Sanzaru Games made some pretty big claims about Asgard’s Wrath when it was first revealed earlier this year, calling it their “deepest title yet” and promising 30+ hours of first-person combat, dungeoning, and all of the RPG goodness you could hope for. And although the term ‘AAA’ has been bandied about, it seems the hype is mostly well-founded here: besides some fairly minor gripes, Asgard’s Wrath sets a new bar for VR-native RPGs.

Asgard’s Wrath Details:

Official Site

Developer: Sanzaru Games
Publisher: Oculus
Available On: Oculus Store (Rift)
Reviewed On: Rift CV1
Release Date: October 10th, 2019
Price: $40

Gameplay

Here’s the setup: you’re the new fledgling demigod in town, and the Norse trickster god Loki has taken a shine to you after you successfully saved him in an epic battle with a Kraken. Sharing a flagon of ale back in Aegir’s Hall, the Asgardian version of Applebee’s, Loki implores you to embark on a grand journey to possess a number of mortal heroes and guide them along their individual quests—all the while collecting a unique gemstone extracted from each hero, which you ultimately fork over to Loki.

If you’ve ever seen any of the more recent Marvel movies or thumbed through the real page-turner that is the Poetic Edda, then you’re probably pretty familiar with the basics of Norse mythology, and you’ll likely know what’s going on well before it’s spelled out for you by Loki, Thor, Freya, Odin and the gang. The whole setup is admittedly well-trodden territory story-wise, and although Asgard’s Wrath lacks what you might call a fresh narrative, it more than makes up for this with visual finesse, a consistent combat system, a massive number of quests & side quests, and more loot than you can shake a sword at.

Image courtesy Sanzaru Games

It essentially includes many of the components that you may have dreamt of the first time you imagined what Skyrim might be like if it was made from the ground up for VR, though it doesn’t offer a truly open world.

Asgard’s Wrath is very much a structured world with one-way trips through its discrete levels which are splayed across the source material’s various realms, however Sanzaru showcases a more clear understanding of what makes VR great. Hint: it’s not an avalanche of text-based 2D menus like we saw in the actual Skyrim VR port.

Firstly, let’s talk about combat. Asgard’s Wrath takes more of a gestural approach to combat rather than a highly simulated approach, meaning all of your hard-won combat strategies learned in Blade and Sorcery are basically no good here. Because it doesn’t feature a pure physics-based combat system, weapons have a characteristic ‘weightlessness’ that will result in you clipping through an enemy if you don’t swing with enough force. Although this fundamentally negates your first instinct to start slashing and going for the soft squishy bits, you do get used to it over time and it does become reliable and predictable if you play by the rules of combat which the game sets out for you.

 

That doesn’t mean you can’t get away with wailing on a high level baddie with dumb-baby tactics though, and ignoring all advice about parrying, blocking, and countering by just slashing away and dodging with thumbstick locomotion all the time. You can totally go that route, though it takes a much longer time to take down high-level enemies.

Most mid to high-level baddies are enveloped in a magical shield that can only be broken by effectively anticipating a special attack and parrying it before it lands, or alternatively by throwing tons of attacks to chip away at the magic shield until you can start doing HP damage. Clearly the game wants you to engage in a very specific combat style, which removes some of the fun of creatively dispatching a bad guy, although once you learn how the game wants you to engage in combat, it becomes mostly second nature. You learn what constitutes a ‘good’ swing, and you can at least mix and match ranged and melee combat to your tastes thanks to lootable enemy weapons.

Although it’s a single-player game, at your side is a cast of loyal beast-warriors called ‘Followers’ that you can create and collect along the way. Not only do they provide an extra hand during combat, but each Follower has its own special ability for puzzle solving too. All stages have multiple side quests and special areas that only a specific Follower can help with, which means you’ll have to go back through the completed stages to exhaust every possible secret and collect the most epic hidden loot. Thankfully you can both summon and swap you Follower at any time, so it doesn’t become a painful exercise in escorting a stupid AI to a specific place. You just point and click where you want them, or what to attack, and they mostly get out of the way.

Image courtesy Oculus, Sanzaru Games

And where are you going to store all of those ill-gotten gains from your many exploits? Well, in your insanely large inventory of course! Ok, let’s face it. Unrealistically large inventories may never truly find a compelling VR-native solution beyond bringing a literal room-sized backpack with you, although Asgard’s Wrath does well enough with its inventory system, which gives you three main ways of storing stuff. It gives you a more traditional 2D menu-based depository, a quick select wheel with a limited number of spots for faster in-world selection, and finally a holster system, which you can configure to hold anything in a limited number of spots. Want to store all your sausages on your right shoulder and a bunch of cabbages on your left leg? Be my guest, you miserable weirdo. You’d probably be better off stocking Full Potions and Revival Mead for your Follower, but I’m not your dad.

If I were your dad though, I would say that you should write Sanzaru a nice letter for making a useful, VR-native inventory system that lets you configure your loadout anyway you see fit. Of course it sucks that you can only store a number of item types before you fill up with garbage and you start refusing to carry actually useful or rare stuff, but you can always jump out to Aegir’s Hall anytime to craft items, and store/sell excess junk and convert it to the game’s only currency, Hacksilver.

Image captured by Road to VR

Puzzles, although not the toughest, are varied enough to present an engaging mix of challenges that more often than not require you to pay close attention to your surroundings and act quickly. Things like shooting challenges, symbol-matching, key item collection, and door puzzles are all in rotation here. Although most of this is done while possessing a hero, there are some puzzles that you undertake in god-mode as well.

As a god you are a giant and tower over the landscape, giving you a birds-eye view of some of the game’s environments. This is a great way get the lay of the land and even scout for secrets before jumping back down to human scale by possessing the Hero that you’re aiding. In god mode you can also move the Followers by hand, which is useful for some puzzles.

And there’s the gameplay length, something VR fans have bemoaned since before consumer headsets were even a thing. Going primarily through main quests, and not stopping to dig deeply into crafting, weapon upgrades, excessive inventory management, and the many side quests, my personal play time came to just under 17 hours. That’s a bit short of the advertised 30+, but I would almost consider my personal playthrough a hard bottom for a first run. Had I gone for the highest difficulty level, and really squeezed the loot around me for the best crafting items so I could level my hero’s gear and my various beastly companion’s gear, I could easily see myself doubling that time. Replay value, like I said before, is dependent on your will to replay parts of the game with the full set of followers so you can open corresponding chests and hidden side quests.

Side note: loading screens are frequent and can be an absolute drag if you’re loading from a standard hard disk and not an SSD, so you will definitely want to make room on your fastest drive for the best experience.

Immersion

Asgard’s Wrath is a pretty significant technical achievement in terms of graphical fidelity, at least as far as VR is concerned. Outside of a few moments when some of the supporting cast’s character designs felt a bit rushed, Asgard’s Wrath is overall a really impressive visual experience, and one that feels rock solid beneath your feet most of the time.

Although characters may not always be the most graphically polished, their animations were always on point, and often times take over the heavy lifting in terms of immersion. To that effect, one of the most impressive areas in the game is Aegir’s Hall; seeing all of the life around me—the patrons, vendors, and band—really felt like I was peeking into the future of VR.

 

Dynamic lighting and water in some stages adds a thick veneer of realism over well-realized dungeons, each of which seems to have a distinct character depending on which of the game’s locales they inhabit.

I spoke a bit about combat above, and although there’s plenty of mechanics that the creators have essentially ported over from non-VR combat games (which sometimes feel out of place in VR), Asgard’s Wrath thankfully includes toggles for just about everything. You can toggle off the player’s HUD, enemy meters, enemy indicators, and even toggle off throwing aim assist for the most 1:1 combat experience the game can offer.

Image captured by Road to VR

That said, one of the things I’m going to come down on is object interaction. On one hand, the game is absolutely brimming with interactive objects, and stocks the world with very few things that can’t be used, collected, sold, or crafted into something better. On the other hand, every object has a snap-to point where you automatically engage a single holding pose, which can make you feel like you have a wooden grip instead of the sort of flowing and more natural hand poses I wish other developers would borrow from the likes of Lone Echo. Because you’re always picking things up and opening up the game’s many (many) treasure chests, you don’t ever really forget it either.

One such instance of iffy object interaction culminated in a challenge that requires precise and quick manipulation of levers, and I found myself constantly overreaching, or not grabbing the lever at all because I needed to be close enough to the pre-approved attach point for my hand to actually move the lever, even if it was physically in a perfectly reasonable place to ‘grab’.

Comfort

Asgard’s Wrath offers a wide array of comfort options including variable speed/angle snap-turn, a toggle for camera shake, optional blinders, and head or hand-based steering.

Whatever you choose though, this is a stick-based game with smooth forward locomotion and no teleport option. If you’ve sensitive to smooth locomotion Asgard’s Wrath could give you some trouble, though the blinders and movement speed adjustment could make it more tolerable. I found locomotion to be slow enough to not cause any issue, and I remained comfortable after playing multiple hours at a time. A few clever comfort additions, including fast-travel ladders and (optional) fast travel stairs, mean the artificial locomotion is relegated to walking and periodic dashing.

Force grab is also enabled and lets you reach toward and object and pull it into your hand from a distance so you don’t wind up constantly bending down to grab the game’s many items from ground. Force grab isn’t great for immersion per se, but over the course of my multi-hour play sessions it really saved both my neck and my sanity, so I count it as a net positive.

Seated users won’t have a problem playing Asgard’s Wrath. The game automatically detects whether you’re playing seated or standing and adjusts your in-game height accordingly. Like all physical games, you’ll need plenty of room to swing wildly, and a chair without arms is recommended.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Overall
8.8

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  • CURTROCK

    Feels like this game is going to give a very welcome and much needed boost to VR as a serious gaming platform. AAA threshold = crossed! Niceeeee. Pre-order, done.

  • JesperL

    I just need to know 1 thing – will it work with revive?

    • Bartholomew

      VoodooDE VR (YouTube channel) just said it works with several SteamVR headsets except Vive Cosmos.

    • J.C.

      Personally, this is the barrier for me. I’m not willing to pay anywhere near full price for something that relies on homemade middleware to work. If Oculus would say “oh, I see you have a device we STILL haven’t bothered to support, wanna buy this game for $10 and hope it works?”, I’d probably do it.

    • Adrian Meredith

      It doesn’t seem to properly work being stream to the oculus quest though. For some reason it stutters massive amount in ways no other game does, regardless of graphical/stream settings. Hope it gets fixed soon, first impressions looked amazing with a level of production values far in excess of anything i’ve seen in vr so far.

      • JesperL

        I bought it for my Index, and it works great with revive.

    • Jarilo

      Yes

  • VR4EVER

    Interesting review. Is it just me or does the review reads very analytic but less playful or wowed by the game. Sounded to me that you didn‘t really enjoyed playing it, although the score of course tells otherwise…

    • Insight

      You don’t want to give a well-made game a low score and discourage other developers even if the game isn’t that fun since VR needs more of this. So yeah, I totally agree. The review definitely sounds like the game is really well made, but the experience is just so-so.

      • Zachary Scott Dickerson

        yeah pretty much. Very few VR games with amazing game play value, usually just rely on multiplayer, or some arcade type experience.

    • Totius

      I had the same feeling

    • Ryan Thomas

      Looking at past reviews it feels like RoadToVR has a negative stigma associated with Oculus. If this was a Valve release, same game, same system, I bet it would have read better. Nevertheless, super excited to play the game, especially after reading UploadVR’s review :)

    • Jarilo

      Do you want them to sound like fanboys of the game in the review?

      • VR4EVER

        What a nonsensical comment. As if that would do any good! Is your life made out of black and white?
        Its a game! Its meant to be enjoyed! It shoudnt read like it was a chore, then blast through it and nitpicking over all else! Where is the fun in that?

  • Sven Viking

    “…or thumbed through the real page-turner that is the Poetic Edda“

    Anyone not quite ready to do that should check out Neil Gaiman’s book Norse Mythology. It’s very readable, very funny, and pretty accurate to my knowledge. (The audio book, which he reads himself, is also good.)

    • Gwaihir Scout

      Seconded. Haven’t read the Poetic Edda, but it seems that Gaiman’s book covers most of it.

  • Irrelevant Humanity

    Too bad about the combat and physics/interaction system – all I really wanted was Blade & Sorcery with a story and better graphics. Not that I won’t still dump a couple dozen hours into this game tho probably….

    • wheeler

      The good thing is that now that indie games like Blade & Sorcery have proven vr interaction systems that are actually compelling, larger developers will feel “safe” to incorporate them. A larger dev with a deadline and millions of dollars at stake (not to mention a reputation) isn’t going to spend years in research, experimentation, and development (e.g. B&S’s case, they needed to rewrite some fundamental parts of the Unity engine) only to find out that their experimental interaction system doesn’t actually work and you wasted your contractee’s time/money. Vs the typical approach of just taking the basic flat formula and adding some mild/prudent VR-specific enhancements

      We might see the same thing happen with e.g. Boneworks

    • david vincent

      IKR we have been so spoiled by B&S combat system…

  • Sven Viking

    I realise SSDs are getting larger and cheaper, but I kind of wonder whether 100+ gig games should start to separate slow streaming assets and high-priority assets to be split between drives.

    • Ombra Alberto

      I have an external 3 T HD. No problems with games. Zero latency.

      Enough to complain about nonsense in 2019.

      • Sven Viking

        I mean, the review above specifically says this game suffers from slow loading times on a hard disk.

        • Ombra Alberto

          I have not seen all these slowdowns .. only the normal slowdowns.

          And I don’t have a NASA PC.

          It seems to me that here you complain only for the sake of complaining.

          • Sven Viking

            I haven’t made any complaint, I’m only referring to the reviewer’s complaint from experience with this game. You can take that up with him.

            You’re the only one talking about latency and slowdowns, though — the subject was load times. Your loading times may be fine in the VR games you play, but how many of them are 120GB+?

        • Some games do suffer from mechanical drives these days. Path of Exile is one that runs like crap on a hard drive. Same for No Mans Sky. Unless you don’t mind waiting 5+ minutes when zoning/loading. I guess with AAA games they expect users to have AAA storage these days.

          It is easy to fix though, even on my old 4770K gaming PC I shoved an M.2 PCIe in it because the motherboard doesn’t have an M.2 slot. Best “gaming” investment I did for the mentioned games above. Now nobody has to wait for me while I shout “wait for me!, i’m still loading” :D

    • Zachary Scott Dickerson

      meh, M2 form factor SSD are under $250 for 2 terabytes! That is a shit ton of VR games. I have like 80 games on my $75 500 gB SSD. granted, they are smaller than this game. You can always re-install games you don’t play often, or in STEAM you can move a game to a different HDD if you don’t play it often anymore (demoted from my SSD).

      • Sven Viking

        Yeah, the shit-ton you mention would be exactly four in games of this size. Many people will definitely need to change their habits as you suggest. The suggestion I mentioned could reduce that need considerably, though.

        • Zachary Scott Dickerson

          LOL, yes that would be nice feature but I doubt it will happen. Most games are still quite small compared to this game. Starting to remind me of early PC gaming days where I could only have a few games at a time unless I spent a ton on storage space.

          • Sven Viking

            Yeah, like I said it would only really matter for 100+ GB games. They’re likely to become increasingly common over time, though.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      Nah, really don’t want games to spread over multiple drives..

      • Sven Viking

        It would of course be optional.

  • Grey Lock

    Glad the game is reviewing well, however I won’t buy it for two reasons:
    – Don’t like the whole Norse God setting
    – No multiplayer
    That said, I hope those of you who do get it have a blast ;-)

    • Jorge Gustavo

      I respect your reasons. But… for me… these a veeeery dumb reasons.

    • JCat_NY

      No Multiplayer? I see this as one if its best features.

  • Totius

    Someone that has tried the game can report about how does it compare with Skyrim VR please?
    I’m very curious if the environments, the cities, the weather conditions, the alternating of night and day are covincing in AW like in Skyrim. I was (and I am) happy to spend time in Skyrim without having the necessity to continue a quest.
    Also, how loading times here do compare with Mage’s Tale’s ones?
    Anyway, I really hope this looks much more like Skyrim than Mage’s Tale in most aspects.

    • Jarilo

      It’s not open world like Skyrim, it’s more God of War meets Zelda.

  • CHRIS

    THIS IS THE WORST GAME EVER…..in my dreams!

    BEST game of the year! Easy candidate So it runs very well on the revive, 300% supersampling, the image quality is so sharp and clean. I feel presence! quality is way nicer on index than rift s.

  • I am a couple of hours into the game, and so far I am far from impressed. The graphics are good, yes (at 130Gb once installed they’d better be), but a lot of aspects seem half-baked.

    Some of the objects are interactive, some of the same type aren’t. I can pick a mug in the tavern, and I’m completely unable to pick it’s twin. The locomotion is slow to avoid VR sickness, but can’t be sped-up for those who aren’t subject to it. The holster system is capricious and I often find myself grabbing my sword instead of whatever object I’m aiming for… that’s for the details.

    Now, there are other more major aspects of the game that I see as negative:combat and loading times.

    Enemies have a bash attack (headbutt) they use liberally, but you don’t unless you are equipped with a (destructible) shield. Some of their attacks, it seems, sort of spin you around which is really annoying if you have a restrained play space. The lack of physics is very disappointing, and bashing just doesn’t feel right after playing more consistent games (B&S but also The Thrill of the Fight and Robo Recall). The worst I’ve seen so far is an enemy teleporting away and respawning with full health because I went too far from its spawn point -that’s cheap.

    Now, the game is YHUGE, and I will need to upgrade my SSD in order to put it there. That said, it’s not possible that the devs didn’t know that some players wouldn’t have trouble with space, and still they don’t offer any QoL enhancements like (hold on) having your follower act like a mule and send it to the tavern, like in Torchlight II, a game that’s 7 years old. Between this and the locomotion, the game feels rather sluggish in its pace.

    In the end, I’m playing VR games to escape the rules of flat games, as in ‘you need to fight in a certain way to win’, or ‘you can’t pick up this specific thing because reasons’. This title, in and on itself, wouldn’t even translate well on a non-VR platform, and offers rather little justification to actually become a VR game.

    I see it as how we imagined a ‘triple A’ VR title would be, back in 2017. Today, It’s okay, it’s playable, but it’s not a masterpiece.

  • From the reviews, this seems one of the best VR games ever… that’s so good for vR!

  • Jorge Gustavo

    Ok, I will write here, in capital letters: DEVELOPERS!!!! BLADE AND SORCERY COMBAT IN A VR AAA RPG!!!! GIVE ME THAT MOTHERFUCKERS!!!! I WILL THROW MY MONEY AT YOU !!!! I WILL THROW MONEY VERY HARD!!!! $60,00 for that is fair enough for me. Asgard Wrath it’s a good game. I am enjoying… but… doesn’t have Blade and Sorcery combat.

  • Jarilo

    The best native with motion controls VR RPG we have thus far ever made, there isn’t even a contender.