It’s fair to say that virtual reality (VR) gamers have no shortage of choice when it comes to rhythm action titles. Long gone are bulky peripherals like plastic guitars in favour of far more physical (and entertaining) gameplay mechanics where you can wave your arms erratically to a thumping beat. New releases were starting to get a little predictable until Ragnarock came along. Developed by French team WanadevStudio, Ragnarock perfectly encapsulates the addictive rhythm these videogames should possess.
Ragnarock initially arrived as a Steam Early Access title at the beginning of 2021, instantly standing out thanks to the song selection and gameplay styling. Combining epic Celtic rock and metal tracks from the likes of Alestorm, Gloryhammer, and Saltatio Mortis with simple four-drum interaction, it instantly felt like a breath of fresh air. Especially as you’re on the back of a boat commanding a bunch of blokes to row faster rather than some neon-drenched cyberpunk level you’ve seen a thousand times before.
At its core Ragnarock is a drumming videogame all about scoring as many points as possible, you do this by hitting the notes bang on time to the music, you know, like every other rhythm action title. The quirk here is that Viking inspiration being at the helm of a longboat because you only gain points by travelling a certain distance, not hitting perfect strikes. Instead, perfect drumming allows you to build up combo energy – first blue then yellow – which can be unleashed by hitting one of two side shields. Doing so your crew lets out a triumphant roar and row even faster (a speed boost essentially).
Do this well and you’ll be awarded either a bronze, silver or gold medal depending on the distance, with each song having three difficulty levels to work through on solo mode. WanadevStudio has been very careful to ensure Ragnarock can be tailored to all preferences with a ridiculous array of customisation options so you can tweak the height of the drums, vertical angle of the hammers, inward pitch of them and much, much more. Ragnarock easily has the most options seen in this type of experience.
Playing with those options can get a bit fiddly at points but once you’ve settled on the settings the gameplay does shine. It isn’t as complicated as some of the genre leaders – Beat Saber or Synth Riders for example – so there’s no trying to give you a full-body workout or spin you around 360-degrees but that’s alright, Ragnarock doesn’t need it. There’s an instantly addictive quality to banging those drums and the music is a perfect fit, from heavy metal riffs to more euphoric melodies, each track is satisfying to play through.
And highly energetic, you are drumming after all. A few songs in on medium difficulty and you’ll soon feel it in your arms and shoulders. It’s also quite nice not having to dodge barriers and just concentrate on drumming away with a big smile on your face.
When it comes to adding depth and a competitive vein Ragnarock provides a couple of choices. Solo, you can activate a ghost of your previous best effort to race against, or there’s the PvP mode. Here you can create your own session or join another open one, competing against a maximum of five other players for the top spot. This does add plenty of replay value, especially when a few mates are involved.
On a side note, whilst this review is for the PC VR version WanadevStudio has released Ragnarock for Oculus Quest as an App Lab title. This tends to mean the videogame isn’t ready for an official launch on the Oculus Store but from initial testing and playthroughs works every bit as well as its PC-based cousin.
Ragnarock impressed before and now that the official PC VR launch has taken place Ragnarock has got even better, finessing what was already an enjoyable experience. The same essence is still there but now there are more tracks, a few extras like new hammers to unlock, and some cool new levels to look at. Ragnarock is a joy to play, reigniting that passion for rhythm action videogames. Currently, Ragnarock is the best rhythm game to launch in 2021.