There are a number of elements that embody the very soul of metal. Vikings are a key aspect of this. Not only does their image closely align with the subculture, but their place of origin was key to the progression of extreme music. Lyrics and themes tend to link to their history and due to this, Vikings are now synonymous with the genre. WanadevStudio aims to create the ultimate metal experience with Ragnarock, a Norse-inspired, rhythm-based drumming game that takes place in a longboat. Will it manage to summon the gods of rock or will it be a shipwreck?
The premise is simple, you are on board a traditional Viking ship and aim to spur on your crewmates to row faster. To do so, you drum along with epic metal tracks with each successful smash of a rune motivating your peers. As your fellow warriors sit in your direction, you see how the music encourages them; at times, they even chant along as you sail through a Norse world. This truly helps the game distinguish itself from the number of VR titles in the genre.
Rockin’ the Runes
In terms of the gameplay, it follows conventions as you must strike the runes in time with the music. You have four drums and will move from single to double strikes that will make you feel like Mike Portnoy. While the difficulty of songs is easily identifiable due to the number that adorns each track, due to no tutorials, nuances are left to you to figure out. Luckily, most aspects are easy to determine, however, I had no idea how to activate the boost and only came across this accidentally. It would have been nice to have some explanation on how to succeed on the journey to Valhalla.
After each track, you gain a medal which goes on to a leaderboard. In order to anchor it to the theme, your score links to the distance you travel. Although it’s a simple alteration, it is a nice way to keep everything interconnected. Another impressive feature is when replaying levels. This acts as a race as you will compete against your previous attempt which adds more pressure to your effort.
A Serious Beating
As always, a rhythm game thrives on its song list and Ragnarock excels in this element. Fantastic Viking and Celtic metal tracks blare out and raise your heart rate as you pound the drums in a fierce, frantic fashion. Popular bands such as Gloryhammer and Korpiklaani feature and while the selection is strong, it doesn’t do much to appeal to those outside of the niche target audience. The DLC currently available on PC has more commercial songs but these are currently absent on PlayStation. Interestingly, the custom track option is on the main menu. Ragnarock has a large and dedicated fanbase that creates its own layouts for a vast array of songs. If the game can manage to somehow allow PlayStation users to use these then the tracklist multiples and therefore would drastically broaden its appeal.
As you smash runes, it’s important to be comfortable. Luckily the game allows you to alter the height of the drums, the length of your hammers and much more. This helps to make the experience much more accessible and ease frustration. I did have one issue where the hand tracking was a little off but after a reboot, it never occurred again which suggests this was an isolated issue. Every other time, the tracking was accurate which made each smash on the drum a blast.
In Need of a Polish
I’m not in love with the cartoon character’s polygon aesthetic. However, the environments are impressive. As you row through the world, the areas change. Due to this, it genuinely feels like you are on a journey and at the helm of the adventure. Each song has a unique stage that offers its own tale and creates a different vibe to make every selection feel different. There is a lack of polish with the visuals and it does feel a little rough around the edges but the addictive gameplay overrides this concern.
With only a single-player and multiplayer mode, there isn’t much on offer apart from the three difficulty levels for each song. Although these do vary drastically with higher levels offering complex rhythms that will challenge even the most adept players, some other features would have gone a long way.
Ragnarock is an excellent rhythm game that will resonate with metalheads. The tracklist and theme are lovingly interwoven which helps add to the immersion. While it lacks modes and could use a bit of polish, the core experience is addictive and makes you feel like a Norse rock god!
***PSVR 2 code provided by the publisher for review***
- Great Tracklist
- Addictive Gameplay
- Metal as F***
- Not Enough Modes
- A Little Rough
- Niche Appeal