We all like nice surprises don’t we? A treat that comes out of nowhere to put a real smile on our faces. In virtual reality (VR) terms that usually comes from an indie team, launching a title which has had little fanfare yet instantly delights. The latest to do this in VRFocus’ opinion is Ragnarock by French developer WanadevStudio, a rhythm-action videogame currently in Early Access which is all about drumming to rock and metal tracks.
With a name like Ragnarock you know there’s going to be a Viking theme running throughout and that’s very much the case as the entire gameplay takes place on the water. You’re at the command of a Viking longboat with lots of burly blokes at the oars awaiting your every drumbeat to get the ship going. This isn’t purely for aesthetics either as there’s a gameplay element woven in which helps separate Ragnarock from others in this genre.
VR is littered with rhythm-action videogames with well-known titles like Beat Saber or Synth Riders offering plenty of electronic tunes to flail your arms too. Whilst they’ve begun to diversify, Ragnarock is purely interested in rock and metal songs which really suit its drumming mechanics. Artists like Alestorm, Gloryhammer and Celkilt feature, enhancing that Viking/Celtic vibe with bouncy, heavy tracks.
On the boat, you’re presented with four drums to whack in time to the music with an extra one just off to the left and right for activating the combo energy. Gameplay is far simpler than other rivals in this genre as all you’re doing is hitting drums rather than having to worry about multiple directions or crossing arms when the colour blocks/orbs swap sides. But that’s not to say Ragnarock was any less enjoyable or utterly exhausting after a long track (it does advise limbering up before playing but who really does that?). In fact, some of the longer tunes feel far more intensive even on the lower difficulty settings than others in this field.
What’s instantly noticeable was how much fun Ragnarock was after just one song. Of course, you’ll need to love your rock/metal music but even so, it felt fresh and hard to put down even when the arms were aching several songs in. Perfectly timed hits mean your crew row harder whilst also building the hammer energy meter which can be unleashed via those side drums mentioned. This gives the ship an extra burst of speed because your score is based entirely on how far you manage to travel, with the requisite bronze, silver and gold targets to beat. It’s an inventive little twist which compliments the gameplay even though, in the end, it’s all about the leaderboard score.
There may only be one environment at the moment but for an Early Access title, Ragnarock already has a decent selection of options. You’ve got a Solo Mode where each of the 16 songs has three difficulty settings and where replaying them will see you compete against your ghost ship. Then you have the PvP multiplayer where up to six players can compete to see how far they can get before the song ends, with public and private games available. These options also extend to tweaking the song latency if you find the timing a little off, plus you can adjust the drum height, recentre and hammer angle for the optimum position, thus Ragnarock can be played seated or standing.
First impressions of Ragnarock are really good, a rhythm-action game that instantly provides a thumping good time. Even though the team has already stated that more environments and officially licensed songs are on the way as well as gameplay features, there’s certainly enough in this early version to start with. Custom song options are available for the solo mode although it’s not a straight forward process at the moment. An Early Access videogame always needs finesse with Ragnarock hitting the right notes so far.