Ragnarock ‘n Row your way to Asgard and beyond
Every once in a while, you come across a game that’s so perfect in concept and so brilliant in execution that you’re shocked — shocked it hasn’t been done before, shocked that it kept all its promises, and shocked at how natural it all feels. These games are rare, but when they grace our screens, we’re all the richer for the experience. Ragnarock, a VR Viking rhythm racing game, fits that feeling flawlessly.
Ragnarock’s premise is utterly awesome: you’ll take on the role of a Viking drummer heading an intricately carved wooden longship. Fiercely strong warriors await your signal; they’re ready to rock and row their way to victory. With your galvanizing drumming skills, they’ll row to the beat of over 30 songs to choose from, featuring genres like Celtic Rock, Sea Shanties, and, of course, Viking Power Metal. By keeping those drum combos flowing, your Viking crew will be so energized that they’ll row harder, better, faster, and stronger until they reach the end of the song and — if you’ve been playing perfectly — the end of the course, where a gold medal awaits.
Controls are straightforward — use the controllers as hammers to beat four drums and two cymbals in step with the songs. Floating runes will come from the end of the ship down to one of the four drums, and by slamming the runes at the proper times, you’ll successfully keep the rhythm and encourage your horde to keep rowing. Hit enough of them in succession to charge your hammers and cymbals; strike the cymbals when your hammers are fully powered up to shoot electricity directly into the Viking rowers and really put some wind into their sails. How’s that for electrifying?
When it comes to aesthetics, I applaud Ragnarock tremendously for the direction they took. I was concerned that the low poly art style wouldn’t feel so immersive (or in the very least not as exciting), but I was seriously wrong to worry. Each level has its own distinct feel that is choreographed a lot like a themepark ride, where certain areas feature new and enthralling things to look at. The Asgard level absolutely blew me away when I realized I was rowing across the starry sky and entering an ethereal door with celestial secrets on the other side; another level featured a gigantic chernabog-like figure that left me in awe to the point of almost forgetting to keep banging on the drums. This rhythm game doesn’t just ask you to keep the beat — it literally takes you on an out of this world ride.
Fans of rhythm games will undoubtedly compare and contrast Ragnarock to standard favorites like Beat Saber, DDR, Taiko no Tatsujin, or Guitar Hero, and I have to say that this game is in a class all on its own for a few different reasons. For starters, I’ve never broken a sweat on Beat Saber or DDR, and this is coming from someone who used to play DDR competitively. Ragnarock left me with sweat dripping down my headset (sorry, TMI) and my arms sore as if I’d just had a good swim. Additionally, in a surprisingly thoughtful move, the drums and hammers can be adjusted for height and timing preferences. I moved the drums up much higher than the default setting and tilted the hammers down to account for my tendency to hit the drums slightly too early. It’s such a small thing, but it makes a tremendous difference. Plus, you know, it’s not just a rhythm game, but a racing game as well. Race against your best time in the form of a ghost ship (omg so cool???) and see if you can climb the leaderboards.
Perhaps the one facet that truly sets Ragnarock apart from the rest is how harmoniously cohesive the entire experience is. Despite the low-poly graphics, I was intensely immersed in this Viking world, vibing with the incredible music and just really feeling present in this moment that had been crafted for me. The way in which the levels are designed factor in the player’s body as well as the mind; songs are set up that while your hands and arms are doing one thing, your body can move and sway naturally in another, making the experience feel like a performance. If you’re the kind of person that loves not only the mechanics of hitting drums on cue, but the feeling of letting the music move through your entire body in the same way a Taiko or Samgo-Mu performer flawlessly flows through a song, Ragnarock is your game.
Oh, and that tracklist? The base game comes with an absolutely stellar set of songs, but if that’s still not enough for you, feel free to customize your own!
Alestorm – Chomp chomp
Alestorm – No grave but the sea
Alestorm – Mexico
Alestorm – Tortuga
Celkilt – Dewey
Celkilt – Next One Down
Celkilt – Whaole
Feuerschwanz – Metfest
Feuerschwanz – Kampfzwerg
GloryHammer – Hootsforce
GloryHammer – Masters of the galaxy
GloryHammer – Universe on Fire
Manaberry – Welcome to asgard (an exclusive creation for Ragnarock!)
Nanowar of Steel – Valhalleluja
Niklas Johansson – Call of the North
Paddy and the Rats – Join the Riot
Sabordage – Au petit matin (an exclusive creation for Ragnarock!)
Sabordage – The Great Pirate Bottle (an exclusive creation for Ragnarock!)
Saltatio Mortis – Loki
Saltatio Mortis – Löwenherz
Sons Of O’Flaherty – Dead and Gone
Sons Of O’Flaherty – Red Wine Teeth
The SIDH – Heroes
The SIDH – Iridium
The SIDH – Nitro
Ultra Vomit – Evier Metal
Ultra Vomit – Kammthaar
Wind Rose – Drunken Dwarves
Wind Rose – Mine Mine Mine!
Wind Rose – To Erebor
Ragnarock is a near-flawless game and a phenomenal experience. If you’re looking for a Beat Saber killer, this is it. It’s clear that so much love went into creating Ragnarock, and you can feel the developer’s dedication with every single beat. If you’re a fan of rhythm games and are looking for something to blow the others out of the water, you’re obligated to pick up Ragnarock. For the power! For the glory! For the horde!
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: WanadevStudio; Developer: WanadevStudio; Players: 1 – 6; Released: July 15, 2021; MSRP $24.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a retail copy of Ragnarock provided by the publisher.