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  • Writer's pictureDom O'Leary

PSVR2 Review: Swordsman VR

Hi there reader, welcome to another PSVR2 review, covering the updated and reworked Swordsman VR on Sony's new headset. I've also got another gameplay stream (two, in fact) I baked earlier for you. Click the header image or read to the bottom for Twitch and YouTube VOD options.

A cat on a bench near a metal shield in Swordsman VR

"I'm not saying the cat is the best bit, but..."

Let me be clear from the start here, I chose Sinn Studios' Swordsman VR as the second PSVR2 review to publish here because it's another of my perennial favorite VR games. I won't argue here that it's perfect, but please consider that this review comes from someone with a consistently positive view of this game before deciding if it's for you.

I say that because Swordsman is an incredible showcase of how VR can make you feel and act when you're truly immersed. That holds true for the game despite the fact that there are no sprawling maps with winding paths to explore. In fact, the close-quarters nature of everything that happens in Swordsman is a big part of what, for me, gives the game a unique feel among VR combat-focused games.

Charting A Course

Like our previous review, Pistol Whip, Swordsman VR is a much-updated version of itself. After the original release across Steam VR and PS VR in 2020, Sinn Studios got straight to work on updating and adding content to their sandbox swordfighting sim.

The updates have come at a consistent pace. Recent overhauls to the animations, graphics, and combat physics are just an example of the scale of work that has gone into making Swordsman VR a much fulfilling experience on the new Sony headset, as well as on the PCVR side of things.

Over three years since its release, the game has seen new maps, modes, boss fights, seasonal events, and more. The latest update added both ranged combat, including bows and crossbows, and an entirely new customisable sandbox. This gives you a space to spawn your own enemies, props, weapons, and bosses into to make your own fun.

Sinn Studios' commitment to this consistent improvement is demonstrated through their frequently updated public roadmap for Swordsman, and their dedicated community. Regular developer podcasts are just one of the ways they engage their core audience. But, this review is supposed to be about the game, so let's focus on that for a while.

holding a sword and shield, facing a samurai in a dojo

"Facing a lone samurai down in the dojo"

What If I've Never Heard of Swordsman VR?

Then, in my opinion, you're missing out. Let me break down the story set up and gameplay for you. You start the game on your arrival at a lodge after a journey through an arid desert. A neatly done introductory scene explains that you're there to fight the Jotun and his men.

That's all I'm giving you, but that's essentially the plot of why you would want to, say, walk onto the deck of a pirate ship and start a swordfight with everyone. It's a decently motivating reason for me to want to jump into the arena-fighting gameplay. The PSVR2 only enhances the effect that this heavy-toned cutscene encourages, instilling a kind of resolve despite its brevity.

The lodge itself is equiped with an armory for buying weapons and armor, a skill trainer, and a new archery range. These will all come in handy as you explore Swordsman's primary campaign mode.

Swordsman's campaign mode is no small affair, you'll fight through a series of ten arenas across five settings. Each setting has it's own boss fight, and beating them all gets you a final showdown against the Jotun themselves. As far as the story goes, that's your arc. So don't go in looking for more than this. Going back to those updates we mentioned, there are now two seperate additional settings with their own associated boss fights. Originally added as seasonal extras, these two adiditonal boss battles help flesh out the campaign mode nicely.

Holding a bow and arrow, facing two warriors on a stone bridge

"There's also bows, man"

As well as the campaign mode, there's a horde mode where you'll fight off waves of zombies, and an arena mode that allows you to fight on any map, selecting your difficulty and enemy numbers as you go.

Finally, there's the newly added sandbox mode that let's you spawn and despawn props, enemies, and weapons at will. The new menu is easy enough to use in the headset, which makes the new sandbox a fun mode to mess around with. An additional wrinkle is that you'll need to beat the game's bosses in the campaign before unlocking them for use.

This lends a small sense of progression to the sandbox, which overall could use some fleshing out. It's a recent addition though, so that can be excused for the ability to fight off zombies while samurai shoot arrows at you.

So, What's the Hook?

Well, if the above didn't convince you that Swordsman has a lot to offer, then there might be something left to draw you in. The arena-fighting gameplay loop is backed up by a flow of progression. Each fight earns you experience for buying skills, and gold for acquiring weapons and armor, This gives a solid reason for jumping back into an arena even after fatigue has set in, just for the chance to try again with a new sword or a few more points in your agility.

There's also the game's physics simulation system. In one of the prime examples of great-feeling VR physics, Swordsman simulates the weight of weapons in your hand, armor on your body, and the way weapons react to hitting said armor or body. Momentum and positioning matter in a way that lends greater immersion to each fight.

Even as enemies get up in your face and limbs and weapons occasionally tangle, the intensity of a melee rarely lets up. The addition of ranged enemies into the game only adds to the sense of danger in each fight.

staring at a Kraken on a pirate ship

"I thought this was a swordfight!"

Moreso than the gameplay loop, this feeling is what keeps me coming back to Swordsman, even after fully finishing the game on the original PSVR headset. The opportunity to play with your opponents and create your own fun in a fight, backed up by the physics simulation, is what draws me to keep experiementing with weapons and abilities. So much so that I'm still playing through the full game again from the start on the PSVR2.

I might find this an alluring reason to keep coming back, but your level of investment in this game could well depend on how much this core fighting system actually engages you.

Physical Fighter

It has to be said that Swordsman is a physically active game. For the most part, you'l be swinging your arms and moving your body as though you were wielding a weapon. That means that there are barriers to entry for those with limited movement. Even for those of us who just tire easily, Swordsman's more drawn out fights can really take some energy.

I don't personally consider this to be a negative, Swordsman sits in the category of VR games I label "a bit of a workout." For those who might be worried about the accessibility of the game for them, there are a whole host of modifier options included to make the game more manageable. However, they won't get around the fact that you will have to move your arms to play.

The wealth of options and additions you can tweak is another one of the game's strengths. Toggles and sliders across the options and "modifiers" menus will let you drop the weight simulation, turn on mega-punching abilities, let you activate the game's time-slowing "chronokinesis" and more. On the flipside, there are also options to give enemies double health, add health regeneration to enemy fighters, or even let some of your foes become invisible.

Swordsman wearing a santa hat in the lodge

"No one can say that Swordsman doesn't have a sense of humor"

Put simply, there's no getting around the fact that Swordsman is a physically active VR game, but there are significant changes you can make to your own experience to allow you to play comfortably. Consider your own VR movement and play space before picking this game up. Oh, and warm up before you play. This will save you some pulled muscles... I'm told.

Final Thoughts

It's difficult for me to give you a balanced view of Swordsman VR. It should be clear at this point that I've drawn alot of personal enjoyment from the game over the past couple of years. I can tell you that the PSVR2 version is leagues ahead of its PSVR counterpart in terms of graphical fidelity. The game's weapon and armor designs, especially the boss weapons, are really beautiful to behold. This is something that the clearer visuals make way more obvious.

Apart from the occasional glitchy body model from a tangle of weapons and arms, there really aren't a lot of flaws to point out in Swordsman. You will occasionally find bugs introduced from updates, but the rate at which these get hotfixed is as impressive as the game's update schedule.

Finally, I love Swordsman VR, even though I admimt it isn't perfect. I hope you will too.

cat on a banch with shield, plus review score and summary

Please feel free to visit my Twitch or Youtube channels if you'd like to see extended gameplay from Swordsman VR.

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