hours of battery life. In fact, I now have a power bank hanging from my chair to extend my playtime.

Says it all, doesn't it?

You can buy Ghost Signal: A Stellaris Game here

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