Picture this scene for just a moment. You’re a Viking drummer, standing on the helm of a glorious Longship overlooking the vast sea and your weary crew of rowers. You still have a way to go before you hit land and, as is evident by the look on your crewmates’ faces, the long journey hasn’t been kind to their spirits. That’s why it’s your job to raise morale with every raised fistful of drum hammers you can muster.
Ragnarock is a fantastical VR rhythm game (opens in new tab) that puts you in this exact situation, drumming along with what is quite possibly the most unique soundtrack in any rhythm game in existence. As someone who is a huge fan of Celtic and Viking-inspired music, it’s not an opportunity I imagined I would ever get to experience. But, thanks to the magic of VR and the ease of the Oculus Quest 2 (opens in new tab), drumming to the sounds of bagpipes, electric guitars, and medieval instruments while your crew rows on to glory is completely possible.
If modern metal is more of your jam, the just-released Hellfest Raid DLC brings names like Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Nine Inch Nails, Deftones, The Offspring, and Dragonforce to the mix, complete with a new environment that coincides with the Hellfest Open Air Festival. That’s the biggest metal festival in the world if you weren’t aware. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get pounding in our Quest game of the week.
Onward, toward Valhalla!
As you might expect from a Viking-themed game or show these days, the concept of Valhalla being an ultimate goal is a central theme of the game, but it’s not the only goal. As you would expect from a rhythm game, the goal is also to play along to one of the many songs as best as you can. It’s this unique combination of beat accuracy and distance traveled that makes Ragnarock’s gameplay feel so unique.
Ragnarock presents players with dozens of songs, each of which are broken into three difficulty levels. Once you select a song, you’ll be transported to the bow of a Viking Longship with a set of four drums in front of you. Again, as you would expect from any modern rhythm game, notes will fly towards your drums and you’ll need to beat the drum when that note appears overtop it.
As a bonus, players will find their hammers channel a bit of Thor’s Mjolnir when their playing is exceptional. In layman's terms, that means your hammers become lightning-charged when you hit several dozen notes in a row and don’t miss or miss-time your beats. You can then pound the big drums — which are separate from the four main drums — to give your crew and ship a supercharged distance boost.
The more accurate your drum playing is, the faster your crewmates will row and the more distance your ship will cover by the end of the song. While most rhythm games only focus on a numerical high score, Ragnarock gives you the joy of seeing actual physical progress in the distance traveled by your ship.
That key gameplay mechanic of racing a boat works perfectly with the multiplayer, which pits ships of other Vikings next to one another with the ultimate goal of getting further than everyone else. There’s nothing quite like hollering at your friends while drumming to a screaming bagpipe solo as your ship rips through the currents of fantastical lands.
Raiding to glory
Ragnarock launched with over 30 songs to play and has since added one free update plus two paid DLC packs to the roster. But what I love about these DLC packs is that they’re not just songs, they’re thematic experiences.
Each DLC pack is known as a raid in the game’s pseudo lore and contains not only a bunch of new songs, but also a slew of collectibles, hammers, and new environments to play in. The first pack was dedicated to the British power metal band Gloryhammer, and featured half a dozen songs for just a few bucks.
The latest DLC, the Hellfest Raid, is a creative mashup between the world’s largest open-air metal festival and the game’s iconic nature. It’s very much in the realm of the metaverse concept in that you can experience a unique version of a real-world event in a stylized, virtual world. Of course, instead of being at an open-air concert, you’ll be hammering to the same tunes in a race alongside friends and opponents, alike.
In addition to these impressive DLC packs, developers WanadevStudio are set on delivering new free songs every quarter to keep players coming back to the leaderboards. If that’s not enough, there’s even official custom song support and a simpler level editor in the works. It’s this kind of support, plus the unique gameplay, that makes Ragnarock such an excellent experience to return to time and time again.
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