Virtual reality (VR) roguelites seem to have become really quite fashionable in the last couple of years, with the likes of In Death: Unchained, YUKI, Cosmodread and Until You Fall all carving their own particular niche. The latest to do so on Oculus Quest is Sweet Surrender by Salmi Games, offering fast gunplay and a very stylish, heavily cel-shaded design. However, like any genre that suddenly sees an uptick in titles, does Sweet Surrender provide enough of a tasty treat to make it stand out?
This is Salmi Games first VR experience that VRFocus knows of and straight away it impresses, easy to pick up and dive right into without really caring why you’re there in the first place. A basic narrative puts you in a dystopian future in the bowels of a gigantic tower, having to work your way up through the various levels, destroying every enemy in your path.
You can go about this in two ways (but both are almost identical). The main Adventure mode gives you the chance to keep retrying, again and again, inching ever forward. Whilst the Daily Run mode is just one pure shot to the top and leaderboard glory. Fail and as you might expect, you’ll have to wait until a new day to try again.
As with any roguelite, whichever mode you choose all the levels are procedurally generated so there’s no learning a specific route through. However, because Sweet Surrender’s gameplay is split into rooms that you have to clear before proceeding after a few runs the designs inevitably repeat so you can get a feel for things like enemy placement. Some rooms only have a singular level whilst others can be multi-floored structures to explore.
And it’s certainly worth doing so as it’s the only way to survive and upgrade yourself. None of the robotic enemies are exactly smart with each having its own particular role to play, from ranged gunners to spider-like specimens that’ll try and run up to you and detonate. There’s just enough variety in their design to make stepping through each door interesting yet their only real danger is in numbers. This can quickly happen as you can’t run between rooms until they’ve been completely cleared. Hence why finding the chips are important, these will give you extra perks for the fight ahead.
Upgrade chips come in all sorts of flavours, more damage, bigger ammo clip, restoring a small amount of health after each shot; you get the gist. Sweet Surrender’s deeper strategy is all about how you use them. Chips are attached to your forearm, two on each side for a maximum of four. They come in various grades which isn’t really explained although it is simple enough to work out. Unfortunately, that’s about as complicated as Sweet Surrender gets, more paddling pool than a deep lake.
As for the guns, there are two hip-based holsters for smaller weapons like pistols, with larger two-handed rifles and shotguns going over the shoulder. Having tried a few of these out, the standard pistols are just too good, a great mixture of damage and range. The SMG’s, rifles and shotguns were okay, they just weren’t as much fun to use. Oh, and ammo isn’t an issue either, reloading is automatic, all you need to do is point the gun down. Making Sweet Surrender feel like a classic arcade shooter, just run and gun.
Another to the pistol setup to get into the action was the grappling gun. Ideally suited to those multi-floor rooms mentioned, having the grappling gun meant not needing to use the lifts or jump pads. These routes up always felt like walking into a trap, the enemies knowing exactly where you’ll be. Grappling up – or across open gaps – nicely switches up the gameplay, giving you more options when the timing is right.
All of this makes Sweet Surrender immensely fun to play the first few times, what it’s lacking is that reason to push forward to try and discover more. Like those other roguelites mentioned, death means starting back at the beginning to try it all again, just a little wiser. However, nothing carries over. You start in a hub/office space that’ll highlight as holograms what opponents you’ve encountered and guns you’ve picked up. Those chips have disappeared, of course, encouraging you to find the augments again. There’s no additional benefit to making it further up the tower, unlike Until You Fall where you can permanently upgrade a weapon or unlocking a new Bladewing in YUKI. That’s what Sweet Surrender is really missing. You can complete in-game tasks to unlock access to later levels but it isn’t quite the same.
There are a few other glitchy moments such as getting stuck behind massive crates that suddenly fling into the air whilst casually walking by – with no way to pick them up – or robots. What’s good to see in this type of VR videogame are accessibility options, Sweet Surrender has plenty. Play seated, standing, add a vignette, switch to left-handed mode, it’s all there.
Sweet Surrender is very much a no-frills type of roguelite. It covers all the basics with a reasonable amount of variety in the weapons, enemies and upgrades, all displayed in a very nice, low-ploy aesthetic. There’s still finessing that needs to be done though, weapon balancing, a bit more room variety, tougher enemies and progression expansion. Great for those that love easy to digest action-oriented shooters, not so much if you want a roguelite with mechanics you can really dig deep into. Still, even after all of that Sweet Surrender has that addictive quality that draws you back in. Hopefully, Salmi Games continues its refinement.