I planted my feet shoulder width apart in the virtual sand of Blade and Sorcery that was actually my home office’s carpet, gripping my Oculus Touch controllers tightly. A shirtless arena opponent was running at me full speed with the burning hatred of a thousand suns in his eyes, reaching back with a longsword to try and cut my head off. He swings, I reach up with my shield and block it, stabbing over the top into his shoulder. Breaking his skin I see a plume of bright red blood squirt out as he screams and my sword gets stuck. I kick the man in his legs to create separation, reach down to my side holster to grab my dagger, and throw it hard, drilling the tip of the blade deep into his head. He drops his sword and falls to the ground dead.
One down, about nine more to go this round.
Blade and Sorcery is full of moments like this. If you’ve ever played any melee-combat heavy games in VR before, such as Skyrim VR, Vanishing Realms, Stolen Steel VR, GORN, Deus Vult, or others, then you know that they’ve all got some major issues. For starters, collision, haptics, and physics are often all over the place. When you swing your weapon it often just passes right through enemy models without any resistance or collision, which not only makes it hard to tell if you’re hitting anything, but it just doesn’t feel as satisfying. In Blade and Sorcery that’s all changed.
Everything is a physics-based object with mass and momentum. This means if I just barely tap an enemy with my sword it won’t do anything, but if I thrust forward hard I can actually stab them through their skin and it can get stuck unless I yank it out. Damage is all context specific as well, so stabbing them through the head will kill them while a dagger to the shin may just slow them down a bit. Blunt force attacks, like shield bashes and kicks also have a lot of force but no real lethal consequences.
These are the kinds of things that often get taken for granted in non-VR games, but feel so much more immersive and profound when seen first-hand in a VR experience. Accurately raising my sword to block attacks and parry weapons, leaping over an enemy’s head, slowing down time, and forcibly fighting with real tactics is incredibly freeing.
Bethesda should really study some of the stuff that Warpfrog is doing with Blade and Sorcery for its combat system. The major drawback here is that it’s not really a “game” at all, but rather just a sandbox combat simulator. You can trigger a few weaves of enemies to come at you in one of two arenas and use an assortment of weapons to fight back. That’s about it. But the combat itself is so satisfying and so intense that it’s tough not to just keep coming back for more.
Visually it looks fine, even if a lot of the visual assets feel generic. Performance can be a struggle at times as well; I have a 980Ti and when a lot of enemies were on screen with high detail shadows and particle effects and more bouncing around I chugged a bit. But again, it’s pre-Early Access right now and it’s a very tiny indie team.
I’d love to see Blade and Sorcery become a real, true game with levels and a story and progression, but that’s probably beyond the scope of what’s planned here. So instead, I hope other developers look to this title as a great example of how to make melee combat feel amazing in VR.
Blade and Sorcery is due out in Early Access on Steam with Rift, Vive, and Windows VR support next month in December. Check out the Steam page and official Discord for more details and let us know what you think down in the comments below!