Do you ever get the urge to simply swing a sword at something, satisfyingly mowing down enemies as your sword makes an impact whilst you swipe through nameless beings? Whether it’s a game like Dynasty Warriors or something a little more personal (with one-on-one combat), it can be a great release. Thankfully, with VR here in full force, we have games like Until you Fall, a game in which you literally become the protagonist and feel like a true badass.
Until You Fall is a VR action game developed and published by Schell Games. It’s available on Steam VR, PSVR, Oculus Rift and on the platform that we reviewed it on, the Oculus Quest 2. You can choose to sit down or stand up to play using an option when you boot the game, I tried both but, of course, I’m lazy so I sat down most of the time…
If a game where you can walk around pretty, procedural environments and sword fight multiple enemies sounds like something you’re interested in (of course it is), then this game is for you.
**Images are taken from the Oculus Quest 2 – it looks better when you play, the photos the device gives us are rather low quality**
After a brief tutorial, you’re dropped into the game and faced with some strange demon things. They patrol areas until you approach close enough to engage in combat. You duel wielding weapons, which don’t have to be the same, and the game advises you how to use each hand to both block and attack. Basically, the game isn’t complicated to control, it feels very intuitive and natural.
The brilliant tracking of the Oculus Quest 2 is in full use here as you block your opponent’s strikes before slicing through them with your own attacks. Everything works exactly as you’d expect when it comes to attacking, with your strikes being more powerful based on how fast you swing the controllers. As enemies attack you, the game will show you where the attack comes from with an outline of your sword, allowing you to quickly match the position of your sword to the projected attack. Do this successfully and you’ll block as you would in real life.
Time it perfectly and you have the chance for a powerful parry attack, where you can return the favour by again matching the swipe. It’s not intricate or overly realistic, it’s designed to be challenging but fun and it does both very well. It doesn’t require you to guess body movements or have lightning reactions, just decent hand-eye coordination, allowing for it to feel not too easy but also very accessible.
You can also use an ability to dash forwards and backwards to your advantage, to either escape from enemies or quickly engage to catch them by surprise. The dash feels amazing to use and is done in such a way that doesn’t induce any kind of motion sickness, it’s essentially like teleporting but in a set direction to gain an advantage. It’s a feature I hadn’t seen in VR yet, a sudden movement ability and I’m impressed with how it doesn’t feel uncomfortable to use. There’s a few different enemy types and using the dash will become an integral part of how you engage with each one, as they all have their own specific strengths and weaknesses. Another mechanic which feels amazing is that you can actually deflect arrows back from archer types, so understanding your enemies is important if you want to progress.
The game itself is very structured in its design, which can make it feel a bit simple. It’s very rogue-like in the sense that it’s a try, die and try again formula, hopefully getting further than you did last time by buying upgrades. You’re always progressing even when you die, which stops any frustration building up when you get to parts where you feel like you might get stuck. The game still has some difficult fights though, with some areas will multiple mini-bosses and, of course, the bosses themselves being a healthy challenge.
It’s enough to tire you out after these battle, for sure, and if you’re like me then you’ll definitely find yourself with sore arms. The path forward is very linear and is a little bit of a downside to the overall experience. You’re essentially travelling to an area, clearing out a wave and then moving on until you die. Of course, it is an arcade-style slasher game so I didn’t expect to have an open-world, but some sort of variety would have helped the experience a lot.
The fighting areas themselves are lacking variety in most cases, but their designs are part of the challenge. They’re very tight and awkwardly shaped, meaning you’ll have to be very aware of your surroundings as to not get caught against a wall and outnumbered. I would have liked a bit more freedom to explore and some things to discover, but I won’t use that as a negative against the game, it’s more of a preference for myself. They’re procedurally generated and you can largely tell as there are not many changes between each area, but it’s still impressive looking with vivid colours and an otherworldly feel.
Until You Fall has both temporary and permanent upgrades for you to use as you progress. Between each fighting area, there’s a giant crystal that offers you choices of multiple upgrades. These upgrades are temporary and can offer various benefits, such as gaining extra damage, earning powers quicker, or trading health for powering up weapons. These abilities are limited, so it’s up to you to be savvy enough to work out what would be best for you on a particular run. Once you defeat the boss in the area, you will then return to the hub area and your temporary upgrades will be reset.
The temporary upgrades are a really fun addition that changes things up when you’re grinding for points to spend. It makes the game feel a little different each time you play and it’s fun to experiment with the different upgrades.
Once you’re back in the hub, you can purchase permanent upgrades. These upgrades can be applied to the various weapons you can buy and will make your next run a little easier. If you like games that require you to keep playing to get better and stronger, picking up new upgrades and weapons to help you out in your next run, Until You Fall is definitely for you. Thankfully the upgrades are reasonably priced so it won’t require you to do lots and lots of grinding, as that would have definitely made the game feel a bit of a slog if playing for more than a few hours at a time.
Until You Fall is simple but fun. It’s not going to win any awards but it’s certainly going to get you moving and feeling a bit awesome for a while. It does get a bit repetitive, so it’s not going to grab you for long periods at a time, but the sword fighting is enjoyable enough to make you want to come back for more. The worlds are pretty, if a little lacking in substance, and the structured and limited level design is something that holds the game back a little. Basically, if you’re in the mood to swing a couple of virtual melee weapons at big baddies, and who isn’t, then you’ll really enjoy Until You Fall.