When I tried Asgard’s Wrath at GDC 2019 earlier this year I was enamored with the intense combat system. It really made me feel like a badass warrior with its precision-based parrying, fast-paced sparring, and emphasis on dismemberment and decapitation. But that demo was almost entirely just straight combat and that’s it. It didn’t give me a good look at the game as a whole at all, which is a shame because they’ve been promising a 30+ hour action-adventure RPG epic ever since it was first announced.
Thankfully Sanzaru invited me to their Foster City-based offices ahead of E3 2019 to check out an extended three-hour long demo that spanned a large chunk of one of the game’s several sagas. If you tune into our E3 VR showcase later today you can see the interview I filmed at their studio during that visit, or in the meantime you can watch the 20-minute highlight video below recapping all of my best moments:
Since I already knew so much about the melee-based sword and shield combat going into this demo, I tried to spend a lot of time exploring other aspects of the game. Specifically, I wanted to see what the dungeons and puzzle elements were like given my affinity for The Legend of Zelda and The Elder Scrolls.
My demo focused specifically on a warrior maiden that was on a quest to slay Tyr, the Norse God of War. After her ship wrecks on an island you, a God in training, take control of her and explore the island to find gear. Much to my delight I could smash open pots to find loot, crafting materials, and crucial food items to restore health and undead draugr enemies frequently popped up to challenge me. It all had a very organic feeling, like this was a living, breathing world with depth and tons of optional areas to poke around in while exploring. There was usually a critical path to follow for the main quest, but I was never forced to do anything.
Since my demo was only a small slice of one section of the overall game I can’t speak to what things are like later on, but the puzzles I saw were very encouraging and reminded me of Zelda games. They mostly revolved around commanding animal companions to activate switches, block hazards, or venture forward to move something blocking my path. I got a brief glimpse of one moment in which I had to think outside the box a bit and mix two companion assists together to pass the puzzle and Sanzaru promised there is a lot more of that later on.
For all intents and purposes, this really does feel like a true AAA experience. In games like Skyrim VR it’s full of caveats since it was never designed with VR in mind originally and brief one or two hour long adventures such as Vanishing Realms offer just barely enough to quench your thirst. But after three straight hours, I felt like I’d barely even scratched the surface with this one.
Sanzaru explained that after this saga you will meet new heroes to take control over. In the announcement trailer embedded below you can see a rogue with a nifty dual-wielding fighting style as well as a mage that uses a staff and magical powers in combat. I know there are bows as well to use, as well as over half a dozen different companions that can aid you on your adventures in a ton of different ways.
What ties it all together is a strong sense of cohesion. Voice acting is all top-tier and lends a serious amount of gravity to situations, extending beyond the feeling that you’re just playing a simple game. Taking a quick glance at the world map revealed several different “realms” and planets peppered around the galaxy each of which is broken into regions with multiple fast travel points. It’s not a true open world, per se, but the regions and levels all seem enormous.
Throughout each area you’ll come across sections that you can access yet because you lack a specific animal companion or particular hero with a certain skillset needed. In that way it has a bit of a Metroidvania vibe to it all as it encourages re-exploring areas with new abilities once you advance further into the game. But even besides all of that Sanzaru is insistent that there is easily a few dozen hours of original content even if you focused on just playing the critical path primarily.
Physics-based sandbox combat games such as Blade and Sorcery do a wonderful job of really emulating a realistic style of combat and even though Asgard’s Wrath has an intense, visceral system it’s not quite on that level. Instead, they do rely on scripted animations, but it’s mixed together with dynamic dismemberment and lots of gore to provide a good middle ground between canned animations and pure ragdoll physics.
Asgard’s Wrath and its enormous 30+ hour action-adventure RPG campaign is developed by Sanzaru Games and published by Oculus Studios. From what we’ve heard it’s due out this fall exclusively on the Oculus Rift platform. Let us know if you have any questions down in the comments below!