Game Reviews

GORN Review

A true must-buy for VR gamers

by Kyle Hanson

Through the technology’s short lifespan, a select few games have emerged as contenders for VR’s killer app. GORN was one of the earliest of these, offering brutal and bloody melee combat like few other games could. Players immediately took to the experience which has worked its way onto Steam and through the Early Access platform. Now ready to launch as a full release, has GORN held its place atop the VR gaming pile?

From a top-down view, GORN is one of the simpler games out there. You take on the role of a gladiator, pit against fellow warriors for the amusement of some very odd talking head creatures. Each battle offers you different weapons to choose from, with waves of enemies all trying to take you out. The twist comes thanks to VR allowing you to actually wield this weaponry in your own hands. Holding a sword isn’t anything new for a VR game, but GORN makes it feel truly wonderful and visceral. This translates directly to the combat with each hit dealing tons of physical damage, creating a gloriously bloody arena full of corpses and body parts that can sometimes become weapons of their own.

GORN never takes itself too seriously, to the game’s advantage. From your first steps into the arena, lifting your hands in the air to signal the start of combat, to the last one-on-one fight for victory, you will feel like a true part of the game and its quirky universe. Every fight feels different, with enemies that bob and sway around oddly, but always moving closer and closer to you and your unguarded body. The huge variety of weapons helps keep things fresh throughout your time with the game too, each offering new strategies to take on the other gladiators.

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Some weapons might not work as well as you’d expect right away, such as bows and arrows or the longer hammers. Once you figure out their tricks though the game takes on a new life as you look for fresh ways to slaughter every enemy you can. The somewhat intentionally janky physics play a role here too, creating the feeling that anything is possible as you learn how each weapon reacts to your movements. There are few gaming moments that elicit as much laughter and fun as when you find some new trick to pull off, or something random happens that you didn’t expect within this game.

You may have played other VR titles before, but few offer as much immersion, adrenaline, and sheer joy as GORN.

And all of this taking place within VR is the real treat of GORN. You may have played other VR titles before, but few offer as much immersion, adrenaline, and sheer joy as GORN. The game is the perfect gateway for new players while also featuring enough depth for those who’ve been with the tech since its inception. That depth mostly comes in the form of unlockable bosses/levels, and challenges that task you with performing specific types of kills. These are great fun and help stretch out the runtime for those who might not like to just hit the Random button and jump into a fight.

If you do hit that button though, be ready for some truly insane battles. GORN allows players to tweak the experience in a ton of ways, including making yourself tiny, messing with the gravity, or changing enemy behavior in fun and interesting ways. Any time you think GORN has shown you all it has to offer you can just look for some other way to change the experience and you’ll probably find something you enjoy. There’s even a makeshift multiplayer mode, though this is more of an afterthought than a full-blown experience of its own. All this is to say that GORN might seem simple at first, but it hides its depth well and allows for replayability beyond most other games, even within its genre and style.

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And that simplicity is GORN’s biggest strength in the end. As I said, it’s the perfect intro game for new VR players. Whenever someone comes to my house to check out VR for the first time, GORN is within the first few games I show them. It almost always ends up with them loving the experience and wishing they could play more. And that’s even after they bash their head on a wall, punch a window, or build up a sweat dodging incoming attacks. The physicality of this game is something you won’t experience almost anywhere else, and it’s all the better for it.

All of this has been true during Early Access and is only more so with the full release. There’s not some massive content drop for returning players to try, but this final release is more polished and offers some real treats as you work your way through it. The team has also spent the last few months/years adding new weaponry which always refreshes the experience. If you enjoyed GORN during Early Access, you’ll have great fun with the final release. If you missed it, then now’s definitely the time to pick it up.

The Verdict

Simply put, GORN is among the very best VR games out there. Its style is unique, its gameplay is engaging, and it delivers experiences you simply won’t get from other games. Its focus on simplicity crafts something that’s both accessible and entertaining while keeping a layer of gameplay depth that will keep you coming back for months or years to come. If you have a VR headset, this should be on your to-buy list already.

"loved"
loved

GORN

  • Available On: PC
  • Published By: Devolver Digital
  • Developed By: Free Lives
  • Genre: Action
  • US Release Date: July 18th, 2019
  • Reviewed On: PC
  • Quote: "Simply put, GORN is among the very best VR games out there."
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