Swords of Gargantua is one of those games I was holding out a lot of hope for, because if there’s a single activity in VR that I get excited about – it’s anything to do with swords. I’m a big fan of fantasy, so I’ll take a sword over a gun in gaming almost every time. It is one of those experiences that has a ton of potential in VR, but the premise still needs to be executed on well and put into an engaging game. Swords of Gargantua manages to get parts of this right, but the whole just never really came together for me.
Things kick off rather well, with a rather lengthy narrative introduction. The story that is teased had potential, as it details a god-like arena putting you against a variety of different creatures. There is some excellent imagery in the beginning, but most of it dissipates once you actually start to play. The story never really goes anywhere from there, and instead you’re left in what amounts to an arena / horde / wave game where you take on numerous enemies without really looping back to that initial teased narrative.
The actual gameplay mostly sees you walking around a large arena, engaging in enemies as they appear to challenge you. The idea of blocking, swinging – all of this plays into the game’s visuals and surprisingly solid control scheme. The weapons at times seem a bit floaty, but honestly this is not meant to be an authentic sword fighting simulation as it has several elements such as powering up your weapon over time and temporarily boost it. The tracking however, was sometimes literally hit and miss for me. There were times I clearly felt like there should have been a collision of weapons / shield / body that did not occur.
Thankfully this was more the exception than the rule, but it was sometimes frustration when it happened. It should also be noted that you need a decent bit of room to play as well as you will be swinging your arms about. One nice design choice by the devs that I want to call out is the way they dim / blacken the edges of the screen when you’re moving. It helps to reduce the potential for motion sickness, which is not something I normally get – but you can turn that option off and I did to try it out. I found myself not necessarily nauseous – but it was more comfortable leaving it on, at least for myself.
There is a decent variety of enemies, some of which are more interesting and challenging to engage with than others, but they do help to keep combat somewhat fresh. During stages, there are basically a couple of modes of play. You either have to find and eliminate all of your enemies in the stage or there is a defend the tower variant as well. A few more modes / objectives (perhaps capture-the-flag-like, or something involving resources and construction) would have added more to the actual gameplay and sense of progression. Instead the initially entertaining gameplay gives way to a good deal of repetition after a couple of hours.
There are different weapons that can be earned throughout the game, and while there is a solid visual variety. I would have liked to have seen more, or some sort of an experience / upgrade system to provide a slightly better carrot to dangle as part of the progression to stay engaged. One-handed, two-handed, shields, sword, mace – there are some option here. In the end though, the actual weapons seldom felt all that different from one another when in use, and it came away feeling more cosmetic than impactful.
There is a multiplayer component that lets you work with others in the arena. I don’t tend to lean into multiplayer a lot, but even so struggled to find others to play with during my time with the game. They are out there, and mechanically speaking it is all fine with voice chat that allows you to communicate effectively while you hack your way through the enemy legions.
Lastly, the presentation is solid if unspectacular. Music and sound effects are generally fitting, if not overly memorable. Visually the different weapons and enemies are well represented, but the environments are someone lacking. I suppose that should be expected given the nature of the arena setting, and I suppose this gets back to the beginning where I thought the development team did a pretty good job setting the stage with its initial scenes, but gave me little else in terms of variety for both the story and the visuals.