Developed and published by Sinn Studio for PC-based headsets as well as PlayStation VR, Swordman VR offers exactly what you’d expect when seeing that title. We tested the PSVR version for this review.
Sinn Studio certainly isn’t a newcomer in the VR domain, having released three VR games prior to Swordsman, but this was our first romp with one of their games and the previous ones didn’t set the VR scene on fire. This one turned out to be a pleasant surprise though, and we had fun playing this medieval combat game, in which you fight a variety of AI fighters in arena-style confrontations.
The game features a story mode, but don’t expect anything that’s particularly high on narrative content. Instead, the story is a mostly a series of fights against opponents from different parts and eras of the world, which include knights, vikings and samurai, each with their own fighting style. You can upgrade your own character in between stages, and between the upgrades, enemy fighting styles and randomized encounters there’s enough here to keep the experience somewhat diverse for the duration of the campaign.
By ‘randomized’ I’m referring to fights not necessarily being the same on each playthrough, as you might run into a strong enemy one time only to face two slightly less strong (and/or armored) ones the next time. This makes it necessary to adopt different combat styles, though the limitations of PlayStation VR make one on one combat the most fun.
Part of that is the fact that the PSVR headset is a wired device, and looking behind you to see if an enemy is flanking you can result in a bit of cable tug depending on your setup. A bigger issue, however, are the PlayStation Move controllers. The developers have added two different movement methods and have done a good job in getting the most out of what was available to them, but using buttons to move forward or strafe sideways feels a bit slugging and so does the Skyrim-esque control method that is your alternative. The latter feels a bit smoother, but requires you to alternate between movement and shield use for your left hand, which breaks the immersion a little. When it works, combat is a lot of fun though, and the use of a ‘time slowdown after a parry’-effect gives it a cinematic flair too.
The game also features challenging boss fights as well an option to set up arena battles according to your own preferred parameters once you’ve beaten the campaign. In both modes, little technical issues hamper the experience a little, with a few clipping issues and objects getting stuck inside the environment or enemies. The developer’s already released a few post-launch updates though, so hopefully the experience will become smoother in the weeks to come.
Audio is a bit sparse in Swordsman VR, with the basic combat sounds being perfectly functional but little in the way of a rousing soundtrack or narrative development. The visuals are impressive for a production by a small studio though, with a lot of details in the character models that are nicely animated as well. The arenas you’re in aren’t as detailed, but you spend little time looking at them and don’t need to navigate the game world much either. There’s a central hub area that’s an exception, and that one is also the best looking of the bunch.
Swordsman VR needs a little polish, but our first Sinn Studio experience on PSVR was definitely time well spent. If you enjoy sword-based combat in VR, this is worth checking out and can only get better with a few patches.