GORN VR: Review

A Masterclass in Virtual Brutality

By TKras98, Posted 20 Jul 2020

Do you ever just want to just let loose after a long day? Just really go wild? Well, then I might have the answer for you, as long as you own a VR set-up: GORN. This comically brutal VR Gladiator Simulator from Free Lives, the studio behind such games as Broforce and Genital Jousting, does just about everything correctly.

Gorn: A punch from the Iron Fist

In GORN, you play as an unnamed Gladiator, fighting for glory in the arena of the cruel king Alimta. Players battle across three arenas, facing off against waves of enemies capped off by a unique Champion. These Champions range from the mythical Achilles to the Badgermancer: A Gladiator with... some Badgers attached to his arms. Before you can even think about fighting the champions, you need to conquer the basic Gladiators. These are angry, muscular fellows much like yourself. They can come wearing armor and/or wielding all sorts of weapons, and on their own they aren’t much of a challenge. The issues arise when they begin to swarm you, or in the later levels when there are a large number with heavy armor or powerful weapons.

If you’re going to be conquering the other gladiators and champions of Alimta and gaining untold glory, you’re going to have to kill. A lot. Luckily, killing is easy in GORN. Some may even say its too easy. Unlike some other physics based games, especially in VR, GORN has a unique approach to wielding weapons. Unlike, for example, Blade & Sorcery’s rigid weaponry, the weapons you can use in GORN are elastic. When you slam, say, an axe into the ground, it bends and twists like rubber, never breaking, never clipping through the world.

This stance on weapons, elastic rather than rigid, changes everything. No matter how you swing or flail your arms, the world never tries to stop you. Of course, this can have some... insane applications. For example, one of the weapons is a pair of Crab Claws in place of your hands, the Crab Claws Caestus. The Crab Claws are excellent for grabbing body parts and tearing them from your enemies. GORN’s Physics don’t care where you are, or where the rest of the body is; if you’ve grabbed on, its coming with you one way or another.

GORN excels in combat for these exact reasons. You can slice someone to pieces with the Sword, expertly pierce someone’s skull or tear out their heart with the Rapier, or do both with the Katana. You can cleave your foes in twaine with the Greatsword, pummel them into giblets with the Iron Fists, or assassinate them from affair with the Bow, Crossbow Caestus, or Throwing Knives. It won’t always be easy, but there is always a way to win.

GORN: Battle against "The Crab"

But not everything can be perfect. One of the biggest issues I faced while playing GORN revolves around some of the two handed weaponry. While, like all the weapons, these massive pieces of destruction are still elastic, sometimes that elasticity can be a serious issue. With, for example, the Greataxe, you can easily find the actual Axehead flopping about on the ground, which makes it harder to use as a weapon. Others, such as the Spear, have problems for a completely different reason. The Spear, in my experience, is most effective as a piercing weapon, but it is incredibly difficult to get the right angles, and equally difficult to get enough power behind your thrusts to properly execute a good, heart piercing stab. Others, though, such as the Greatsword or Greathammer, were far less annoying to use, and in fact were quite satisfying.

One other major issue I had with GORN came in the form of the finale of the game. The battle against Alimta. As a fight, it is not very complex, but that does not change how tiresome it can be. The premise is simple: Fight all of the eight previous champions, generally three or so at a time, and then defeat Alimta proper. The first stage of this fight is no problem at all, you have access to all of the proper weapons to easily lay waste to every Champion like you have before, but things take a drastic turn once Alimta becomes your main opponent. He still sits up on his throne, but he summons forth the disembodied heads of the other Spectators, turning them into weapons reminiscent of DOOM’s Lost Souls.

The secret to Alimta is deflecting the Spectators back at Alimta himself, specifically back at the skull shaped structure and the stones supporting it. At first, it isn’t as difficult of a task as it could be; you’re just smacking flaming heads at some rocks. Things change pretty quickly, however, as Gladiators begin to spawn. The Gladiators themselves do not pose a large threat. They act as they always have. The issue is when the Gladiators and the Spectators are all coming at you, all at once. This happens endlessly, until you’ve deflected enough Spectators up to Alimta to collapse his throne, crushing the Arena’s cruel master. 

GORN: The Battle Against Alimta and the Spectators

Overall, though, GORN’s strengths far outweigh its weaknesses. At the end of the day, its really up to you if you want to use the two handed weapons that, in my time, I found uncomfortably cumbersome. Its up to you if you want to load up the battle against Alimta and try your hand at defeating such a foe. You don’t have to do any of it. Instead, you can simply hop into Endless Mode, massacring Gladiators of increasing difficulty left and right until you yourself have been conquered. And who knows...I wasn’t a fan of some of the two handed weapons or fighting Alimta, but maybe you will be. 

Either way, GORN achieves its goal. At the end of the day, if you want to just tear people apart like some sort of demon, rip off limbs one by one, or beat someone to death with someone else's severed head, GORN can provide you those experiences from the safety of your home. Sometimes, everybody needs to let loose a little. For some, that might mean sitting down with a strong drink and a good film. For others, that means throwing on a VR headset and cutting muscular gladiators apart with Claws and Katanas. 

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General Information

GORN

80/100

Platform(s): PC, PS4
Publisher(s): Devolver Digital
Developer(s): Free Lives
Genres: Physics Based, Brawler
Themes: Virtual Reality
Release Date: 2017-07-10

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