Preview: Gargantua – Tense Japanese Combat Mayhem
Traditional hack'n'slash for melee fans.
If there’s one thing virtual reality (VR) headsets have a lot of it’s shooting experiences. While melee combat does crop up here and there, in titles like Raw Data and Sairento VR, there’s not many focused purely on sword-based gameplay (besides the likes of Fruit Ninja). Japanese videogames tend to lean towards melee combat – you can’t have missed all the giant, ludicrously oversized swords in anime – and its that trend developer Yomuneco has continued with, Gargantua, its second VR title, being shown at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2018 for the first time.
The early demo Yomuneco had on display ran on Oculus Rift, set in a dark fantasy universe where long ago Giants created the Gargantua to do their bidding, the Gargantua eventually revolted and destroyed the Giants. Then many years later the Gargantua made the same mistakes, creating humans to be their slaves who in turn revolted and turned against their creators.
For this showcase the demo was split into two, the first part was all about learning the controls wandering, around and getting used to everything. Several stuffed dummies were setup to hack away at, helping practice those swings using several weapons including a sword, dagger, and an axe. Flail wildly and it was easy to whittle down the limited stamina wheel quickly, without really even noticing.
Just like any good melee-focused videogame there’s the option to dual wield depending on play style. While this kind of worked – Gargantua uses a smooth locomotion system combined with a vignette for comfort – it was far easier to combine the movement controller with a shield instead. General movement was slow yet purposeful, however for those keen on two-handed combat the studio has put a dash system in place when those close encounters get a bit too much, using a button press and head lean to get out of harms way.
Whilst not instantly noticeable from the dimly lit corridors at the start, the landscape design and artwork found latter on is something to behold. It might be due to the fact that one of the artists at Yomuneco happened to work on Shadow of the Colossus, with grand hallways that seem to stretch into infinity.
After taking in the eerie sights and sounds its time to get down to business, with the second part of Gargantua focused solely on that melee combat, starting a wave sequence that begins with one knight, eventually ending with three to vanquish. It’s here that Yomuneco has spent its time perfecting hand-to-hand combat, with attacks feeling solid and weighty, especially when trying to block an opponent.
Naturally, this being an early demo there were the odd bugs and glitches, but nothing gameplay breaking that ruined the experience. Throwing weapons was possibly the oddest mechanic. Weapons could be picked off the floor with the grab button which could then be released without dropping it. However, this also meant that throwing a dagger required clicking the grip button at the right time. With immersion being such a big part of VR entertainment, the natural reaction is to open your hand when throwing something rather than essentially gripping it instead, a system that took a moment to get used to.
It’s very early days for Gargantua, with this demo really only offering a teasing taste of what’s to come. What was shown is certainly exciting, with an intriguing storyline mixed with gritty aesthetics and fluid combat. As development continues VRFocus will be keenly watching Gargantua‘s progress.