When Schell Games announced its next big title earlier this year, Until You Fall, it certainly seemed like a different venture from the team’s previous virtual reality (VR) titles. Having created the comedic escape-room experience I Expect You to Die and colourful puzzler Water Bears VR, Until You Fall is poles apart from these previous videogames. Offering hectic melee combat in a fantasy realm, Until You Fall could be Schell Games’ best VR experience yet.
Ever played Solfar Studios’ roguelike shooter In Death (you should, it’s good) where you battle through hordes of monsters, die, get a little stronger and try again? Well, that’s the kind of premise with Until You Fall, just with swords, knives, axes and such like, set in a very vivid, stylish world where enemies emit glowing green light.
Right from the start, there’s no tiptoeing around in Until You Fall, you learn by doing and that means being thrown straight into the action. Tested on Oculus Rift there’s no weapon belt to speak of, instead, you press and hold the grip buttons to make your weapons appear, release and they’ll vanish. The mechanic works very neatly and helps to build that feeling of presence that you’re actually holding them. Most of the time there’s never a reason to not have your weapons drawn as Until You Fall is a hack ’n’ slash adventure through and through. Only when collecting powerups do you actually need your hands.
These are found at the end of each gameplay area, split into ever more difficult sections. The task is to defeat all the enemies, choose from one of three goodies before progressing into the next location and trying not to die. Death is inevitable, but with each one you’ll be granted new equipment and upgrades to progress that little bit further, edging ever higher up the ladder.
Perseverance definitely seems to be the key with Until You Fall, as you’ll encounter enemies that to begin with are just brutal, doing savage attacks that do massive amounts of damage. Blocking is a crucial part of the combat (not just attacking) with enemies attacks indicated a second or two before they land. This all works really nice and fluidly for the most part – you can’t just hack at an enemy because they’ll block every swing after the first couple land. Parry enough strikes and you’ll get openings to attack, do enough of these (big swings equal more power) and a shield will appear giving you an opportunity to deal massive damage via precise, indicated strikes.
After a few fights, this does tend to work up a sweat (great for a workout) but they do start to feel a little fixed and somewhat lacking in variation. None of the enemies tends to be interested in you until you’re really close, lumbering towards you like a zombie in most respects. Your movement is a mixture of very slow walking or a really fast teleport with which an additional incoming attack can be made. Once engaged the style of system Schell Games has employed works for one on one combat but should a second opponent join the fray it all gets a bit visually jumbled, between the block and attack moves appearing all over the place.
When you fall, it’s back to a hub location to find new weapons, and upgrade possibilities. Features such as your health however reset, so if you did build up some decent health crystals they’ll all be gone once you return to battle.
This was an alpha build of Until You Fall, and already showcased lots of potential ahead of its Early Access launch at the end of August. The battles were fun and the gameplay certainly seems to hark back to the 80s and 90s, where you’re given no recourse; you just have to be good, very good at holding your own. The main worry with this style of videogame is how repetitive it becomes, so VRFocus will be paying attention to the development of Until You Fall, and advise you do the same.