Wands Alliances Review
With competitive multiplayer games being so incredibly popular on other platforms, it’s only natural that we’d see them come to the Meta Quest 2 as well. Population: ONE and Rec Room have been standouts so far, and now Wands Alliances arrives to give Meta Quest 2 players another great and addictively fun PvP experience in VR. If you own a Meta Quest 2, this one is a must-play, and not just because it’s an exclusive.
You play as part of a three-person team, facing off against an opposing team for a 6-person arena battle. As the title implies, you’re given magic wands that each have two spells that you switch between as needed. There are many different spells to choose from, some of which are unlocked as you gain experience. Some are attack spells that are shot at enemies much like a gun. Others are defensive, such as putting up a wall of ice. You can also shoot a quick heal spell to help out a teammate.
In many ways, Wands Alliances is a familiar PvP experience. Teams try to win rounds by achieving objectives — for one side, it’s arming an Omega device, which is like a magic bomb. For the other side, it’s by stopping this from happening. You can also win by just killing all three opposing players. That’s often what happened when I played. You play as one of three classes, which are the standard attacker, tank-like support guy, and healer. You get XP in Rounds which you use to unlock new spells for your Battle Kit.
Grab Your Wand
Locomotion is done via warping to pre-set points, not free movement. Although you’re stuck in one place, you can move a lot, by crouching or leaning. In fact, you must do this to survive. In Wands Alliances, using cover is a must. It’s very precise too. I found even a small bit of the top of my head peeking over a box could get me killed quickly. I learned to really watch my body position. For this reason, Wands Alliances can be a bit physically demanding to play.
The rounds in Wands Alliances are short but very fun. It takes some time to learn the ropes. It’s a 360 degree experience, so you’ve got to watch that you don’t get hit from the sides, or from above. You’ll be swiveling your head frantically, trying to stay alive. It’s quite exciting. As with many PvP games, there are some players who are vastly more experienced than others. This is a bit frustrating because currently, Wands Alliances doesn’t match you based on levels. As a newbie, I felt at a big disadvantage with my mediocre spell selection. But after playing for a moderate amount of time, I felt more powerful.
Speak and Spell
So, needless to say, you can’t play Wands Alliances sitting in a chair or laying in bed. You’ll need to be standing, and moving your body a lot. I also recommend you play in a large, open space. I generally liked the movement in the game, except for one thing. Wands Alliances forced me to stand in one, precisely-defined physical spot as I played. If I stepped a foot or two left or right, the screen went black. I couldn’t re-align myself by pressing and holding the Oculus button either, which I can with most games. Wands Alliances had a curious insistence that I adhere to one spot in my predefined Guardian Boundary. It even locked which direction I faced. That felt limiting at times.
And although Wands Alliances doesn’t require that you play with a Mic, you’ll definitely want to. I found that rounds depended heavily on the Squad communicating enemy locations and strategy. You could play as the one silent guy on the squad, but it would be weird. Like playing actual paintball with your friends, but never saying a word the entire time. So again, if you like to play VR games quietly, without disturbing others in the room, this might be an issue. Having said that, the team-based gameplay is great when everyone is talking, laughing and clicking together.
The core of Wands Alliances, the 3-on-3 tactical arena battles, are exhilarating and thrilling. They aren’t as super fast-paced as you might expect, and actually there is a strategic element that is a bit different from some PvP games. People tend to look for a nice spot to place themselves. Then it’s a tactical battle of catching the enemy off guard. The red or green outlines showing you where others are also help. But you also have to know the environment and peer around obstacles to out-flank the other squad.
A Visual Treat
Part of the enjoyment in Wands Alliances is due to the great environments. There are only three levels currently — the Rookery, the Maetropolis, and the Gateway — but they are very well made. Visually, Wands Alliances has a beautiful Victorian Steampunk style, and arenas include lots of detail like gas lamps, brick buildings with faded advertisements, and steam-laden trainyards. Surfaces look good, and not at all last-gen like we see with some VR games. Even your wands have a cool steampunk aesthetic, looking up close more like old-fashioned guns than wands. I guess that makes sense, as when you “cast a spell,” it feels more like shooting a gun as you squeeze the Trigger button rather than wave or swirl your hand like a wizard.
I’ve really enjoyed my time with Wands Alliances, and I strongly recommend it for any Meta Quest 2 player. Despite some technical annoyances, it has fun and thrilling team-based combat and a very stylish presentation that’ll have you coming back for more. Let’s hope that more games like this continue to fill out the Meta Quest 2 roster as the platform’s player base grows.
** A Meta Quest 2 code was provided by the publisher **
- Fun magical PvP gameplay
- Gorgeous visuals
- Well-designed environments
- Finicky positioning issue
- Not meant to be played seated
- Matchmaking needs tweaking