Amazon has soft launched a beta for their new cloud gaming platform Luna (early access invites only,) and I decided to accept a beta invite to a 7-day trial of it about three days ago. Here’s what I’ve learned and experienced at a couple of days of play in. Keep in mind this is a beta and hopefully will be getting better before it goes full blown.
TL;DR – Amazon Luna shows promise, but don’t be the guinea pig.
My first experience with Luna involved attempting to use it in the browser. They have Contra as an option and open connecting to it I was told I had to set my controller up in devices but given no link to it. Going to the only thing that said devices on the page I was dumped into something that managed my kid’s tablets and gave me no option to pair my remotes.
I tried, really I did, but I didn’t ever find an option to pair my XBOX controller in the Chrome version of Luna. I ended up downloading the Windows Luna platform which worked with the controller with only one problem (it doesn’t recognize the Xbox button for the Luna button, oh well). It worked.
Amazon’s Luna comes with a fairly large selection of free games of which I have to recommend Control which I have played the hell out of as a PC game. Other notables that are included with the trial and the $7 a month option are GRID, Metro Exodus, the Castlevania collection, METRO Exodus, Sonic Mania, and Yoku’s Island Express (which I’d never heard of but it’s fun.) There look to be about 53 free games at the moment.
Luna currently claims to deliver 1080P video gaming experience, and it does this at roughly 32mbit a second sustained if I was reading the Task Manager network tab correctly. They claim they’re going to be deliver a 4K experience soon, but hopefully they’ll get 1080 working flawlessly first.
Yeah, it doesn’t work particularly well when there’s a lot of movement on screen such as in GRID. Grid while you’re not moving looks gorgeous, but once you start racing … it’s playable, it’s decent… it’s not 30mbit video quality though.. more like 5mbit. It’s significantly less crisp than it should be. Blocky. Artifacty, rainbowed, and not perfect. What’s worse is the audio also tends to occasionally sound like you’re trying to funnel it through a jet engine. I can’t remember what that effect is called but it’s jarring and not expected when you’re streaming at 30+mbit.
I started wondering if it was me, but the CPU was about 12-18% across 12 cores. The GPU was under no noticeable load. Kernel times were nothing. No disk usage to speak of. Pretty sure it wasn’t me. Had the task manager on a different monitor and was watching as I played.
But if action games aren’t your thing you’ve got Yoku’s Island Express among several others. These tended to look better, but I managed to have some trouble when I only had 20 mbit free bandwidth. At that point a small “network error” pops up in the corner and as opposed to it downgrading the video quality I got major lag. Even without my imposed 20mbit limit test, there’s something noticeably different between a game on a PC or on an XBOX, and I felt like I was leading my moves a bit.
Overall it has been better than my Stadia experience in April, which at the time really wasn’t fair to Stadia because the US was in the early days of everyone moving to Zoom and video calling for everything, but Stadia looked better when it worked back then. The load times for games also felt more seamless although the execution and delivery seem to be Amazon’s point. Yeah, really, why am I looking at a loading screen for some of these games?
At the moment I will probably be cancelling before my trial is up and trying it again sometime when it’s more polished. That said, I haven’t had the fury-inducing experience in gaming that I had with Stadia (which may have been entirely Zoom destroying the internet related.)