Apple AR: The Only Thing Holding The Machines Back From Greatness Is the iPhone Itself

The Only Thing Holding The Machines Back From Greatness Is the iPhone Itself

Directive Games received the enviable honor of unveiling their ARKit game, The Machines, on stage as part of Apple's iPhone launch presentation.

The developer gave us a taste of the "moba-inspired AR PVP game" in July. At the time, they were one of the first game makers to promise an actual app rather than a demo of ARKit's capabilities.

Now that the game is live on the App Store, does it live up to the expectations? The short answer is yes with reservations. The long answer follows.

Image by Tommy Palladino/Next Reality

The Machines, like every other ARKit app, starts with scanning for a horizontal surface. I tested it on a hardwood floor at first and a four-seat dining table; the game board spilled over the edges on the later, but ultimately that has no effect on gameplay.

Players are presented with a three-dimensional landscape with rectangular bounds. The initial level is a rocky landscape with peaks that occlude action taking place in the valleys in between. (I got a kick out of the fact that I could leave the room and come back to find that this little world continues to spin without me.)

Image by Tommy Palladino/Next Reality

The game's objective is to destroy the enemy base, with each player's base situated on opposite ends of the board. Players are able to place turrets around the landscape to defend their own base and mobilize their own troops to attack the enemy and their territory. The game also enables players to fire weapons from their own point of view.

The developers take full advantage of the ARKit. For example, an airship circles the space above the virtual game board, occasionally occluding the player's viewpoint as it passes through. Players must utilize the three-dimensional space in order to observe the action. Even the game's menu is presented in AR.

Image by Tommy Palladino/Next Reality

In my short test drive of the app playing against the computer, I enjoyed this fresh take on a familiar formula. ARKit enables an expansive game experience that is worth the price of admission ($4.99).

Nonetheless, I cannot help but come away from the experience wanting. I played the game on an iPhone 6S, so the view was somewhat cramped; I imagine an iPad would provide a better view. But, even then, you're still holding a screen in front of your face. For a pure first-person shooter, where the device doubles as the weapon and its sights, that makes sense.

Despite its handful of FPS elements, the game begs to be freed from the bounds of a touchscreen device. This really should be experienced through a headset or smart glasses, which would emphasize strategic command aspects of the game. But, don't let the promise of the future of AR hold you back from enjoying what's possible today.

Just updated your iPhone? You'll find new features for Podcasts, News, Books, and TV, as well as important security improvements and fresh wallpapers. Find out what's new and changed on your iPhone with the iOS 17.5 update.

Cover image via Tommy Palladino/Next Reality

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