Border Bots VR is gorgeous, quirky and its gameplay loop is intoxicatingly brilliant. Yeah, it's one of the best games I've played on my Quest 3 so far
Border Bots VR immerses you into a futuristic Earth, where you play as a booth operator at an AI travel border within a bustling megacity. Think "Papers, Please", but instead of the dreary dystopian aesthetic, here you get a colorful, vibrant and very interactive world, playfully satirizing the modern corporate landscape.
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In this world, robots have taken over most of the jobs once done by humans. Why is that? Because they are robots, they can be manufactured and programmed to do specific jobs way more efficiently than a human and they will always follow orders, right...? Well, that's for you to find out.
After you "win" the lottery to get this job, the nice corporate overlords decide to relocate you from your small humble apartment to a large apartment up on a skyscraper with a gorgeous view of the megacity cause, you know, they care about you plus there's no need for me to mention that they throw all of your prior possessions into a trash compactor, right? You get the idea, there's more to this than meets the eye and with each day that passes, the story starts to unfold.
Before your shift starts, every morning you wake up in your new luxurious apartment. You can take a shower, pickup, inspect and throw around a lot of objects, check the News, buy stuff from the Shop and interact with your witty robot assistant and other quirky robot appliances. Once you are ready to start the shift, you go out to the balcony, gaze at the gorgeous megacity, call the taxi and you are in border booth ready to start your shift.
Your main task is to either approve or deny robots entry to the megacity. You ding the bell, a robot walks to your booth and they hand you their entry form. There you can check their name, model and the expiration date of their entry form. If something is wrong, you deny them using the red stamp and if everything checks out, you allow them using the green stamp, hand the form back to them and ding the bell so the next robot comes over. Sounds easy, right?
Well, the first few days are in fact quite easy. However, every day a new variable gets introduced making your shift a tad more complex. So for example, in the next shift, apart from the robot model and expiration date, you also need to check if the robot's manufacturer badge matches with the manufacturer listed on their entry form.... easy. But this badge is not always easily visible to you, so you need to use the new Inspection booth enhancement that allows you to rotate the robot so you can spot the badge... cool. The next day apart from just checking if the badges match, you also need to make sure that the badges are not fake... OK. Next shift arrives and well, now robots are bringing in contraband in the city so if their weight is over the limit, you need to inspect them, find the contraband in their hidden compartment, remove it and throw it in the trash... interesting. Next shift, some robots now are now flammable so please throw a bomb at them and if they catch fire, they must be detained... huh?
Next shift, robots can now mod themselves using parts from other robots and they must declare said mods in a new tab on their entry form. So you can print mini figures of the many robot models using the 3D printer and when they come to the booth, you can cross check their model, the mod details in their entry form against the mini figure you just 3D printed... wait. Next shift, remember the whole manufacturer badges stuff? Well now, robots from specific manufacturers can only travel to specific parts of the city so make sure to check the map and approve or deny accordingly...stop. Next shift, specific robot models are now expected to react in a certain way when you show them a specific image on your new tablet... please. Next shift, remember the whole contraband shebang? Well, now robots have hidden compartments so you need to use the new scanner to find said compartment... please stop. Next shift, small robot mice run in front of your booth, so please shoot them using the new blaster... what is going on?!. Next shift, oh yeah remember badges and how they can be fake? Well, if the badge on the entry form and that on the robot match, but this last one looks kinda fake, remove it from the robot using a new gadget and stamp the correct version using the new Stamp booth enhancement... aaaaaaa.
I absolutely, and pardon my french, f*cking love gameplay loop. Every day, the complexity goes up, but don't worry as it gradually goes up. While new variables are introduced with every shift, you don't really have to keep in mind all of these variables each shift. Each shift will present you with a list of daily rules with things like robots from X manufacturer are banned, check Y robot model if they are flammable or not and detain robots with Z types of mods and basically all of the robots you interact with during that shift are focused around those variables. There's a lot of careful balancing made by the developers so you don't feel overwhelmed with things and I really appreciate it. I can go on and on describing the myriad of variables that are introduced, but I am not going to do that, you just have to experience this yourself when you buy this game.
As for the presentation, this is probably the most vibrant, colorful and crispy looking game I've played so far on the Quest 3. Every object you interact with is physics based and looks great. Your apartment is gorgeous and you can customize with posters, plants and other things you buy from the Shop, which uses in-game currency, no microtransaction bullshit here. Voice acting is strong too and most of the interactions with your handler, robot assistant and other robot appliances are genuinly funny. There's an impecable attention to detail and polish to pretty much everything you see in the game which honestly is kinda rare for an indie title.
There are a few small annoyances that I need to mention though. When you inspect the robots, you use a crank to rotate the robots and that doesn't feel 100% on point right now. Maybe it's the Quest 3 fault, but you kinda lose the tracking when you grab and interact with it more often than it should. Another thing is that when you try to grab the arms of the robots to inspect them, again, you often lose the tracking or you fail to just be able to grab their arms in the first place. The final minor annoyance I had while playing the game was the lack of an height adjustment option. When you play in the seated mode, the character stands a little too high so grabbing or pressing elements that are low to the ground is somewhat difficult. Maybe adding a dedicated crouch button in a future update might solve this issue altogether, we'll see. If this feels like nitpicking, that exactly what it is, cause the rest of the package is so insanely polished, minor things like this really pop out. Again, these small things can be easily fixed within the next patch.
Yeah, Border Bots VR is one of the best games I've played on my Quest 3 so far. It's gorgeous, it's quirky and the gameplay loop is utterly brilliant. This is an essential game that I strongly recommend. Thanks for reading!
The game was reviewed on a Quest 3 using a review copy provided by the publisher. Border Bots VR is available on Meta Quest, PSVR2 and PCVR.