There was a time where the term roguelike made me pass over a game. My time is so limited, I didn’t want to waste it on futile runs or sessions that felt like they lacked progression. It’s a genre that I liked, didn’t like, and now truly love. Part of it is a deeper understanding of how the mechanics work, but developers have also found amazing new ways to keep things fresh across your various “game over” screens.
Until You Fall brings the genre to PSVR, offering a thumping soundtrack, a vibrant neon style, and some truly majestic weapon ballet between you and your enemies. The excitement is infectious, but will you keep getting back up when it knocks you down? Let’s find out.
Death Has No Hold Over You
Any great roguelike must embrace the concept of progression through each of your runs. You won’t finish the game in one try. You’ll repeat the same gauntlets over and over, and you’ll push slightly further each time. How do you keep a loop like this interesting?
Until You Fall answers that question in a couple of ways. While some roguelikes have introduced an overarching story across your runs, the focus here is more on run-specific upgrades and permanent improvements to your arsenal. A classic approach to be sure, but a proven one.
What story we do receive is a basic setup, and a vague reason to tear through everything in your path. As someone who always wants a deep and interesting story, I will say that Until You Fall benefits from keeping narrative at bay and focusing solely on the gameplay.
The speed at which you enter, exit, and restart a run keeps things breezy from a pacing standpoint, leaving very little time to get frustrated or bogged down in how your last run ended. The main hub area is simple, offering several areas to purchase weapons and upgrades, while also giving you the ability to choose from several difficulties with their own challenges and benefits.
The weapon selection is varied and offers some interesting abilities, but I imagine people will find the pairing they like best and stick with that. An option for each hand gives you plenty of potential combinations. A particularly strong one for me was a sword in my left hand (my dominant one), and a claw of sorts on my right hand.
I was forced to block using only my left hand in this scenario, but that left the right open for quick attacks and gave me an ability to throw enemies back with a powerful shockwave, so the balance is certainly there.
Movement is as good as you can expect from Move controllers without analog stick, and comfort options are there if you need them. I had everything disabled and relied mostly on the dash ability to move quickly through each area (though it does have a cooldown).
Beyond being cool, the dash also let me slam into enemies and initiate the first strike. The option to dash backward also lets you get out of a tight spot or away from enemies that can surround you if you’re not careful.
The one-on-one combat, baring scenarios where multiple enemies come at you (which I’ll get to in a moment), is fast and fluid. A guard meter on the enemies ensures you won’t try to flail your way to victory as they will block everything. Instead, you’ll need to watch for indicators to twist and turn your weapons and match the direction to block. These appear with just enough timing to react, rewarding quick reflexes.
Once you’ve blocked a few attacks, you’ll be able to cut through the guard. Bright indicators appear in these moments, which encourage wide swings through their respective direction to maximize damage. Throw in special abilities for each of the weapons that recharge, and later enemies that require you to physically dodge in specific directions or parry projectiles, and you can see how things get intense.
When you do run into issues that involve multiple enemies, it can be chaotic trying to parry attacks and monitor the entire struggle. The Move controllers aren’t ideal for this kind of multitasking, resulting in fumbling as you try to dash backward and obtain some breathing room.
When you’re not fighting through enemies in each area, you’ll break through crystal barriers as you move through each area of your run. These crystals offer three choices that give you a health boost, currency, modifications to your critical hits, and more.
I absolutely love how you select your choices in these moments, and in other areas around the game. Grabbing a crystal and shattering it in your hand is always satisfying, much like the combat itself. Other touches, like turning your palms upward to read information about your weapons allows for a slick way to access menus between encounters.
Boss fights are suitably exciting as well, and often left me gripping my controllers with white knuckles and dripping with sweat as I dodged, weaved, dashed, and slashed for my life. Beyond the limitations of the Move controllers, I can’t really fault much about Until You Fall’s gameplay. It feels great to play, tracks perfectly, and leaves you out of breath after every run. My only qualm would be the chaotic nature of facing multiple enemies at once, but even that can be handled if you keep a cool head.
A Treat For All The Senses, as VR Should Be
Until You Fall stands out immediately in VR with its synthwave soundtrack and bright neon visuals. Seriously, these visuals make the 80s look like they could use more color. It’s an absolute treat to experience as everything from the menus to the combat all offers some level of slick presentation that oozes with style at every turn.
The soundtrack also matches your heart rate as you cut your way deeper and deeper into its world. While the environments are pretty bare, you won’t have too much time to notice as the load times are brief and the enemies are plentiful. Given the more involved nature of VR, I wasn’t sure if a roguelike would translate well to the medium, but Schell Games has proven that they can do a hell of a lot more than awesome puzzles with this excellent entry into the roguelike genre on VR.
An essential purchase for those who enjoy the genre, and a solid workout to boot!
Final Score: 9.0/10
A copy of Until You Fall was provided to PS4 Experts for review purposes.
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 10/8/2020