Rhythm games have proved to be incredibly popular in virtual reality, with titles like Beat Saber, Pistol Whip and Synth Riders all leading the charge. They all have their own unique hook, but none perhaps have a hook as downright fun and silly as Ragnarock, a VR rhythm game where you play as a Viking drummer, on a ship, moving faster along the water the better you perform and rallying your Viking troops to cheer and sing along.
Ragnarock initially released on Steam via Early Access in 2020, but recently it’s moved onto Oculus Quest via App Lab (which means it’s not “fully released” yet, but is on the way to being certified for the proper Oculus store). Still, the game feels like it’s ready for a full release, and with its super-fun concept, belting drums with hammers to heavy metal tunes like a bonafide Viking.
Belting the drums to smash plates that fly in your direction in time with the track is very satisfying, that’s for sure; easily memorable as a mechanic in the same iconic way the light-sabers slicing through cubes resonated in Beat Saber. As you bang the drums with these oversized hammers, there are also two additional drums to the side that you can bash to activate a boost, and your Viking brothers and sisters will row faster as you perform well. When I’m moving fast down the river, bashing drums to metal and hearing my crew chant me on in encouragement, it’s some of the most satisfying fun I’ve ever had wearing a headset.
Environments in the game are gorgeous too, incorporating Nordic mythology but with a bright, colourful almost cartoon-like presentation. Rather than just standing on an invisible platform like in other rhythm games such as Pistol Whip or Beat Saber, movement in Ragnarock feels slick in nature, considering you’re moving on a literal boat. It means that you also won’t feel nauseated while playing, but banging the drums on even the “normal” difficulty setting sure does provide a pretty intense arm workout. I needed to take a break after just a few songs.
Of course, the track selection has to play a part in any music-heavy game, and Ragnarock features a range of metal tracks from artists like Alestorm, GloryHammer, Celkilt, Sons Of O’Flaherty, Ultra Vomit, Wind Rose and more. I haven’t heard of any of these bands, and I’m not gonna lie, metal isn’t my genre of choice. You’ll find me belting out the latest track from Lady Gaga or Steps rather than listening to even 30 seconds of metal in my spare time. But, impressively, the gameplay is so fun that I found myself warming to these crazy songs. I’d go as far to say that I enjoy them.
It really is a testament to Ragnarock overall that the concept is so enjoyable and well executed that the songs, in all their metal Viking glory, are great even if you’re not a fan of metal in general. Besides, custom songs will be available too, so you can bash to whatever music you want.
As a ryhthm game lover, Ragnarock is easy to recommend; it’s simple to pick up and play but incredibly tough on harder difficulties to master; I don’t know if my arms are up to that daunting task, but it’s still bloody awesome to be a Viking drummer in the meantime.