As a longtime non-VR player, my impression of the rhythm game scene was dominated by Beat Saber. After getting my hands on the PlayStation VR 2, I learned there’s a lot more out there, like Ragnarockmade by WanadevStudio in France.
This charming rhythm game has you virtually drum your way through 38 tracks – primarily rock and metal – all in the name of rousing your fellow vikings. For PSVR2 early adopters, Ragnarock is easily a must-play experience. It perfectly emulates that same feeling of rockband drumming in a virtual space, and the infectiously catchy music will have you headbanging so much that you’ll have to worry about your headset.
Paddling Up Hit Creek in Ragnarock
The list of songs in Ragnarock range the gamut of rock, metal, punk, and even EDM, hitting on subgenres I only discovered here. Pirate metal outfit Alestorm has four songs on it, and Celtic punk band Paddy and the Rats’ song “Join the Riot” features accordions and violins.
German electronic-metalcore band Electric Callboy makes an appearance with “Hypa Hypa.” And if you wanted your rock-EDM fusion to star bagpipes, The SIDH has a few answers for you here.
As long as you already have an interest in heavy rock or electronic music, you’re bound to find a couple of songs that will make their way onto your personal playlists. The varied medley of instrumentations and styles here all have one thing in common: They’ll get stuck in your head.
The excellent setlist forms the heart and soul of Ragnarock, while the gameplay gives it a stage to shine brightly on. The game puts you on the back of a longship, with a crew of rowing vikings populating the rest of the ship. Immediately in front of you are four drums, and runes will come toward them along to the music. Your goal is to hit the runes as they pass over the drums. The better your timing, the further your vikings will row the ship, which translates to a higher score.
Additionally, as long as you maintain a streak, you’ll build up a combo meter. You can’t miss it; it glows on your hammers, and when you fill it halfway or fully, it plays a pretty annoying sound effect. Despite that, it’s crucial to getting higher scores. By hitting some shields off to your sides (think of them like cymbals), you’ll spend your meter, getting a huge speed boost – or score increase.
Not everyone will be an expert right off the bat, but that’s not the point. It’s accessible, easy to pick up, and just plain fun.
What makes Ragnarock work so wonderfully is truly its simplicity. Its biggest strength, arguably, is how one-to-one it is with what it’s mimicking. As far as “playing” an instrument goes, most people can wrap their heads around hitting a drum with a stick (though your character uses comically large hammers). You aren’t tapping a screen or pressing buttons to the beat; your arms are swinging at drumheads.
Not everyone will be an expert right off the bat, but that’s not the point. It’s accessible, easy to pick up, and just plain fun. There’s very little getting in the way of you putting on a fantastic song and jamming along to it, no matter your skill level or musical talent.
Once you start really getting into the game, you’ll naturally start swaying your head, moving your feet, and dancing to the beat. You’re going to break a sweat, making it a surprisingly decent (and fun) workout. However, your controllers might be harder to grip, and your headset will get gross after a long session.
Every song comes in three difficulty levels, and these levels range from one to 10 in difficulty, with 10 being the hardest. If you’re new to rhythm games or want to ease yourself in, anything at five or below gives you the space to really get a feel for how it plays. Even better, you can familiarize yourself with a song through its easier level to prepare yourself for the harder version.
To make things more approachable, there isn’t a failure state. You can miss as many notes as you want, and the track won’t stop unless you pause it. The only real “failure” is not getting the bronze, silver, or gold medal at the end – but that just means you can try again.
There’s even a fantastically robust practice mode that lets you start at specific points in a song and slow it down, so you can nail down apart that’s giving you trouble. You don’t have to go through half a song only to fail at the breakdown and start all over. Generally, Ragnarock puts your enjoyment first, never opting to “punish” players for anything.
Row With the Flow
Ragnarock is a fantastic game for hitting that flow state that makes rhythm games so enticing. There have been so many times where my arms were moving on their own, keeping up with a song without me even really thinking about it. In fact, in those moments, focusing up and trying to consciously hit the runes more often than not messed me up.
If it wasn’t my own focus that ruined my streak, then it was the environments around me, and for good reason. Each stage is set in one of the Nine Realms, like Muspelheim or Midgard. As you row further, you’ll see some breathtaking sights, like Surtr the fire giant or the halls of Valhalla. The art style, while cartoony, really immerses you in otherworldly spaces, to the point where I sometimes ignored the runes coming at me to take a look around.
Despite mimicking drums, Ragnarock doesn’t aim to do faithful recreations of real-life drum tracks, like rockband for example. After all, there are no pedals or real cymbals involved here, so you won’t really get into the repetition that naturally comes with playing a real drum kit. Instead, the runes follow different parts of the songs, often whatever is most prominent in the moment.
For example, you might start off following the drums, hitting along with the literal beat. But then the violin starts going off, so the chart starts mimicking its notes, forcing you to sort of “sweep” up and down. Then when the chorus comes in with the vocal hook, the runes will follow that with big, bombastic hits. Because of this focus on what’s sort of “leading” each section of a song, every moment feels fresh, fun, and exciting, even on subsequent replays.
On the higher difficulties especially, Wanadev showcases just how well it charted some of these songs. Some complex rhythms keep you on your toes, but they’re balanced well with simpler moments, giving you just enough time to catch your breath – and the beat.
When you’re hooked, you’ll likely be replaying songs a lot, aiming to get that gold medal and high score. One of the benefits of Ragnarock treating score like distance is that it provides a perfect visual for you to track your performance. Each time you play a song, you’re practically “racing” a ghost of your personal best score, competing with yourself in real time.
You can look ahead and to your side to see in real-time if you’re on the way to a new high score. This race-like mechanic also carries over to multiplayer, where you can compete against five other friends in a song. Overall, it’s an engaging, in-the-moment way to measure your progress that’s both visually and viscerally appealing.
PC VR players might already be familiar with Ragnarockas it’s been on the Oculus, Steam, and Viveport storefronts since 2021. On PC, you can load in fan-made tracks for all sorts of songs, though such support isn’t available for the PSVR2 version (at the time of writing ).
While it’d be unfair to call this a negative point for the PSVR2 port, it does have a section in the menu for custom songs, despite being unable to load them in. It feels a little disappointing, but also understandable. There are also DLC packs called RAIDs for other songs that aren’t available yet on the PSVR2, though I wouldn’t be surprised if Wanadev is working on porting those over.
Ragnarock Review | FinalThoughts
For anyone who invested early in the PSVR2, Ragnarock really is a no-brainer, as long as you’re into the music. The mechanics are simple to pick up, and the gameplay is accessible and addictive enough to make you want to master it. As you climb up into the higher difficulties, the game really comes to life. The only thing that’ll limit your time with Ragnarock is how tired your arms will get – and even then, you might push it for just one more song.
TechRaptor reviewed Ragnarock on PlayStation VR 2 using a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on Oculus, Viveport, and Steam.