When VR first jumped into the mainstream, I imagined one thing. Melee combat VR in an online arena with other players where various weapons, tactics, and levels were all available to choose from. Strangely enough, the VR gaming landscape didn’t introduce anything of the sort. There were some fantastic melee combat experiences like Blade and Sorcery, but nothing online with multiple players involved (that I could find). But then, with limited advertising behind it, Swords of Gurrah appeared. The trailer was a bit hokey looking initially, but it promised all of the things that I imagined VR being when I first grabbed a headset.
The game starts up right away and introduces you to a bizarre at first, but shortly thereafter, a brilliant combat system that will dig its’ hooks into you and refuse to let go. The system revolves around the use of swords, shields, daggers, axes, staves, spears, ninja stars, and variations of each and the quirk here is that each time you attack a player, these blades momentarily explode. They then reappear for your next attack or defense. By holding the triggers on your controller, your blade turns black and becomes unbreakable, but cannot deal any damage, it can only defend. The advantage of doing this is you can destroy another players blade and quickly let go of the trigger and turn your blade into attack mode again. The goal is to reduce your opponents’ health bar to zero with more damage being done to when you hit, or get hit in the head and body rather than in the legs or arms. It’s a unique version of rock paper scissors that plays out in a dazzling display of colors and amazing looking character models. Although it may seem gimmicky at first, let me assuage any fears. Swords of Gurrah is the among the best VR games I have played. Let’s dive in.
This one is a bit tricky to prepare for. While you can play sitting down, this is a full-body workout so you ideally would like a solid 5×5 space to move around to get the most out of it. You’re able to play standing still as well, but your legs will need at least a little bit of room to move around as you’ll be dodging under and potentially jumping over other players’ attacks.
Unfortunately, this title is not on the Oculus Quest officially, BUT you can play it with an Oculus Link cable and an Oculus Quest version is in the works as well. I played my sessions on a Samsung Odyssey Plus, Windows Mixed Reality Headset. The tracking worked great and the visual experience was incredible as well. Here’s how it all works.
I tracked my workouts in Swords of Gurrah through the YUR desktop app and VR Overlay and with a Fitbit to get various results from my 30-minute play session.
Calories burned: 378
Calories burned per minute: 12.6
Average Heart Rate: 122.5
Max Heart Rate: 140
Active Minutes: 30 minutes
I burned 378 calories while my Fitbit had my heart rate at around 105 during the lighter periods of play and all the way to 140 during the peak of intensity. I found the one on one fights to be both the most intense and fun to play. The duels involve constant defense, reading your opponent, and knowing when to strike, dodge, or defend. All the dodging is done manually too so the more room you have, the better off you’ll be and the more flexible your attacks will be. Depending on your opponent, you’ll have a relatively easy time cardio wise or be fully engaged in a full-body workout that VR hasn’t seen since Thrill of The Fight.
Each play session left me feeling a different way. The arena fights were chaotic but required little strategy and had my heart rate around 105, while some of the more challenging duels I’ve been in have had me dripping sweat with a Fitbit heart rate reading of 140. That’s the magic of this game.
This is an arm-centric game and much in the same way Thrill of the Fight requires your hands to be up at all times to block punches, the same deal happens here as EVERY part of your virtual body is open for the slicing. If you want to win, you need those arms to defend yourself. Each weapon has a different style of defense too. For example, the double-bladed staff has you playing like a futuristic-looking Darth Maul and requires both of your hands to be in sync when attacking or blocking to be effective, while the Sword and Shield just requires one arm for attacking and the other to worry about blocking. The spear has you aiming for the head or using poke-like attacks for most of the battles, so your arms are going to be raised for a large amount of time with this weapon equipped, and just holding them up can be tiring without even attacking. I found the best workout to be using double swords or the two-handed Claymore sword which had my arms completely sore after a session of playing. This all depends on how much you put into it, but trust me, when you’re in the thick of the fight, the intensity will come out.
How much your legs are working in this game depends on how you want to play. Do you want to give your opponent less of a chance to hit your legs? Then get ready to bend the knees and keep a low center of gravity. You can also jump, duck, and kneel to attack opponents as well and the in-game avatars will respond accordingly which is amazing to see. After several intensive duels my legs were throbbing from all the half squats and jumps I attempted to pull off. However, you can also play the game seated if you’d like in which case legs are not involved at all.
Core and Balance 7/10
The ability to dodge in this game all revolves around the maneuvering of your core and keeping your balance to deliver a counter-attack. Since other players can attack any part of your body that they want, you’ll have to keep your cool and get ready to turn sideways on a whim, dodge multiple directions and duck as well.
The swings of your weapons will also involve your core a lot as the Claymore and spear weapons require a ton of torquing to effectively use and you will feel it in the abs after a lengthy play session if you go into the game wanting to fight like you really mean it.
Time Perception 10/10
Swords of Gurrah is the proverbial potato chip game. The want for just one more match is pervasive here and it keeps you engaged in the best way. With countless weapons to try out, 4 different levels (with tons more on the way) online tournaments to participate in, and what seems to be a strong player base considering it just released two days ago, the minutes on the clock fly by when you’re a futuristic gladiator.
Although there is a single-player mode, it’s a very different feeling game where you take on various mechanical beasts in what feels like a prototype for something far larger. The online modes are where it’s at though with versus, sandbox, capture the flag and arena being endlessly replayable as long as you can find a server with people playing. I’ve encountered players of all ages and genders so far and have yet to see the same playstyle from person to person. It’s the first online game for true VR Melee combat, so if that appeals to you, the appeal of this game won’t run out.
Fitness Scalability- 8/10
Here’s the deal with this game. If you want a workout, all you have to do is play like it. That can be said for a lot of VR games, but Swords of Gurrah in particular rewards your full force swings, careful blocking, and dodging with winning results. This can be the most intensive VR game you’ve ever played or it can be one of the least. So far I’ve found players who really take it seriously and fight like they’re in a fight and it has resulted in some of the most nerve-wracking, fun, and rewarding gameplay I’ve had in VR.
Lack of Nausea- 10/10
Despite the explosion of bright colors and wildly colored levels(the forest is particularly incredible to see), I experienced zero dizziness or nausea during my time with Swords of Gurrah. I would advise playing on lower graphics to increase the framerate as it gets a little stuttery with a game of 20 people all talking and slashing at the same time as that can sometimes be a little visually overwhelming.
Social Competition- 10/10
The VR world finally has it’s melee answer to games like Pavlov VR. Every bit of this game revolves around you vs. someone else, whether it’s in teams of 1v1, against the AI-controlled beasts or a free for all of 20 player madness. The chat function works perfectly, there’s a pregame lobby for players to test out weapons and strategies and there are scoreboards to keep track of your kills and deaths. Swords of Gurrah understood the need for this type of game and made sure to deliver it with an elite level of social interaction and competition to back it up.
VRFI FIT SCORE 9/10
Swords of Gurrah is a fantastic online melee combat game that can be the most intense VR experience out there or a more casual one that’s still fun regardless. It has an amazing combat system that seems so simple and yet allows for so many strategies with a variety of weapons and the variety of players using them. Your body is the gameplay here and the freedom to use it as you see fit is truly incredible and something I haven’t seen in VR before. It seems like it will be rabidly supported by the developers and will receive more and more content to grow even better than it already is.
If you don’t like melee combat; swords and shields, all of that, then this game likely won’t be for you. It’s an intense experience that requires focus if you want to succeed, so for the people looking for a more laid back experience, this likely isn’t it. For everyone else, it is a must-have VR game for an amazingly affordable price.
Swords of Gurrah is available for $17.99 on Steam, and playable Oculus, Oculus Quest (With Link Cable), HTC Vive, Valve Index and Windows Mixed Reality.