Wands Alliances is a brand new game for Meta Quest 2 from developer Cortopia Studios, and its excellent mix of elements from Harry Potter, Valorant and chess makes it one of the best shooters I’ve played – whether in VR or not.
As they immerse themselves in steampunk London maps, players, divided into two teams, hurl a diverse collection of spells at each other to complete their mission and ensure victory. But don’t let the heat of battle dull you: Wands Alliances players must think several steps ahead as they attempt not only to overwhelm their enemies, but to outmaneuver them.
Finding the sweet spot between strategic and chaotic gameplay, Wands Alliances is an absolute blast to play and a game I can’t wait to master.
At its core, Wands Alliances is a fairly typical 3v3 hero shooter with a wizard twist, offering gameplay similar to Valorant.
Once a game loads, players are divided into two factions: The Ministry and the Guardians.
In the first four games of a game, one of these factions will be the attackers, whose goal is to place the Omega device (a mumbo-jumbo bomb) in one of two locations and detonate it before time runs out. In the meantime, the defenders must prevent this explosion by either letting time run out or defusing an activated Omega device.
After four games, attackers become defenders and vice versa, and the fight continues.
Alternatively, you can ignore the bomb target for all eight games and embark on an all-out war. If a team is completely eliminated, they lose that game.
To help your side achieve these goals, you choose one of six unique casters at the start of the game (and can switch after four games). These champions are divided into three different classes: damage dealer, healer and support.
Characters aren’t as fleshed out as the heroes you’ll find in Overwatch 2 – they lack Blizzard’s numerous powers and ultimates – but they do have a unique ability that makes them better at what they do and in every class has its own pool of spells to choose from between games.
My favorite character was The Spellslinger, a damage dealer who regains his life for defeating an opponent – and encourages you to chase players instead of letting them flee. Other classes offer similar complementary abilities with boons that reward you for playing your role correctly.
This tried-and-true gameplay loop would make a fine game on its own, but this is where Wands Alliances messes up the formula that makes it sparkle.
Duty to change for duels
Before trying Wands Alliances, I was concerned that it would feel like a redesigned Call of Duty – whose new addition we’re a little concerned about – with a wand wave more akin to wielding a gun. While it doesn’t require you to maneuver your controller in well-choreographed swings and movements or pronounce spell names correctly, Wands Alliances combat isn’t the same as your run-of-the-mill shooter.
Each fight feels like a real duel between wizard enemies. With an arsenal of four spells spread across your two dual-wield weapons, you’ll take it – fire, deflect, and dodge incoming magic in a fight for your life.
Fast-charging and fast-moving spells are generally pretty weak, but are perfect for blocking the creepier, more explosive attacks that travel slowly but deal massive damage when they hit. Alternatively, you can opt for a defensive shield, use an ice wall, or a reflective spell that reflects attacks back at your opponent. Then there are other tactical options, like a lightning cloud and an arcane tower, which will hurt your opponents and impede their movement.
There are many different options to choose from when choosing your character’s loadout, but luckily Wands won’t let Alliances overwhelm you. In the beginning, you only have access to a few well-chosen magical abilities. Despite being a little easier than the powers you unlock at higher levels, these first few spells are still pretty strong and reliable options whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned player.
The new spells are always a blast to try out. As you level up, you build a custom loadout for each character to suit their abilities and playstyle—allowing you to go fully aggressive, fully supportive, or anything in between.
However, as you’ll learn, Wands Alliances isn’t just about casting the right spells, it’s also about where you cast them from.
I to D5
The most unique and important aspect of Wands Alliances is its movement, which is almost chess-like in its limitations and rules. Mastering this strategic element will mean the difference between victory and humiliating defeat.
Unlike classic console shooters, Wands Alliances doesn’t let you move freely with the joystick. Instead, you have to teleport between different lanterns placed on each map.
The developers explained in our game session that this decision was made for three reasons. First, the teleportation movement causes much less motion sickness than free movement in VR. Second, the team found that players who were forced not to use stick movements were more likely to move their bodies. You can’t just dodge the incoming fire – you’ll need to duck behind cover to increase your immersion and take full advantage of the gameplay that VR offers.
Finally, it allowed the team to develop this chess-like tactical element. You can only teleport to a lantern if you’re close enough to it and if it’s unoccupied (or a teammate is stationed on it). Using these two simple rules, teams can trap opposing players or force them to move to specific spots by blocking the correct lanterns with spells or their own bodies.
During the demo, several of my wins were caused by either forcing the remaining enemy to a single point and blasting them with massive AOE spells that they couldn’t escape, or by holding certain points so our opponents couldn’t invade and ours able to defuse explosives planted in time.
Aside from their placement, lanterns also have their own tactical advantages and disadvantages. Those placed higher give you a great view of the battlefield below and allow you to spot and snag players – although you’re just as easy a target without much cover. Less elevated positions don’t give you as good visibility, but you have plenty of barriers to hide behind to avoid incoming fire.
Admittedly, the many different facets of wand alliances can be quite a headache at times. You have to remember to equip the right spells, lay out the map, keep an eye on the enemy’s movement and their abilities, dodge magic that can come from almost any angle, and stay in constant communication with your team via the microphone.
But the game does a great job of gently dragging you into its controlled chaos – giving you more limited class and spell options to start with, and forcing you to play an in-depth tutorial before you can jump into multiplayer.
And while it has the potential to become a much more tactical and complex shooter, you can still just jump in and have a more casual time hurling spells if you don’t want a competitive atmosphere. This basic but exciting side of the game offers more than enough fun, especially when you play the game with friends online.
Wands Alliances is now available on Meta Quest 2 and it’s definitely one that you should grab if you’re looking for the best VR games.
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