Asgard’s Wrath E3 Impression
Virtual reality as a medium has seen slow but steady growth over the past years, with a number of great and unique games. One of the challenges for VR, though, has been the lack of longer game experiences. Although they exist in titles like Resident Evil 7 and Skyrim VR, they are few and far between, and not necessarily designed from the ground up with VR in mind. Asgard’s Wrath changes that. It is a full-length VR action RPG coming out on the Oculus Rift and Rift S, spanning 30 to 40 hours and designed specifically for VR. I had the chance to check out it at Oculus’ E3 booth, and learned more about the game from Sanzaru Games’ Creative Director Mat Kraemer.
The demo opened in a tavern after the player has presumably already completed one of the game’s story quests. There I spoke to Loki to start on the next part of the adventure, but not of course before downing a mug of ale with him. Being one of the more powerful gods, Loki acts as a mentor of sorts for the much less notable god the player controls. The scene then changed, and I found myself hovering alongside some boats, though the humans in them didn’t seem to be aware of my presence. Their leader, Ingrid, seemed angry at someone she referred to as a false god, and was ready to rush head-on into whatever conflict they were going towards. The rest of the people in the boats were less enthusiastic, and seemed scared instead. Not long after Ingrid’s boast, a giant humanoid with horns and glowing runes tattooed on his back came out of the water and effortlessly destroyed the boats, leading to Ingrid becoming shipwrecked on the nearby island. It was now up to me to help her.
The game is split into several different sections, and in each you use your godly powers to possess and help mortals, each with unique weapons, skills, and abilities to upgrade. For example, in one section you may be playing a mage who unleashes projectiles and in another you may be throwing axes at your enemies’ heads. Each mortal has their own story that ties into the larger overarching plot. So I went ahead and possessed Ingrid. Having just been shipwrecked, Ingrid was very hungry, so the first order of business was to find some food. This was easy enough, with plenty of fruit and fish lying about in the environment — though I don’t care to think about just how sanitary it is to pick up raw fish from the ground and shove it directly into one’s mouth. Movement was continuous, but turning was done in jumps, which as an experienced VR player I found disappointing. However, Mat assured me that continuous turning, as well as a whole host of other VR options tailored to both new and experienced VR players, will be available in the actual game. I interacted with the world as in standard VR fare, reaching out for objects and clicking the trigger buttons, which most VR controllers mimic as a ‘clench fist’ motion, to grab things. I could then move my hand to move objects around. For example, I could bring food to my mouth to eat it, or move my hand upward to lift the lid on a chest. Once Ingrid was sated, Loki gave me a pouch in which to hold items. I was then able to pick up items from the field, and then by placing my hand next to my waist where the pouch was located, the items were placed in my inventory. Neat.
Loki then had me leave Ingrid and go back to god form. This made me HUGE, and the entire island around me seemed tiny. During gameplay, when you switch to your god form, you become giant, and it really makes being in that form feel epic when compared to your viewpoint when you possess a human. I reached into the water and picked up a shark, and then used my godly powers to transform it into a humanoid shark minion to aid Ingrid. Now we were talking. I possessed Ingrid again and fist-bumped the sharkman to get him to join me, because that’s the only appropraite way to recruit sharkmen to your party. In addition to regular attacks, the sharkman had two abilities — a combat ability in which he spun around holding dual blades to damage enemies, and a field ability with which he jumped onto hanging objects to act as a counterweight and pull them down, which in turn opened doors and paths in the dungeon. By ‘objects’ I really mean dead bodies in cages, and by ‘jump onto’ I mean jump and bite the dead body’s leg, but I digress. I pointed my hand at such an object and the sharkman used said ability to open the door to the dungeon and so I could proceed. I was then faced with enemies, and once again I raised my hand to direct the shark minion to take care of business while I stayed back as I didn’t yet have any weapons of my own.
I proceeded to explore the dungeon, much of which involved solving simple puzzles by finding objects and placing them in the appropriate places. It’s also possible to bring characters and minions from the other game sections back to previously completed dungeons, using their unique abilities to unlock yet more hidden paths and adding backtracking to the enjoyable exploration. I didn’t make it too far in before I ran out of time, but in theory there is a weapon to be found in the dungeon, as well as a turtle minion, to help Ingrid on her quest. Since I didn’t experience combat I can’t say much about it, but from videos I’ve watched it appears that you’ll be able to swing your various weapons by swinging the controllers around, executing things like attacks, dodge mechanics, and timed parries. Combat in VR games can often be finicky, so we’ll see how it ends up playing out, but the companion system, different playstyles between characters, and the ability to both attack and parry should at least add some variety and keep things interesting. The game will also feature two types of boss battles — normal ‘mortal’ bosses referred to by Mat as ‘Bruisers’, and also God Battles, which will be far larger in scale.
All in all, I liked the limited amount of Asgard’s Wrath I was able to see. There’s a lot of attention to detail, and a lot of effort that has gone into the game to craft the type of full-featured experience that is lacking in VR today. Mat communicated that he and his team appreciate the hunger of players for a full-length action RPG and a full-sale experience, as well as the passion, dedication, and time they’ve put in to deliver it to us. As a fan of VR, I’ll have to pick up a Rift for this one if it doesn’t end up coming to PSVR.