VR sword combat games aren’t anything new, but not all of the games in the genre are the same. This is where Schell Games’ intense VR hack and slash Until You Fall comes into play. After going hands-on with it at PAX West 2019, I can honestly say it was one of the most satisfying VR sword combat experiences I’ve had so far, as it wasn’t just another “swing until you win” type of game that I’ve played so many times before.
My adventure began by assuming the role of a knight known as a “Rune Knight” with the task of protecting what was left of the game’s world, Rokar, the Rune Knight’s homeland. You see, the world was filled with twisted and powerful forces, the Unraveled, that were once proud warriors. Right from the start when I got a good look at one of the many foes in my path, I knew for a fact that they wouldn’t go down without a fight — I needed to be swift and cunning to make it out of battles alive.
After arming myself with two unique weapons (I had two magical swords), it was then time to test my magic and melee skills and try to survive in various randomly-generated neon-tinged arenas. There weren’t any tutorials or quick tips thrown in my face; I had to learn how to handle combat all on my own as soon as I encountered my first enemy. What was particularly neat was how weapons weren’t always in hand, to be summoned, pressing and holding the grip buttons at all times was required. This in itself added more of a challenge right from the get-go.
The real challenge came into play once in battle, however, as it was either kill all enemies or die trying. As mentioned before, Until You Fall isn’t another mindless hack and slasher, the developer actually put in a unique combat system where pinpoint timing is the key to winning. Since enemies had both a shield and health meter, the shield meter needed to destroyed first and then, it was time to do some real damage by unleashing multi-strike combos.
While there was the option to attack at any time, thus being able to finish them off quickly, enemies wouldn’t just stand a be sword-slashing-sponges. They would also take swings at which then caused for a QTE (quick time event) to occur. These events required me to position my weapon just right to block an incoming attack, failure to do so meant, well, I’d suffer severe damage. To describe the combat system briefly, it was all about striking a balance between being on the offensive and the defensive.
As far as enemies go, unfortunately, there wasn’t too much variety. Many of the ones I faced were easy, soldier-zombie-like creatures, but I did face off against knight that put up a fight, along with agile enemies that unleashed deadly spells. However, there was never a time to sit back and relax; there was always the need to stay on alert and be ready for anything — which is what made combat fun.
Death did happen — plenty of times, to be honest — but thankfully, it wasn’t all that bad. After each death, I was actually able to get stronger by experimenting with different builds and buffs. Also, with various weapons to unlock and upgrades to gain between battles, I didn’t want to stop trying and forward.
Until You Fall certainly lived up to its name when I played it, the fighting only stopped until I fell. With its satisfying sword combat and mix of rogue-lite elements, VR fans may want to consider giving it a try.
Until You Fall has launched on PC-via Steam Early Access — with HTC Vive and Oculus Rift support. In October, the developer plans to add support for Index and Windows VR as well.
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