Asgard's Wrath 2 preview - Hands-on with Meta's most ambitious VR game yet
We really are through the looking-glass on VR now. What began as assorted tech demos and curios has evolved into the kind of unforgettable experiences like Half-Life Alyx that make use of the format in new and impressive ways.
Meta's big play this Holiday season is Asgard's Wrath 2, and it picks up on the lineage of those "only in VR" titles before, offering a sense of scale hitherto unseen from not just Meta's output, but anything else I've experienced with a headset on.
Does it crumble under the weight of that ambition? If the early hours of the game are anything to go by, not a chance.
How big is big?
Asgard's Wrath 2 picks up where the last game left off as players attempt to catch that cheeky deity, Loki, and stop him causing chaos. I didn't play the first Asgard's Wrath, an Oculus Quest exclusive, but a nifty catch-up cutscene, complete with the added perspective and movement of VR, helped set the table for what will follow.
And what follows is a mammoth, 60-hour (at least) RPG that reads like a checklist of modern gaming. Skill trees? Check. Summonable companions and mounts you can ride? Yep. A full loot system? Oh yes, and there are even specific roguelike dungeons I've not even experienced yet in my early half-a-dozen or so hours, plus a variety of minigames and Souls-like asynchronous multiplayer where players can leave versions of themselves for others to find.
It's all the kind of stuff you'd expect from a big console or PC title, but not for something intended to be strapped on your head. To that end, Asgard's Wrath 2 might be the best reason yet to buy the Elite headstrap for the Quest 3.
Many of these are features I've not gotten to grips with yet in the preview period, but I'm incredibly excited to dig deeper into Asgard's Wrath 2's world - or worlds.
If you thought that huge range of things to do wasn't quite enough, prepare yourself - each of the game's chapters will take place in fresh realms, meaning there's never really enough time spent with any of them to start feeling bored.
Wrath of the Gods
There's plenty to see, but there's also plenty to kill, and while Assassin's Creed Nexus offers a fantastic stealth experience, Asgard's Wrath 2's combat feels much more fun.
Throwing weapons and recalling them, swinging swords, firing projectiles and more are all possible, and they all feel great. The parry system has been a little inconsistent for me, but it's something I'm hoping to master by the time I produce my full review, so stay tuned for that.
I'd also describe myself as a little bit of a lapsed VR player, outside of reviews for work, and I'm very pleased to say that there are a variety of subtle comfort settings that make it easier to enjoy Asgard's Wrath 2 - likely to be very important given it's bundled with the Quest 3 headset, and there's a good chance it's going to be very popular with newcomers as a result.
For one, movement can be as freeform or as slowed as you'd like it to be. I find climbing to be particularly awkward in VR (although being tall does exacerbate anything that has me reaching up, lest I punch a hole in the ceiling), but I was pleased Asgard's Wrath 2 lets me simply teleport up or down in some of the more vertical areas, skipping ladders entirely.
I'm also a big fan of the regular autosave. That means as soon as the motion sickness sets in, you're able to take the headset off and get back to it whenever you're ready. That's also handy since Asgard's Wrath 2 is pretty demanding, and will likely eat through your battery within 90 minutes to an hour if you're not careful.
Puzzles are also less cumbersome than you may expect thanks to a returning ability to move into an all-seeing mode where you can survey the area from above. Between that and the world feeling so massive when you're on the ground, Asgard's Wrath 2 has both ends of the scale spectrum covered.
I'm a few hours into Asgard's Wrath 2 and I feel I've barely scratched the surface of what's waiting for me but it's already speaking my language.
Between dodging traps, battling big bosses, and looting up, there's a lot to enjoy already and I'm excited to sink even further into it once my 'VR legs' return.
Previewed on Meta Quest 3. Preview access provided by the publisher.