One of the experiences in VR I’ve always looked forward to is a good sword fight. I remember as a kid finding the smoothest sticks in our neighborhood and sword fighting with my friends on the Air Force Base we grew up on, pretending to be great warriors or gladiators in the arena. Many experiences have come and gone since VR was made mainstream again, but not all have hit the mark. Swords of Gargantua aims to be an experience that feels natural, fluid and accurate. But does it achieve its goal? This is our Swords of Gargantua review.
When I first strapped on my Oculus Rift S to give this a go, I was quickly enthralled by the opening moments. Surrounding me were still images of a world ravaged by war, with you being pitted in the arena against the minions of the Gargantua. It’s actually a little hard to follow, but it the gist is humans are being used as fodder to fight the wars of the Gods.
While the intro stills were at times breathtaking – standing in a desert surrounded by the graves of those humans who have fallen before you were a sight to behold – Swords of Gargantua’s story simply feels tacked on to give some sort of structure to the arena combat.
In fact, other than the occasional voice-over there doesn’t seem to be an indication you’re part of something larger than yourself. Sure, fighting giant monsters and ax-wielding demons kind of leaves something of an impression, but it feels like those opening moments of the story could have been done away with and simply put you in an arena instead.
Swords of Gargantua requires some space to play as well. You’ll be pitted in an arena and while you can move using the thumbstick – thankfully it darkens the edges of your vision to help stave off motion sickness – you really do want some room to maneuver. Each round you’ll start with a trusty sword at your side, but throughout each arena, there are other weapons and shields you can pick up along the way as well. I found myself really taking to the mace early on thanks to its long reach and power. I also really love the accuracy of the rapier – in fact, there are about 30 different weapons you can unlock along the way, each one giving a different feel and play style allowing you to really hone in on your own ideal experience.
Combat itself is surprisingly straightforward. You’ll hack, slash, parry and stab your way through enemies until each wave is complete. Some waves you’ll simply take out the monsters around you. Other waves will have you defending a Mana tower, much like the core from a game such as Raw Data or a tower defense game. Enemies vary as well, with some only taking one well-timed hit to deal with, while others such as the major bosses every few waves require much more strategy and maneuvering to take down.
Your sword overtime will take damage, requiring you to sheathe it every so often in order to recharge (which is why those pillars with weapons on the become so handy). String together enough hits and parries and you can power up your weapon, making it stronger for a certain length of time as well. I actually found this rather difficult to do as it requires you to hold your weapon out in front of you and take your other hand and run it along the blade. This didn’t always register with the game, and by the time it was starting to I’d be staring down another wave of enemies and be forced to abandon enchanting for the time being.
In fact, Swords of Gargantua’s tracking is one of my major issues with its combat – it simply does not fee accurate enough to really translate well as a sword fighting game. There have been times where I can clearly see my blade or shield parry an enemy attack only to have the enemy ignore that and go right through me. On your arms are three throwing knives, but when you lift your arm enough to reach them oftentimes Swords of Gargantua doesn’t register your arm is even there. I’ve watched my sword cleanly connect with enemies only for the game to not register the hit, leaving me open to being punished by an incoming attack.
And while flailing wildly doesn’t help here at all, even when you parry an incoming attack, Gargantua doesn’t always recognize the hits when you counter strike. It can become incredibly frustrating as more enemies bear down on you and the tracking just isn’t accurate enough to correctly take out the enemy you’ve worked on for so long.
However, when it works flawlessly, Swords of Gargantua provides a great experience. Dealing with a massive group of Godlings with pinpoint accuracy made me feel like a God myself sometimes. The issue is, however, it doesn’t do it often enough to make it feel all that exciting. Sure, there are bright spots in a wave where everything works just right. But more often than not I found myself struggling with the tracking or the feeling that none of my attacks were connecting with the enemy. Some enemies, such as an archer who shoots bolts of energy at you, are so tall you have to reach upwards and hope you’re hitting them in the correct spot.
Each enemy has a weak spot, denoted with a green circle, and when you successfully parry there is an opening to counter-attack. Oftentimes though you’re simply not close enough or the enemy dodges away while they are staggered. You can dodge as well, but it doesn’t feel intuitive the way it’s mapped (You hold down the left trigger and move your upper body in the direction you want to dodge instead of moving your whole body).