E3 2019: Asgard’s Wrath Could Be The VR RPG We’ve All Been Waiting For
Explore complex dungeons with animal-human hybrids in this Norse-inspired epic.
I’m following a brazen Shield Maiden and her crew of Viking compatriots as they sail across dark waters on a perilous quest to exact revenge on the Norse god Týr. Before we reach the coastline, however, a towering god-like creature erupts from beneath the surface of the violent waters, eviscerating half of her compatriots before being thrown into the waters herself. She then wakes upon a beach, surrounded by the wreckage of her warship and the scattered remains of her crew.
This is Asgard’s Wrath, an ambitious new VR RPG adventure that places you in the role of both mythical Nordic deity and mortal hero in a battle against the Gods themselves. Brought to us by Sanzara Games (Marvel Powers United, VR Sports Challenge) and Oculus Studios, the bold new RPG experience promises in-depth immersive combat, unique puzzle-solving, a fully-developed narrative featuring 30+ hours of gameplay, and jaw-dropping set pieces; all set to the rich backdrop of Norse mythology.
Asgard’s Wrath was large and in charge at E3 2019, allowing attendees—including myself—the chance to go hands-on with the highly-anticipated title.
Taking place directly after the events featured in the PAX East demo—where players rescued the famous Norse God Loki from the clutches of the legendary Kraken—I began my experience inside an Asgardian tavern, surrounded by various other mythological deities. As thanks for saving his mischevious skin, Loki treats me to a hearty round of mead. After clinking our glasses and downing our drinks—an action that felt surprisingly satisfying in VR—Loki informs me of an ambitious Shield Maiden hellbent on avenging the death of her brother who was killed by the Norse god Týr. In order to rise through the ranks and become a true Norse God, it’s my job to assist this woman, along with various other adventurous mortals, by possessing their bodies and helping them fulfill their ultimate destinies.
After awakening on the beach following the attack on her fleet, I step into the shoes of the foul-mouthed warrior and begin exploring the coastline. After walking up to a special stone pedestal located further up the beachhead, I’m instantly transported back to godhood, allowing me to stare down at my companion and the surrounding environment as if looking at a board game. In this form, I’m actually able to recruit warrior companions out of local wildlife to assist my character in her journey; each animal features different strengths that can come in handy during certain scenarios.
For instance, one portion of the demo asked to me to navigate through a zombie-ridden dungeon by activating a series of hidden levers disguised as hanging cages; all of which just beyond my characters reach. While in God-mode, I reached down and picked up a shark who became stranded in a shallow pool following the recent storm. Applying my mystical god-like powers to the helpless creature, I watched as the wild animal turned into a wild half-man, half-shark hybrid with a hunger for flesh. I could then task my new NPC companion with activating said levers by jumping up and dragging-down the devices using its massive jaws.
The following dungeon required me to navigate past a series of precarious fire traps. For this puzzle, I enlisted the help of a sea turtle that—when transformed into a humanoid creature—used its rugged shell to protect me from the painful flames. Each of these characters, while simplistic in terms of AI (you can tell them where to go, who to attack, and when to bypass a trap or puzzle), feature an incredible amount of personality. From the various fish strapped to the belt of my sea turtle warrior, to the fin-shaped armor featured on my humanoid shark, each aspect of the characters, as well as the environments, are bursting with small details that—while seemingly insignificant—all come together to create a captivating and engaging world.
These creatures, while invaluable tools for puzzle-solving, will also assist you in combat. While navigating the cliff-side dungeons in search of powerful weaponry, I came across several bands of undead warriors hungry for an ass-whooping. With my man-shark companion in-toe, I engaged the enemy in melee combat using a legendary sword and shield I uncovered earlier in the tooms. The combat I experienced, while brief, was satisfying. Dismembering different parts of my enemies depending on where I struck was a nice touch, if not a little too easy; especially when assisted by my NPC companion. Honestly, it almost felt as though combat was an afterthought, at least in terms of the demo. These small battles were definitely the least memorable portions of my experience.
The UI and menu system I found slightly less fluid. In order to access your bag and retrieve certain items—a task that was asked of me multiple times throughout my 30-minute demo—I needed to open the menu by pushing a button, navigate to the object, and then click-and-drag it out of the menu and into my hand. This was especially cumbersome considering there are tabs within your inventory that filter certain objects, forcing you to scroll through multiple pages in order to locate your desired item; not a game-breaking mechanic by any means, but an unfortunate one none-the-less.
Honestly, my favorite moments during the demo were the points where I was allowed to explore the detailed environments and lose myself in the lore behind this Norse-inspired universe. That’s what excited me most about Asgard’s Wrath: the potential for a truly captivating narrative previously unheard of in modern VR RPG’s. It’s no secret that story-driven VR games are currently few and far between. However, titles such as Vader Immortal and Lone Echo have proven that story-driven VR games are not only possible, but in-demand.
I also really enjoyed the way the game plays with scale, whether you’re staring up at a titanic God while in mortal form, or gazing down at the miniature landscapes while in god-mode.
With 30+ hours of gameplay promised, Asgard’s Wrath could be the first real AAA RPG experience on Oculus, an idea that excites me to no end. Asgard’s Wrath will be available exclusively on the Oculus Rift and Oculus Rift S sometime later this year.