Middle-Aged Gamer: Beat Saber — The Best Game You’re Not Playing
If you’re looking for an entry point into virtual reality that you can realistically justify spending the money for? Look no further than Beat Saber.
Having joined “Team VR” with the arrival of my Oculus Rift for Christmas — I not only learned that virtual reality is a great way to game in the ways before loot boxes and free-to-play nonsense — but also virtual reality can really give you a good work out; if you have the right game.
The name of the right game just happens to be Beat Saber.
Virtual reality games are hard to demonstrate or even explain. Simple Let’s Play type videos on youTube simply aren’t adequate to portray what a game is like when you’re strapped into a headset with ghostly floating controller hands in front of you.
“Seeing is believing” … and that expression is the bread and butter of VR.
But what is this Beat Saber and why are you suddenly (probably) hearing a lot more about it?
Simply put — Beat Saber is a 3D rhythm game where you wield dual light sabers to chop blocks with directional arrows on them in time to great thumping music.
In reality, though … it is so much more.
You’re probably hearing about it and seeing it in your news feeds because it was recently released for the Playstation VR platform — which tends to get a lot more press than “indie PC games” these days.
That being said, regardless of the VR platform — be it Rift, Vive, PSVR, WMR or “other” — the game is the same (well mostly) addictive experience that begs just ONE more song before you take the headset off.
It works like this.
Pick a song from a list of carefully curated original music designed specifically for the game. Choose a difficulty — Easy, Normal, Hard, Expert or Expert+.
You stand on a virtual platform staring into space and the music starts. Floating red and blue blocks come at you — each sporting an arrow indicating which way to slice the box. The more accurate your swing, the bigger the points scored. Do well consecutively and you’ll earn a combo multiplier. Screw up too much and you’ll fail the level.
At the heart of things — that’s Beat Saber.
There is more to it than that, of course. There are barriers to dodge, bombs to avoid striking with your saber. There are modifiers you can use to increase the difficulty (earning you a multiplier on your score) or decrease the difficulty (which reduces your overall score as you play). This includes a no-fail option that will never kick you out of the song — even if you mess up a bunch of times.
The bottom line is — the game is tailor made for … well, pretty much anyone. The easy accessibility makes the game a shoo-in for parties, family gatherings … I can’t imagine another holiday with the in-laws that does NOT include Beat Saber.
So the game is easy to get into. It is easy to understand and it uses the universal language of music (with apologies to my high school math teaching wife) which lends itself to the memorization of the often complex swiping and slicing movements the game requires.
As with all rhythm games, practice makes perfect and Beat Saber is no exception. The same hook that makes Rock Band, Guitar Hero and other music-based games so addictive and alluring is present and accounted for in Beat Saber.
So what sets Beat Saber apart from the aforementioned games? Your body.
Clicking little plastic buttons on an injected molded guitar isn’t swinging your arms around. Tapping a vinyl covered piece of cardboard in the shape of a drum isn’t ducking, dodging and swaying your full body to the music.
Your body’s commitment and involvement in the game is what makes Beat Saber what it is. Songs (also referred to as “maps” — because music is just part of the equation; the layout and organization of blocks, their colors and orientation really make the experience what it is) become an experience — a graceful yet often frantic dance of full body movement.
As I mentioned, the game comes with a selection well made “maps” — using original music designed specifically for the game. For many people, this is a great introduction to the game as it covers a lot of territory with regards to the diverse skill set of the players. There are easy experiences and there are down-right terrifying experiences; and everything in between. From time to time a new song or two will hit — but at least for console players — you are limited to perfecting your Jedi skills on the included batch of songs.
The true joys of Beat Saber are only able to be experienced on PCs (Rift, Vive, WMR users) — that is the joy of “mods”.
The Beat Saber community has modified the PC version of the game to offer additional functionality in the way of “plugins”. Similar to a browser plugin, these extend the abilities of the game to include
- Custom songs (maps)
- Custom avatars (your visual representation on screen)
- Custom platforms and light sabers
- Hooks to community-driven websites, playlists and scoreboards
- … a whole lot more!
This is really important because music is very personal to a lot of us. Beat Sabering to our favorite songs can be considerably more fun than slicing and slashing to a song you’ve never heard. Plus, we tend not to get tired of it.
Is your favorite song missing? Map it yourself!
While hundreds of songs are available, nothing is stopping you from getting your own favorite song and creating a masterpiece of your own. As long as you are using a PC-based virtual reality headset and not a console.
I just finished my first map this week. It was a lot of work — but also very rewarding.
We each do at least thirty minutes of Beat Saber song sets at my house every night. It’s great exercise and we all love it.
I managed to sell VR to my family by discussing the health benefits of high intensity activity like Beat Saber. When you’re talking about hundreds of dollars to “play a video game” — it can be hard to justify the expenditure.
But when you compare a VR set to something like a Bowflex, elliptical or other home gym equipment; the dollars start making a lot more sense (cents?)
Plenty of youTube testimonials to the fat burning power of Beat Saber.
Whether you need to drop pounds or just want to have some of the most fun you can have strapped into a headset — I highly recommend joining this growing phenomenon.