Reviews

Asgard’s Wrath 2 review-in-progress — God of VR

Even with the strides we’ve seen over the past few years, VR still feels like it’s in its infancy. We’ve seen incredible progress – Half-Life VR comes to mind – but VR is still looking for a shift from tacked on modes and retrofitted ideas. Enter Asgard’s Wrath 2, which, after the time Editor David Flynn and I spent with it, has impressed us to no end. We’re starting things off with a review-in-progress, mainly because this is a massive game, but also because we couldn’t wait to gush about how awesome it is.

Opening the game, you have the opportunity to get a recap of the previous title’s story. Without spoiling anything, this is a tale of betrayal, with Loki having used you (another Norse deity) to rip power away from his Asgardian family. He’s up to no good, you’re trapped, and everything is definitely not coming up Milhouse. Suddenly, you’re torn from your prison and tossed into a quick boss fight. After failing (but purposefully), you are pulled into the cosmos by the Weavers, the sisters who put together the threads of time and space and who are trying to use you to defeat Loki. That’s going to require traveling to another realm, and will lead to some interesting discoveries along the way… that we won’t get into because of spoilers. Everything starts a little slow, but the further I got in, the more interesting it all became.

Asgard's Wrath 2 First 45 Minutes - Quest 3 [GamingTrend]

What really sticks out in Asgard’s Wrath 2 is how much it belongs here in virtual reality. We’ve played a bunch of games in VR, but a lot feel more like they’ve been retrofitted into the space. Asgard’s Wrath 2 doesn’t feel like it would be as impactful on a 2D screen, but that’s not because it’s rough around the edges. Instead, it’s masterfully constructed for the device it’s on, to the point it feels natural. It’s one thing to swing a bat or throw a ball in VR, it’s another to build a full-fledged RPG.

To begin, you must possess a mortal. This is done at the start, with the Weavers placing you in the path of one who can help you on your quest. It’s more of a side by side thing, where you’re giving him a hand in certain situations, but you’ll be doing all the VR things to get objectives done.

When we say all the VR things, we really mean it. This is a full experience, with walking around via thumbstick, using both hands for combat and interaction with the environment, and more. You’ll be reaching to your belt to grab for your sword or throwing ax, climbing the yellow glowing rock walls, and everything in between. As we mentioned before, this is as intricate of a VR experience as we’ve had, filled to the brim with new mechanics with each new area. One second we were wall-running, the next I was throwing our axes to find we could press the trigger on our controller and give it a second directional push. You really feel like you’re only scratching the surface the more you play, which is insane. Heck, it takes you until four to five hours of play just to get a mount, and that’s still just the beginning of new features, showcasing how much this game has to offer.

In this story, you head to Egypt and meet up with its mythology, and the environments are majestic to behold. While this is VR, so the graphical fidelity isn’t on the same level as say, Horizon Forbidden West, this is the best we’ve seen in VR for the scale you’re encountering. These expansive vistas in front of you are staggering, giving you the exploration that is often missing in virtual reality. So many times in other VR games you’re on-rails or in an almost claustrophobic level; here, a single level feels as big as one of those games.

Of course, swinging your arms around for combat is a lot of fun. This is much more like playing a regular action RPG in VR compared to other games, with lifting your sword to the proper spot to parry, slashing at your opponent to damage them, throwing your ax at flying enemies, and so on. Eventually you’ll even get more to add to your arsenal, like a shield or a bow. These all function exactly how you’d expect, but it’s simply amazing how well it all translates to VR. Even the dodge ability makes sense here, a cherry on top of great design.

That said, we think even VR veterans will get occasionally disoriented by the combat. The game works best in duels or boss fights, but you’ll more often go up against multiple opponents at once. This still works and is pretty fun, but it’s very easy to lose track of enemies or your weapons when turning your attention to your next target or after dodging. The companions you eventually get do take some of the heat off of you, but we still died a few too many times to attacks from outside our field of vision.

The puzzles are easily the best part of Asgard’s Wrath 2. You’ll be moving platforms around from on high as a god, then traversing that same environment in your mortal form. The game gets a ton of mileage out of simply picking things up and moving them, but combine that with throwing your axe around to hit switches and every brain teaser will fully engage you, mentally and physically. Eventually, you’ll unlock a companion who will broaden your puzzle solving abilities even further by being able to hold down switches you can’t reach. This game couldn’t work outside of VR, and takes full advantage of the medium.

Also impressive: being able to go off the beaten path. While there is a main quest you’re chasing, you have side missions to do along the way. Some are your generic quest board missions – pick so many berries, bring this person this thing, etc – but others are fun to engage in. Just like in other RPGs, sometimes you’ll wander into an area and complete the “puzzle” of climbing up to a cave, only to find a few higher level enemies and some equally high level rewards for taking them out. We don’t know how they do it, but integrating these challenges into the game just makes it flow so well.

As for comfort options, there are some great additions to the overall game design. First, the good. Staircases all have handles at the bottom and top which, when grabbed, teleport you to the other side. Ladders and ropes have this as well, and it’s very helpful at avoiding elevation changes that may trigger VR sickness. You can still climb manually if you have your sea legs, but for someone like us who gets sick in VR very easily it’s much appreciated.

The options menu also contains several standard settings like tunneling while moving, snap turning, reduced motion effects, and more. The big thing the game is missing is a teleport option. Understandably this wouldn’t mesh well with the combat in its traditional form, but another movement mode other than standard locomotion is an absolute necessity in my book, especially in a game with vast explorable areas. It might be clunky, but having a teleport would be better than not. We can tell this is a big game, and only being able to play for maybe five or ten minutes before we need a break makes progression incredibly slow.

Performance is certainly a standout for Asgard’s Wrath 2. While playing the game, everything runs extremely smoothly, which is necessary for virtual reality. On the Quest 2, performance has been crisp, although some stutters from the loading screens exist. The only thing we did notice was the blurring of your peripheral vision; probably necessary for loading environments at their best depending on where you’re looking. On the Quest 3, this doesn’t exist, and it’s still as smooth and loads a tad faster. Overall, Asgard’s Wrath 2 runs at 90hz almost flawlessly and we’ve seen little pop-in; Sanzaru has done a phenomenal job building this game.

As for negatives, the only real issue we’ve run into is pretty nasty bug. This occurred during the “Elegy for the Fallen King” mission, where the player goes through a dungeon-ish level to find someone important to the objective at hand. We made it all the way to the end, conversed with said character, and then the game returned us to the main hub. Unfortunately, nothing happened, with said character not joining our cause and the mission stuck at a random task in the middle. The only way to correct this? Reverting our save to the beginning, which was a loss of a few hours. Given this was an entire battery charge, we’re pretty disappointed in this issue. It’s one that’s prevalent as well, with multiple threads on Reddit. Hopefully something is in the works to correct it, as we’d hate to do this all over again.

There’s so much more we could say about Asgard’s Wrath 2, but we would be doing it a disservice to not keep playing it. One thing is for certain, Asgard’s Wrath 2 is a pinnacle for VR and should be praised. Not all games are worth the cost of admission, especially in virtual reality, but Asgard’s Wrath 2 transcends those stereotypes and blazes a fresh trail for the medium.

Lead Video Game Editor | [email protected]

David Burdette is a gamer/writer/content creator from TN and Lead Editor for Gaming Trend. He loves Playstation, Star Wars, Marvel, and many other fandoms. He also plays way too much Call Of Duty. You can chat with him on Twitter @SplitEnd89.

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