If you’ve been looking for a VR hack-n-slash with meaty gameplay mechanics and a challenging difficulty curve, developer Schell Games’ new title Until You Fall delivers all that plus more. It also manages to be far more physically involved than many other games in the genre.
Until You Fall sees you donning the armor of a powerful knight in a neon-laden cyberpunk world, taking on skillful opponents with cool weapons, and feeling like a badass while doing it. The campaign itself is linear and arcadey, based around challenging yourself to get to the end of a series of procedurally generated encounters without dying rather than following a narrative plotline. Each time you die, you’re sent back to the very beginning of the game with all of the currency and weapons you’ve unlocked thus far. And for those wondering, no, it’s not a Souls-like. That’s not even really what a Souls-like is, despite common misconceptions. Until You Fall is its own flavor of rogue-lite, and it works well and feels great to play.
It isn’t absolutely necessary to give yourself 6.5 x 6.5 feet of playing area while playing through Until You Fall, but you’ll certainly want that much space to maneuver around while you block and parry enemy attacks. As per usual, when playing an intense game like Until You Fall, you’ll need to get yourself plenty of water in order to remain hydrated. You’ll also want to get yourself a sweatband or a VR Cover in order to mitigate any extra perspiration.
I didn’t do any kind of stretching before playing Until You Fall for my tracked 30-minute workout for this review, but it couldn’t hurt. For the record, I played in a hoodie and jeans and still managed to have a consistently fine experience. That said, I’m sure that some of you will find regular workout gear more appropriate for a workout.
Intensity – 8
The highly engaged action RPG fighting mechanics in Until You Fall will keep you on your toes and moving your entire body around in some pretty intense battles, staving off as many as two or three opponents at once from multiple sides. You may need to quickly pan back and forth as you telegraph and block incoming attacks on two entirely opposite sides of your body. You also get limited health and no opportunities to heal mid-combat, and since movement is done solely through a limited-charge teleport, you’ll often find yourself fighting for your life. That said, there isn’t more repetitive motion here than you’d find in a dedicated fitness game like Beat Saber or BoxVR, and it is very much an action RPG at heart rather than a fitness game.
This is the result of my tracked workout in Until You Fall with an Apple Watch S2:
Total Time: 0:32:54
Kcal burnt: 236
Avg. Heart Rate: 100BPM
Max Heart Rate: 126BPM
Arms – 9
You’ll be working your arms out in Until You Fall essentially the entire time you’re playing. The combat is frantic and tough, requiring you to match opponents’ attacks by lining your weapon up with their oncoming attacks to parry them and then counter with your own swings. There’s no sword wiggling in Until You Fall; the combat is physics-based, weapons have weight, and you have to make yourself parry those enemy attacks somehow. That said, the pacing of combat in Until You Fall is actually lighter and more predictable than some of the hardest battles in other, tougher VR games such as those in The Thrill of the Fight.
Legs – 6
You generally won’t need to use your legs a ton in Until You Fall. That said, you’ll often need to duck and bounce around on your feet to get the full range of motion needed to block and parry all of the incoming enemy attacks. Great swings also begin in your legs, so your agility on your toes is certainly tested here. If you’re really looking to build your legs, however, you’re far better off with a game like BoxVR.
Core and Balance – 8
As I mentioned in the Legs section, you’ll need to bounce around to parry and counter the flurry of attacks sent your way in close quarters, which is almost impossible without a strong core to keep you balanced. Until You Fall isn’t going to push you to work your gut, but you’ll definitely flex your core strength when pushing through each room of the rogue-lite dungeon crawler.
Time Perception – 10
Spending time in Until You Fall is a total joy, as it combines both a great workout with an immersive and fun action RPG experience. Since you slowly work up your character’s stats including health and weapon stats, you’re motivated to keep going back in and fighting more. For those not regularly inclined toward video games, this is called a metagame, which is what drives a desire to progress through gameplay (especially in many regular non-VR games like Call of Duty or Final Fantasy) and it works brilliantly here. I didn’t notice that I’d spent 30 minutes playing Until You Fall by the time my allotted workout period had ended, and I certainly didn’t want to stop playing either.
Replayability – 10
The entirety of Until You Fall is procedurally generated, which means that the levels change each time you get into the game and play. In theory, you won’t ever run into the same exact challenge twice. But more importantly, you can just jump right into the game and you’ll be thrown at enemies to fight, items to collect, and currency to earn. Until You Fall is simple and convenient in this way. It also gets a solid 10 on our Replayability score for this reason.
Fitness Scalability – 7
Until You Fall is a great mid-intensity workout, especially for VR fitness beginners who aren’t already in the greatest shape. However, this game really doesn’t do fitness better than actual dedicated VR fitness games (BoxVR, The Thrill of the Fight, Audioshield, Sparc, Creed: Rise to Glory, Beat Saber, etc) and you should really treat it as a pleasure play after a certain amount of time inside. That’s ultimately what it is anyway.
Lack of Nausea – 9
Until You Fall strictly uses a teleportation style of movement, and you’ll need to maneuver almost exclusively in a single space once you’ve engaged in combat with an opponent. Thus, it doesn’t really ever do much to induce nausea in the first place. It’s definitely still going to snag the farthest segment of players who just can’t do VR motion of any sort in any way, but I hate to say it—those players were doomed from the start.
Social Competition – N/A
There is no multiplayer to speak of in Until You Fall.
VRFI Fit Score – 8.5
Until You Fall is a polished and thoroughly tightened little game with hefty weapons, intimidating foes, and a beautiful retrowave soundtrack to tie it all together. It’s the kind of intense rogue-lite that I was asking for over a year ago when I was writing about the kinds of games VR fitness enthusiasts would benefit most from. It does a fantastic job of introducing meaty ARPG mechanics into VR, proving just how well the genre can fit into this niche of catering to both the gaming and fitness crowds in VR. Until You Fall is the kind of game that you’d normally play for fun. The added bonus here is that it’s also great for fitness.
There is no major storyline or narrative campaign to follow, very little exposition into the world of Rokar (that the game apparently takes place in), and not much keeping you going once you feel you’ve unlocked everything there is to unlock. Further, it’s not really the most intense game, and if you’re playing solely for fitness, you’ll probably move on to other, greener pastures once you’re through with this one.