As someone who spent countless hours playing Guitar Hero and Rock Band (and even DJ Hero), to the point where I saw the walls moving, I love that virtual reality has brought back the rhythm game genre. We’ve all heard about Beat Saber and other big players, but what about a viking-themed rhythm game that has you playing war drums to encourage your crew to row faster?
Welcome to Ragnarock, a VR rhythm game that debuted on other VR headsets, but has since made its way to PSVR 2 in time for launch. With a unique set of tracks and some excellent haptic feedback, does this game send you to Valhalla, or will you find yourself smashing the delete button instead of the virtual drums? Let’s find out!
Easy to Pick up, Difficult to Master
The best kinds of rhythm games are the ones that offer simple, easy to understand mechanics. Slash the colored blocks, ride the rails, tap the targets, etc. In this regard, Ragnarock welcomes new players with open arms. At a basic level, your hands are mallets and there are four drums in front of you.
Beyond them, a crew with their oars at he ready. As the song begins, blue runes begin sliding towards the drums in front of you. Smash them as close to the beat as possible to score points. It’s a tried and true method that doesn’t require anything like strumming a guitar or performing any other action than smashing the drum at the right time.
In addition to breaking runes as they pass over your drums, perfect hits will power up your special ability, which again is quite simple to use. When your mallets begin glowing with lightning, you can ring a cymbal behind you on either the right or the left (or in my case I like to do both at the same time).
This sends bolts of electricity through your crew, hilariously showing their skeletons for a brief moment as they supercharge their rowing for a short time. This is important because your score is based entirely on how far your crew manages to row, with bronze, silver, or gold awarded based on distance when the song finishes.
And that’s about it! Ragnarock is fairly straightforward as far as rhythm games go, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Songs have three difficulties each, but a number attached to each difficulty from 1 to 10 shows how much challenge you can expect at each level. One song’s easy is not the same as another.
Interestingly, Ragnarock does not feature a fail state, which means that songs will continue unaffected even if you manage to fail all of the notes. I would have preferred this as an option, if only to keep me on my toes, but for those who get easily frustrated, your journey to Valhalla won’t be cut short if you’re having trouble matching the beat.
Speaking of matching the beat, one thing I will say is that getting that perfect drum beat is far easier said than done. You’ll know when you hit the note perfectly because you’ll see a burst of golden electricity come from the drum. Otherwise, you’ll see an imprint of the rune based on how close you got to a perfect, centered hit.
Missing a note sends the rune flying back the way it came, so visually you’ll know when you’re doing well or not, but nailing a perfect streak is not something that came easy to me, even on songs I knew. Speaking of songs, though, this is a place where Ragnarock shines.
The base game on PSVR 2 comes with 38 tracks that you probably won’t find on your other rhythm games, which is a major plus for me. Of particular note are two tracks that I really enjoyed. The first is “Valhalleluja” by Nanowar of Steel, which is an excellent combination of epic viking style and traditional metal.
The other was a surprise when I was browsing the list, and it’s “Hypa Hypa” by Electric Callboy. I just recently discovered this group, and if you haven’t heard them, do yourself a favor and listen while you download Ragnarock. This track may feel a little out of place alongside grungy metal like Alestorm, but I had nothing short of a huge grin on my face while playing the drums to its beat.
Perhaps my favorite part about Ragnarock is the haptic feedback in the new Sense controllers for PSVR 2. There’s a satisfying impact every time your virtual mallet connects with a virtual drum. In the heat of the moment, it really feels like you’re riding in a longship towards riches and glory.
Not Quite The Graphical Leap I Expected
Having played a number of PSVR 2 titles thus far, I’m blown away by the graphics in some of these games, and this is coming from someone who has played a lot of PCVR. That being said, there are aspects of Ragnarock’s presentation that left me wanting more.
The cartoon style works well, and there were certainly moments where I loved the scenery around my ship, particularly the way Surtur towers over rivers of lava in the distance as you row through his realm of Muspelheim in one of the several environments available to you.
The runes and the drums are crisp and clear, which is really what matters. I also love the HDR in the new PSVR 2 headset that makes lightning and electricity pop with color every time you score a perfect strike. Where Ragnarock falls short is in the more distant details. The crew could certainly stand to be sharper, but it’s the text that comes across as low resolution more than anything.
This is noticeable the most when you’re choosing songs. I know I’ve found the “sweet spot” because when I switch to other games the text is crisp and clear, but in Ragnarock I sometimes have trouble reading the titles of tracks when I’m choosing the next song, and the main menu has more blur than I would have expected.
It’s not a dealbreaker, and at the end of the day Ragnarock is still a standout rhythm game thanks to a unique track list and some excellent haptic feedback. If we could get a patch to sharpen up some of the text, I wouldn’t have much to complain about on my otherwise smooth journey to Valhalla.
Final Score: 7.5/10
Article by – Bradley Ramsey
Insert date – 3/2/2023