Sword fighting in VR can be an exhilarating, intense, and terrifying experience. Seeing a blade coming at you, almost being able to feel the air being cut through before you block it with your own sword is unlike any other kind of gaming. It’s one of the things that makes VR gaming so easy to sell, one of the experiences that could stop VR feeling like a gimmick and make it feel like the future of gaming. It’s a hard feeling to match, and when a game does it well, it’s an incredible rush.
Swords of Gargantua is all about sword fights (it’s literally in the title), but instead of fighting against other people you throw down against beings which have more in common with gods than they do with you. You’re led through this by a giant statuesque goddess, one who has half a face and is only showing you a glimpse of her power. You know, that whole thing.
You see, the lore of Swords of Gargantua is that the gods created the Gargantua to do their battles for them, but for some reason, there are also humans. It’s all explained at the beginning of the game in a lengthy sequence of still images and voice overs, rather than proper cutscenes. While it does seem appealing, it’s hard to follow as it’s all thrown at you so quickly.
The thing is, that semi-intriguing story is left by the wayside once the game itself gets underway. In reality it is little more than a horde mode that takes place in uninspiring arenas against uninspiring enemies. It feels massively at odds with the lengthy cutscene that the game begins with, and it feels so much worse off because of it.
There are some intriguing systems such as powering up your sword and the combo system. The former involves a bar that charges up as you fight; once it’s full, you can hold your blade out in front of you and run your other hand along it to power it up. The combo system highlights areas as you parry, hitting these foes extra damage and allows you to take a for down in seconds.
The movement is good too, with the screen partially fading to black as you walk around to try and help eliminate motion sickness – turning this off is the only meaningful comfort setting that you have available to you, with the game intended for room scale VR. There’s also a useful lock-on system that ensures you’re always facing a target if you want to be.
The systems themselves do have some fairly strong components, so it’s unfortunate then that they come together it such a disappointing way. Most levels just have you walking around a large room fighting off the enemies that spawn in periodically. Even the enemy variety isn’t enough to make things challenging most of the time.
There is an online mode, but fighting alongside other players isn’t enough to ever make the game fun. The same can be said of the weapon variety, which lacks the breadth of options needed to make your character feel your own, and instead results in feeling as though you’re just changing how the weapon looks, not how it acts.
Visually the game’s not bad, the animations are nice, and the environments are clean if not exciting. It just all feels like proof of a concept more than an actual game. We’ve long been at the point where we need more proper experiences in VR, and fewer games that feel like demos to prove the hardware works.