If you’re looking for a game that lives up to the title “Active VR,” look no further than Sword Master VR. This game will get you moving like no other game we’ve tried. If Space Pirate Trainer made you sweat, Sword Master VR will have you dripping in no time.
As the name suggests, Sword Master VR is a virtual reality sword fighting game. Think of it as the sword fighting analog of a first-person wave shooter. There are several missions, and in each one, you’ll face a series of sword-wielding foes. Sometimes you’ll fight one small guy with a shield and sword; sometimes you’ll fight a really big guy with a much bigger shield and sword; and sometimes you’ll fight more than one at a time. The action quickly gets intense.
Sword Master VR is an exclusive title for the HTC Vive because it relies heavily on the room-scale capabilities of the Vive system. We’ve found that most VR titles, even those designed for room-scale spaces, work well as standing-only games, but Sword Master VR is not one of those. You will have to take advantage of every inch of your space to avoid your attackers.
The fights in Sword Master VR vary from relaxed, borderline mundane fights against one target at a time, to intense, grueling fights against multiple difficult-to-hit assailants. In some cases, you’ll find that you can avoid getting slashed with a simple parry maneuver. In other cases, you’ll find yourself sandwiched between two knights with broadswords. You can’t parry from behind, so don’t forget to duck and dodge.
Your fighting style depends on which type of sword you wield, but your goal remains constant. To kill your enemies, you have to aim for the opening between their armor. Sword Master VR isn’t a hack and slash type of game. The developer set out to build a realistic sword fighting simulation. If all you do is hit the enemy’s shield and armor, you’re going to wear yourself out faster than him.
Before you take on your first real battle, you’re going to want to learn the basic mechanics of Sword Master VR. There are five training missions to complete, and each one teaches you a little bit more about how to handle your weapon, where to attack, and how to defend yourself. By the fifth training mission, you’ll be accustomed to the various enemies and introduced to the concept of fighting more than one combatant at once.
In the HBO series Game of Thrones, there's a scene where a great swordsman named Syrio Foreltakes on a group of royal guards by himself. Sword Master VR is a lot like that scene. You will find yourself in a small arena, facing off against a series of attackers that are better equipped than you. You wield a single sword (in the beginning) and chainmail, while they have armor, larger swords, shields, and often attack in pairs. Your success relies heavily on your ability to dance around their swings and attack their weak spots.
Sword Master VR has four difficulty modes: Training, Novice, Expert and an unlockable level. There are 10 levels for novice and higher that you must unlock one by one. Each level consists of several rounds that you must complete successfully, without a break (unless you pause the game). You’re going to need a lot of stamina to finish these gauntlets.
There are eight widely different swords to unlock in Sword Master VR. Each sword requires a unique fighting style and changes the gameplay significantly. Some swords are better for stabbing; some are better for slashing. Eventually, you’ll unlock the ability to wield an off-hand sword as well, which makes it easier to attack and block in one move and gives you the best of both attack styles.
In our recent review of the Space Pirate Trainer beta, we suggested that you should get ready to sweat while playing that game. That goes double for Sword Master VR.
I can’t remember a time in my life where I got so sweaty so fast. The combination of swinging your arms wildly, ducking, dodging, spinning around, and the adrenaline rush you get from going toe-to-toe with an eight-foot tall sword-wielding knight is intense. If there were ever a game that justifies a leather cover for your Vive foam, it’s this one. After an hour of Sword Master VR, I needed a change of clothes and a shower, and my VR Cover desperately needed a wash.
There is a serious risk of damaged equipment when playing Sword Master VR. Master Indie, the developer behind the game, put up a prominent warning in the game’s lobby stating that responsibility for damaged hardware and possessions is on you. The developer won’t take responsibility if you break your controller, or even worse, smash your LCD screen with a wild swing.
Our play space is just beyond the minimum size for VR, and it is adjacent to a display cabinet and book shelf. Despite trying to heed Master Indie’s warning, we still managed to smack each of them on more than one occasion, and almost broke one of our controllers. One impact popped the casing open slightly. Thankfully, it was just a pressure clip that let go, and we were able to snap it back into place.
You will want the largest unobstructed space you can get before playing Sword Master VR. A large play space will allow you to swing at your enemy at the opportune time without worrying so much about the barriers. In a minimum-sized play space, you have to be diligent about standing in the center before swinging hard. That’s easier said that done.
Sword Master VR is Master Indie’s first VR title for the Vive. The game launched on Steam on Friday, September 23. If you have the space for it, and you have a desire to burn a few calories while you have some fun, we think it’s worth your time and money. You can pick up a copy for $10.