Until You Fall is a swordfighting virtual reality game by Schell Games. The Pennsylvania based independent game studio has made several virtual reality games such as I Expect you to Die and Orion Trail VR. OnlySP had the opportunity to play Until You Fall at PAX West 2019.
When I put on the Oculus Rift headset, I was greeted by calibration settings. Once I went through settings, I was immediately thrust into the world, with a voice telling me to defend myself. As I started the tutorial, the controls were incredibly intuitive. With the Oculus Touch motion controllers, players have to hold down the trigger buttons on each one in order to summon their swords. The stick on the left controller was for moving around slowly, and players can quickly teleport a short distance in a direction by flicking the stick on the right controller. The one problem that I had with the controls was that I always let go of the trigger buttons, thus my swords would disappear, likely because my brain thought that just pressing the trigger buttons would keep my swords in my hands. This mistake was the main cause of my deaths during my time with the demo.
That said, the combat is invigorating. In the demo, players mostly face off directly with enemies. Thin bars of light will come across the screen, indicating where an enemy will strike. Players simply need to hold up one of their swords to block the attack. They must not let their guard down, though, as enemies will sometimes initiate a follow-up attack, requiring a second block. Once an enemy finishes its attacks, the player is free to completely wreak havoc on them. I had a super aggressive playstyle, so I swung as fast as I could. From what I could tell, enemies had shields that could be broken by repeatedly swinging at them. When that shield is broken, they are open to what seemed like critical strikes; a yellow line can be seen across the enemy, and swinging the player’s sword to match the direction of that line results in a critical hit. Also, wider swings mean more powerful strikes.
Enemies have a blue shield bar over a number of red crystals representing portions of health. Players must deplete the blue shield bar to expose the red crystals. Players can now chip away at the red crystals before the blue shield bar fills again. After all the red crystals are gone, the shield icon at the end of their health bars breaks, indicating that one final strike would finish off the enemy. One very helpful tactic was the ability to teleport straight into an enemy. By flicking the right stick to teleport, players can actually bash against the enemy and stun it, allowing them to get a pre-emptive hit.
I eventually faced off against two enemies at once, but the problem of having too many effects was exacerbated by diverting attention onto another threat. Either way, as long as the player matches up their swords to the lines that come across the screen to block an attack, they should not have a problem. Additionally, a warning will flash near the corner of the player’s eye, depending on which direction, if another enemy is going to attack them while they are focused on another. The warning provides ample time to teleport away from the fight and avoid the incoming attack.
Players can also unleash a Super, based on the weapon they are wielding. Since players have two swords, they can also possess two Supers each. My left hand’s Super encroached enemies in vines, rendering them immobile and vulnerable to more of my attacks. While I was not entirely sure what my right sword’s Super was, I believe it was some sort of buff, as my vision was surrounded by an orange hue for a few seconds. When players complete an area, they can move to the next and pick up a shard for a power-up. Three shards are presented, and I usually picked the one that increased my maximum health because I wanted to stay in the demo longer before dying.
I found that sometimes, the screen could be filled up with too many effects. Between the enemies and the sparks flying everywhere. The effects can become over-stimulating because they often obscured the health bars and the surrounding environment. I often ignored the UI and kept playing until the enemy was dead. If not for some warning indicators, enemies would have been able to blindside me. I also ran into a problem with movement. While I had no issues with motion sickness, the game implemented a grid system to simulate tunnel vision to reduce it. Every time I moved, I would see the grid system behind the game’s environment and it was incredibly distracting, especially if I was in combat and needed to make some quick movements. However, while speaking with Jesse Schell after the demo, he noted that I would be able to go into the options menu and reduce the amount of the grid that I saw.
Overall, I was very impressed with Until You Fall. Despite my unfamiliarity with the controls and the overabundance of special effects, the game is incredibly fun to play. The first-person perspective fuels a high octane experience when players are swinging their arms to fight enemies. While I did not notice any sort of narrative woven into the experience, anyone looking for some quick fun will enjoy Until You Fall.
Until You Fall is now available in Early Access on Steam.