A few weeks ago, I caught wind of Swords of Gurrah, a small indie title that greatly intrigued me upon seeing a video by the developer on this subreddit. To sum it up in a single sentence, it’s a PVP VR melee game. Upon picking the game up during the recent Steam sale, I was shocked at how much fun I was having the moment I started handling the weapons and using them to slice and dice other players.
The aesthetics of the game won’t win any awards on a technical level, since there are low-res textures and a lack of anti-aliasing does make it appear slightly smeary on my Rift S.
However, the art direction and performance are both excellent. The lighting effects are top notch, and the different colours of the various weapons really makes them stand out. Colours are used to make these weapons look distinct from one another. The character models are solid as well, with a few basic options on character customisation- this can be used to create an avatar to fit your personal tastes. There is a mirror on the wall that you can use to view your avatar, and it displays an image of the environment around you in real time, which is an impressive feature for a small game, albeit with an added complication of causing the framerate to be choppy whilst it is switched on.
The framerate during normal gameplay is, as expected, solid. Apart from the aforementioned mirror hiccup, I never saw a single noticeable frame drop, even on Ultra settings with my i5 and 1660 Super PC configuration.
If you wish to push your own GPU to its limits with ultra settings, there are plenty of options in the pause menu, despite the menu itself looking rather unpolished in some instances. It’s snappy, responsive, and gives you plenty of customisation options. This includes graphics, character customisation, locomotion, matchmaking and audio settings- all of these options are all the standard features you’d expect in your typical VR game.
But this is far from your typical VR game. This is a melee game with some very neat features indeed. The weapon choice is varied for a VR game, with the weapon count stands at just over 10 at the time of this review- a high number considering the amount of tweaks that have went into balancing these weapons. The current weapons include shortswords, daggers, hatchets, spears, axes, glaives, broadswords, shields, dual-bladed swords and 2 variants of shuriken. There is almost every weapon you can think of for a melee game, with a crossbow, hammer, katana and bow being added to the game.
The weapons each have a distinct feel to them, despite the lack of physical weight and pushback with VR weapons. The spear, for instance, feels unwieldy at first, until you master stabs and slices at a distance to your opponent. The axe is a personal highlight of mine, with skillful play being rewarded with your opponent being taken down in two hits.
The shattering mechanic overcomes the issue that has previously made balanced, competitive melee VR games a pipedream. As soon as you damage an opponent, a surface or their weapon, the weapon you are holding shatters and quickly regenerates, implementing a cooldown and making what would otherwise be a fast-slice affair be a methodical and careful game of attacking and blocking. A solidifying mechanic present in most weapons allow clever players to perform impressive feints or counter-attacks to best their opponent.
If you are smarter and have higher reflexes than your opponent, you’re bound to win. There are little, if any, cheap tactics to speak of. Each weapon has strengths and weaknesses. The dagger, for instance, has one of the highest damage outputs in the game, but it almost completely lacks defensive capabilities thanks to it’s short length and slow regeneration time. The spear, on the other hand, has sub-par damage, but quick regeneration times and plenty of range for players to get in some stabs.
Playing against other people is both thrilling and satisfying to play, with genuine catharsis felt after a hard-fought victory. Matchmaking is quick and easy as a host of a session, with game modes such as team fight and free-for-all being standouts. The map count is small, but more will come with future updates. The matches themselves are quick and frantic, and coming out as a victor feels like a genuine accomplishment after fending off up to 11 other players.
There exists a single-player aspect to the game, which is, to be honest, lacking. There is a training room which acts as a hub world, with players being able to practice using different weapons, improving their dexterity. However, the arena mode that can be played solo lacks polish, with the basic drones able to get in cheap shots. The serpent and bull bosses, on the other hand are excellent, with more bosses coming along the way. The PVE mode has a lot of potential, and a simple overhaul of AI opponents would fix many of the issues I have with it. AI such as those one would see while playing Gorn, which more-or-less simulate easier variants of real players, would help the PVE reach new heights.
This oversight, however, does not affect my overall recommendation for this game. For a game that is only a few months into development, I am surprised to say that I have had as much fun in this game as in VR masterpieces such as Pavlov, Superhot and Beat Saber. That statement, therefore, means that this game gets my highest recommendation for something filling so seemingly niche of a category. This game is worth the $20 asking price, and is a must play for any owner of a PC VR headset.