Until You Fall released in Steam Early Access today for PC VR headsets and we’ve got our review of the game thus far right here. Full release is expected sometime in 2020 on all platforms.
Until You Fall is not the kind of game I expected to see as a follow-up to I Expect You To Die from Schell Games. IEYTD is a much more reserved, quasi-escape room experience about finding ways out of dangerous and deadly situations and Until You Fall is all about slashing down a literally endless stream of enemies in your quest for glory and survival.
In Until You Fall you play as the last remaining Rune Knight that’s tasked with fighting back horrendous monsters and powerful villains that are now crawling across the once wondrous land of Rokar. You can still see the remnants of a previously beautiful world in the aesthetics and designs, but it’s all tainted by twisted creatures that lunge at you at any available opportunity.
Leveraging some rogue-lite influences, every time you die in battle in Until You Fall, you rise again ready to return to the fray. Each time the levels are slightly altered (enemy placement and variety shifts and the available upgrade options are different) which encourages replayability. I was pleasantly surprised by how different things can be, even in just the first five or six levels, let alone by the time you reach the end.
Death isn’t a clean wipe though, thankfully, as any of the weapons you’ve purchased and currency (Aether) you’ve accrued is carried over between lives. This means you can hop in and play a few levels if you’d like, quickly, and still make progress by gaining more Aether, or if you want to dig in for a longer session you can do that too without technically replaying identical levels very often. It’s a good balance and doesn’t feel randomized or procedural in an artificial way at all.
The bread and butter of Until You Fall is the visceral rinse and repeat combat. Every enemy has a shield meter that you need to get through and stagger them in order to damage their health bar. While their shield is up they’ll dish out attacks of their own, which are telegraphed in your field of view by lines across the air just before they slash. When watching gameplay it seems super simple, like a basic version of Infinity Blade, but when you’re inside the headset, surrounded, and having to think and respond within milliseconds all the time it gets intense. Very intense.
You’ll work up a sweat playing Until You Fall for sure, even if it isn’t designed as a “fitness” VR game in any way. Eventually you’ll have to dodge attacks by moving side to side and you’ll gradually increase your combo potential, which is used to lay on more hits when enemies get staggered.
Between runs you can spend Aether on upgrading your weapons or outright buying new ones to try out. All weapons not only look dramatically different visually, which is important for a game as aesthetically stylish as Until You Fall, but they’ll have different damage numbers for shields and health, as well as different traits/passive effects and super abilities you charge up while fighting. There’s a lot of depth hidden beneath all the layers.
It takes about an hour or so to really get comfortable with the flow of combat, but once you do, it feels great. Taking out small enemies in one or two strikes after you’ve upgraded your weapons really exudes a sense of powerful progress that’s often missing from rogue-lite and roguelike games a lot of the time.
Actual gameplay bounces back and forth dramatically between a crawling pace as you drearily move from one enemy to the next using the painfully slow locomotion system and then ramps up significantly requiring split-second twitch-based reflexes to be successful in combat. The disparity helps with pacing, but makes every second out of combat feel like a slog by comparison.
Tactically, it makes sense, because if you could sprint and zoom around at any time then combat would be extremely easy, a big part of what makes combat work is essentially rooting you in place and forcing you to fight enemies head on. That being said, it would be nice to move more quickly outside of fighting.
On top of the remixed rooms and enemies, there are also augmentations at the end of each zone. Once you clear a room a crystal at the end shatters and you’re presented with three upgrades to pick from. They range from things like giving you one more HP, adding improved shield break damage on your weapon, healing you up if you’re hurt, improving that weapon’s super ability, and more. In total there are over 30 different traits and augmentations to find across each run.
Despite the room variety and remixed elements, Until You Fall does end up feeling a bit shallow. At the end of the day it really and truly is just all about combat, which is fun admittedly, but it feels like it’s missing something. The story is extremely light at the moment and none of the levels are large enough to encourage exploration. It feels like it needs at least one other element besides just fighting and upgrading to really reach the next level.
Until You Fall’s soundtrack is easily one of its strongest aspects as well. The pumping synthwave / retrowave tunes really help sell the neon-soaked visuals and ground you in this semi-futuristic version of the apocalypse. You can almost feel the colors pulsing around you with each thump of the bass.
Until You Fall Early Access Review Verdict
Since the game is still in Early Access we are withholding final judgement, but as it stands I’m very impressed by Until You Fall. Visually it’s on point with an amazingly lush neon art style and a soundtrack that pumps and thuds just as violently as your sword slashes. The replayable rogue-lite elements help keep things fresh and all of the various weapons and augmentations ensure a sense of progression, but it does still feel a bit shallow overall. I’m excited to see what all gets added while Schell Games spend the next several months finalizing it in Early Access on Steam.
This review was conducted on an Oculus Rift S using the Steam version of the game.
Until You Fall is currently available on Steam in Early Access for $19.99 and officially supports both Rift and Vive. The Steam page states it will not launch until “at least 2020” so there is no definitive launch date yet. Eventually, it will also be on other platforms like the Oculus Quest. For more on how we arrived at this score, read our review guidelines.