'Asgard's Wrath 2' is Meta's most ambitious VR game to date

The action RPG has a 60-plus-hour campaign and an endless dungeon-crawling mode.

Sanzaru Games/Oculus Studios

One of the biggest announcements at today's Meta Quest Gaming Showcase was Asgard’s Wrath 2, a sequel to the well-regarded original from 2019 that’s slated for release this winter. It's shaping up to be Meta's most ambitious game to date — it's an action RPG that the company thinks can stand alongside the genre’s heaviest hitters on consoles and PC. To live up to that promise, developer Sanzaru Games may have to push a VR headset that uses mobile technology from 2020 to its limits.

In a gameplay overview video, Sanzaru studio creative director Mat Kraemer said that Asgard's Wrath 2 features "massive worlds beyond the scope of any other game on the Meta Quest platform." Much of the action will take place in Ancient Egypt rather than the Norse setting of the first game, though you’ll still visit Muspelheim (a location that God of War fans will be familiar with).

Like Asgard's Wrath, the sequel features animals you can turn into companions to help with puzzles and combat. For the first time in the series, you can also use the animals as mounts to help you traverse the larger landscapes. Elsewhere, there’s a more aggressive approach to combat this time around, compared with the original game's defense-based system. Previously, players had to parry and block before having the opportunity to remove enemy shields. In Asgard's Wrath 2, they can use rapid attacks to chip away at shields or use skilled parries for more powerful attacks. In a neat touch, enemies will be able to catch thrown weapons and hurl them back at you.

Many of the elements you'd expect from a modern action RPG are present here, from crafting, minigames (including fishing and a slingshot shooting gallery) and extensive exploration to gear and weapon upgrades and enemies that grow stronger as you do. Both you and your animal buddies have skill trees to level up. As in the first game, you'll be able to manipulate the world with cosmic powers. Elemental weaponry should provide more enemy variety and customization, while you can possess mortals to use their skills and abilities and help them fulfill their destinies.

That's a lot for any game to juggle, let alone one that's running on a similar chipset to the Samsung Galaxy S20 series. Sanzaru, which made the original game for Oculus Rift, is developing Asgard’s Wrath 2 for Meta Quest 2. The headset uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2, which is derived from the Snapdragon 865.

A screenshot of Asgard's Wrath 2 from a first-person perspective. The player character is shown holding a shield in one hand and lashing a whip with the other. In front of the player is a large, crab-like monster. To the left is a pillar with art depicting an ancient Egyptian figure.
Sanzaru Games/Oculus Studios

While many players will be diving into the game on a Quest 2, the Meta Quest 3, which was revealed today, will be available by the time Asgard’s Wrath 2 comes out. “Meta Quest 3’s advanced processor and higher resolution will provide an even better look and feel within Asgard’s Wrath 2, while players will have a more comfortable wear during the game’s 60+ hours of gameplay,” a Meta spokesperson told Engadget.

In any case, it seems that Sanzaru is squeezing as much as it can out of the current headset, which gave the studio more to work with than the Rift.

"The biggest and best thing is that now we're working with devices that are completely wireless, untethered, kind of the way this a game like this is meant to be played, because it's so combat centric," Sanzaru creative director Grace Lingad told Engadget. "We really focus on visceral, gesture-based, physics-based combat. Being free of external tracking sensors and wires and everything like that, the Quest platform has really been a game changer for the franchise."

As for how the game might run on the Quest Pro, Lingad (who spoke to Engadget before the Quest 3 was announced) said that Sanzaru’s focus was on the Quest 2 due to that headset having a big install base. “We really want to make sure as many people as possible can enjoy this game,” she said.

In recent weeks, critics have called out other major action RPGs, namely Redfall and Diablo IV, over the state of their open worlds outside of the main quests. Striking the right balance between having plenty to do in Asgard's Wrath 2 and giving players open areas to tear across on their mounts while dealing with the limitations of the Quest 2 hardware was something Sanzaru had to bear in mind.

"That's one of the big design challenges that the team had to deal with, because there's ways that we can build the levels so that they feel like they're sprawling, but of course, we have to consider the hardware limitations," Lingard said. "There's some amount of negative space, which is good for the eyes, for the mind to rest.

"We do try to tuck in little side areas, but they're hidden and tucked away," she added. "It's really for the players, the ones who really like to explore that whole, 'hey, there's this little area, if I can crawl through there...' and then you emerge into this secret monster den and we hide some really challenging stuff in there, really good rewards in there. So, in that way, we keep the density high, but it's not like all bam, bam, bam, in your face, which I think is a clever move by our team."

A screenshot of Asgard's Wrath 2 from a first-person perspective. One of the player character's hands is holding a leash for a panther, on which they are riding. The other had is pointing a sword toward an ancient Egyptian temple.
Sanzaru Games/Oculus Studios

Sanzaru, which Meta snapped up in 2020, estimates Asgard's Wrath 2's campaign will take 60-plus hours to beat. That’s around twice the length of the original game. On top of that, there's an endless mode called Uncharted Rifts that has randomly generated dungeons. Players can dip into that mode at almost any point to plunder high-level loot to take back into the campaign, but Uncharted Rifts could keep ardent fans going well after they've finished the story.

Add everything up, and that's a long time to spend playing a game in a virtual reality headset, particularly one with fast-paced combat. Motion sickness has been a long-standing concern for VR users. Sanzaru has kept that in consideration while building out Asgard Wrath 2's settings and accessibility features.

Lingard said it was important for the team to offer a swathe of settings that players "can use to tailor their experience to their comfort level." Those concern factors such as motion sickness and combat difficulty. The accessibility options include movement settings, such as snap turning and smooth turning with the controller, rather than having to rotate your body. It's particularly important for a VR game to give players a wide array of options, Lingard notes, because the experience is "so visceral and personal."

Since everyone's history with VR is different, "we really make it a point to have a lot of settings available." she said. "We really want to respect people's time. For some people, maybe this is their first game in VR. We're hoping we really launch with a splash and people want to check it out for themselves. We want to make sure that experience is as accessible and as easy to get into as possible."

On that note, Sanzaru wanted to make sure Asgard's Wrath 2 is welcoming to VR newcomers and folks who haven't played the first game. You can opt to see a recap of the previous title before you get started

We’ll need to wait several more months to find out whether the Quest 2 and Quest 3 (which is said to offer double the graphics performance of the current model) can truly support Sanzaru’s ambitions. But if you're a fan of the first game or you're looking for a lengthy, immersive VR experience, it may be worth adding Asgard’s Wrath 2 to your wishlist.

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