The power of Virtual Reality may never reach the heights films have gotten us to fantasize about. But every once and awhile, there comes an experience that can make a believer out of a cynic. There is a moment in the demo of Until You Fall that moved past the gimmicks you’d expect to find in a game like this, and instead brings you into a world of danger, swords, and spells. When the busy convention floor of PAX East fades away and you are swallowed up into an endless cycle of battle, of challenge, and palm-sweating intensity.
There is something to the “live, fight, die, repeat” of the roguelite formula in Until You Fall that blends so well together with the variety of weapons and methods of battle that it becomes easy to find yourself wanting to experiment with the different combinations available to you. Schell Games has spent an enormous amount of effort to craft a world that does more than bring a traditional fantasy look and feel to the setting and creatures that dwell there. Blighted warriors of undeath called the Unraveled stand between you and your goal, taking the head of their undead king.
Weapon variety is a big deal in Until You Fall, as different weapons not only do different types of damage, but also encourage different approaches in playstyle. Swords balance speed and power, but lack any investment outside working well paired with any of the other options. This makes swords a perfect weapon to fall back on as the most reliable option, and one of the most precise. Variety comes in the form of daggers and axes. Daggers are a choice for speed, as quick jabs and thrusts make easy work over most enemies, although it can be difficult to parry the blows of enemies. Axes are especially useful against more defensive foes, as powerful swings of the axe seemed to cleave through the Unraveled shield ratings at a much higher pace.
In an effort to accomodate accessibility and comfort, there are two modes of play for standing or sitting down. For the demo, standing was chosen in order to get a better feel on the reactive elements of the game, and required a large amount of awareness that might have been better with headphones instead of the bustling of the PAX East showfloor, but a quick dash mechanic, and well-built rotational options prevented the opportunity of being attack from behind becoming problematic in the long run. The shield status icons around the enemies health bar keeps you from affecting certain enemies health and has to be taken down before any permanent damage can be done.
Supers are a power imbued with abilities that grant special abilities or powers for short periods of time. The Bulwark super creates temporary shields to rely on, something that can be a lifesaver if you find yourself surrounded by enemies. With temporary bonuses granted after every phase leading up to the boss, different choices for each run can also create a depth of variety. All efforts lead to the final boss who is in a league of their own in terms of combat mechanic requirements, and firmly punishes you for not acting with equal levels of precision, speed, and power.
With more promised to come, Until You Fall from Schell Games is out on Steam Early Access and the Oculus Rift store now.