Karnage Chronicles has been in Early Access for a while as a simple little single player action RPG dungeon crawler, but after trying the recent closed multiplayer beta we’re very impressed. I won’t go so far as to say that it’s like the co-op Skyrim VR of my dreams or anything like that, but for such a small team the folks at Nordic Trolls appear to have really outdone themselves here.
I first tried the game all the way back at GDC 2017, almost a year and a half ago at this point, in a quick little dungeon delve on the show floor. Since then they’ve dramatically polished things, improved AI, scubbed up the visuals, added a ton of new systems like equipment, an inventory, lots of loot, a shopkeeper, and a lengthy first dungeon that took us nearly a full hour to clear on Normal.
You can see our full co-op livestream right here (the bug with Jamie’s avatar not facing the right direction has since been fixed) –
Right now there are two classes: Warrior and Archer. I picked Archer because I have perfect aim (note: I do not have perfect aim) and Jamie from UploadVR selected Warrior because he’s a bully (note: he just likes hitting stuff in VR.)
There’s a brief tutorial not shown on our stream that walks you through the basics of smooth locomotion, teleporting, rotating your view, accessing your inventory, and everything else. Having played lots of VR dungeon crawlers like Vanishing Realms and Mage’s Tale for single player and VR Dungeon Knight for similar co-op gameplay, Karnage Chronicles feels incredibly polished — especially for an Early Access game.
The art direction is superb with excellent use of darkness, bold colors, and ambient lighting throughout. While the art style itself is a bit cartoonish by nature, it does a great job of selling the atmosphere.
And like most really good VR experiences, it’s all about the subtleties. For example, when an enemy dies, a chest opens, or a pot shatters, you don’t just automatically inherit the coins. Instead, they erupt outward like a pinata and you have to physically touch them with your hands or body to nab them for yourself.
Then in terms of combat, the enemy AI kept surprising me the longer I played. Not only do shielded enemies hold up their shield and wait for an opening to attack, but if you aim an arrow at an enemies head and they see you, they’ll just duck and avoid it. If you hit their weapon, even the wood of their bow, arrows bounce off. Warriors can stand and hold the line with a shield and I could even flip my daggers around in my hand to more easily perform a stabbing attack. The ragdoll on enemies when you blast them in the head with an arrow for the kill shot is so delicious.
From my short hour with it I kept noticing small little touches like this that not only helped immerse me in the experience, but just felt really good in action. VR Games like Left Hand Path felt marred by trying to squeeze in too many obscure game mechanics that never felt natural, whereas Karnage Chronicles lets me fight goblins, slash spiders, and avoid traps intuitively and naturally with a friend by my side.
Back at base you can spend the money you’ve earned on better weapons, upgraded armor, healing items, teleportation scrolls, and more. I had a strong urge to explore every nook and cranny of the dungeon to find all the shiny loot that I could — an addictive gameplay loop that’s been proven successful for decades in the gaming world.
There’s only the one dungeon that’s actually lengthy and mostly complete so far, but the developers tell me that dungeons two and three (Crystal Mines and Eye of the Dwarves, respectively) are getting expanded soon. One will be shorter than the first dungeon I played and one will be longer.
As it stands the biggest drawback is only having the single full dungeon, but once multiplayer is live on the public Early Access version it’s still a fun romp even without a swath of options. The solid combat, litany of lootable areas, and gear system keep things fresh and fun.
Karnage Chronicles is still very much in active development and in Early Access so we’re not rendering final judgement yet, but if it continues down this path, we’ll be extremely impressed with the final product. If you want to get in on the action, you can check the game out on Steam for $24.99 with official support for Rift, Vive, and Windows VR.
Let us know what you think down in the comments below!
Correction: After publication, this story was updated with more details about the number of dungeons.