2023’s surprise best RPG is free, but do you own the right hardware?

While I’m an advocate for VR gaming, it’s fair to say that 2023 has been a very good year to evangelize this alternative way to play. Asgard’s Wrath 2 – which remains free for Meta Quest 3 owners for now – is the crescendo of what has arguably been VR’s best year for both games and hardware. Most of all, it’s proven that you don’t need a mouse and keyboard to enjoy an expansive RPG.

The Game Awards have come and gone for 2023, and while Asgard’s Wrath 2 will be eligible for next year’s show, I fear that there simply won’t be any recognition shown for what is one of the best VR games ever released. I’ve spoken many times about a VR golden age, a series of game and hardware releases that were gently pushing VR back into the limelight. Asgard’s Wrath 2 should be the catalyst for a full-on VR revolution if people can get past the barrier to entry: buying a VR headset.

I sympathize with anyone who has a genuine interest in Asgard’s Wrath 2 but finds themselves unable to invest in a Quest 2, 3, or Pro. It’s not a cheap purchase, but at the same time I’d argue the quality of the games now justifies the price tag. I’m not saying you have to pay the full retail price of a headset, as the Meta Quest 2 runs Asgard’s Wrath 2 pretty well, and as we roll through the holiday season it’s possible to find brand-new headsets for anywhere between $200-$250, half the price of the 128GB Meta Quest 3.

Asgard’s Wrath 2 is a generational experience and the kind of game that someone who doesn’t see the appeal of VR can play and come away from with a new perspective. It’s a comparison I’ve made before, but thinking about how The Elder Scrolls games have shaped how we view and judge RPGs, Asgard’s Wrath 2 gave me those same feelings as Skyrim, Oblivion, and Morrowind did.

First-person perspective of a purple-sky fantasy expanse.

The moment where God View gameplay is introduced, pulling your perspective away from the mortal you inhabit to look down upon a scene and interact with it as this larger-than-life ethereal being is jaw-dropping. Nothing that Asgard’s Wrath 2 does is a gimmick, everything has a purpose and is called upon time and time again throughout your journey.

Introducing a skill tree and inventory system could have been handled as it is in many other VR games. A half-baked grab-and-drop system that’s clunky even when it’s working as intended. Sanzaru Games decided that this wasn’t indicative of the game they wanted to make, so their systems, each one of them, are refined and polished to work exactly as you would expect in a non-VR experience.

A heavily-armored warrior from Asgard's Wrath 2.

Combat is weighty and intuitive from the moment you’re handed a weapon. No fight can simply be bypassed by swinging your arms wildly. Likewise, combat doesn’t fall into the trap of becoming soulslike, where you’re left waiting for an enemy to attack to create an opening to exploit. This, in my opinion, is what stops games like Assassin’s Creed Nexus from reaching that next level of appeal and becoming a hardware-selling release. A side note here is that Sanzaru added layers and layers to make you feel like a god in combat, which is thematically perfect.

During the game’s first fight, you’re told to point your sword toward the sky, and when you do, lightning rains down and you draw its power into your weapon. It’s a moment that sets the tone for the rest of the game, and it’s something that will stay with me for a long time to come.

First-person perspective of a battle in Agard's Wrath 2 with an undead warrior.

It’s hard to look at Asgard’s Wrath 2 and separate it from the VR gameplay that runs throughout, but if you can look at it as an incredibly immersive RPG first and a VR game second, you might be able to appreciate just how impressive it is. I’m sure off the back of its hype and rave reviews, there may even be a call for a non-VR version to be made, but this would be a huge mistake. The immersion of VR is what pushes this game beyond being just another first-person RPG, even if it doesn’t define the experience.

Going into Asgard’s Wrath 2 blind is the best way to approach it – don’t look into the combat, puzzles, or story. Just stick on a headset and play. Don’t rob yourself of one of 2023’s best games, and one of the best RPGs in recent years, just because of the hardware you need to play it or any preconceived notions of what a VR game can be. This is an open-world RPG for the ages.

If you’ve just picked up a new headset, check out our updated list of the best Meta Quest 3 games, which – no surprise – includes Asgard’s Wrath 2.

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