Gods & Mortals: ‘Asgard’s Wrath’ Available Now on the Rift Platform

Oculus Blog
October 10, 2019

You’re playing the latest title from Sanzaru Games and Oculus Studios. Donning a Rift S headset, the outside world melts away, and you find yourself immersed in a fantasy landscape like no other. Suddenly, the Norse god Tyr emerges from the water, towering above your mortal form. You stand awe-struck—and maybe even let slip an expletive or two. This is a game you have to see to believe.

That larger-than-life action-adventure RPG is Asgard’s Wrath, and it’s now available exclusively on the Rift Platform.

While it was announced in February of this year, Asgard’s Wrath has actually been in development for about three years. “We had just finished up TRON RUN/r and had been starting up VR Sports Challenge and Ripcoil for Rift,” recalls Sanzaru Games Creative Director Mat Kraemer. “I still remember talking with Oculus about the game’s concept and scratching together some little doodles and ideas after that meeting. It’s crazy to think that here we are three years later with a massive action RPG in VR.”

“It’s hard to believe that it will finally be out for everyone to enjoy!” agrees Lead Designer Grace Morales Lingad. “One of my favorite memories was when we were working on the Bifrost, the prologue that begins the game. We had worked on the middle of the game and worked out from there, so the prologue didn’t come together until much later. When all of it came together for the first time—the final art, the music, everything—experiencing it for the first time in VR was emotional, to be honest. And not just speaking for myself, but several others have mentioned how it impacted them. When you cross the Bifrost, it feels like you’re beginning a journey, but at Sanzaru, this journey began years ago. It is a testament to the hard work that everybody has put into this project.”

That hard work has paid off and left its mark on the game’s core mechanics, including the switching between god and mortal perspectives. In earlier iterations, you played as a god, and a mortal hero would move as the god solved puzzles—but the team quickly saw the potential if players could switch their perspectives and fight.

“The ability to control and view from the mortal’s perspective changed everything,” explains Kraemer. “Switching back and forth between god and mortal was such a cool feature and added more depth to puzzle solving. This feature became a pillar of the game’s direction and helped guide Asgard’s Wrath to where it is today.”

Hitting the Books

Of course, bringing a Norse-inspired epic to life required well-informed design and development decisions. And the Sanzaru team was up to the task. From the original source material including the Poetic Edda to modern interpretations like J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Marvel’s Thor, and the Vikings television series, the team dove into cultural representations of Norse mythology and began to tease out the personalities of their starring characters.

“Around the office, I recommended Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology as an accessible, entertaining primer—plus the audiobook version is narrated by the man himself,” says Morales Lingad. “Just surveying the landscape in terms of how these iconic gods and goddesses have been depicted was a gargantuan but necessary process, because we wanted to consider how Asgard’s Wrath could contribute to this storytelling tradition. What unique spin did we want to put on this world? What did we want to stay faithful to and not change?”

That meant branching out beyond Norse mythology and incorporating Scandanavian folklore to add a sense of whimsy and wonder to the human-scale side of the game. “Tomtes or gnomes inspired our take on the huldufólk,” explains Morales Lingad, “while the guardian spirits known as landvættir evolved into the Ancients.”

The Face of Asgard’s Wrath

While the team at Sanzaru worked diligently to pay homage to its source material, they didn’t let that stop them from taking some artistic license to amp up the atmosphere. “We really embraced the concept of Asgard’s Wrath being a Norse-inspired fantasy adventure rather than adhering strictly to historical realism,” notes Morales Lingad. “Although the style is realistic, the costume and character designs are dialed up a notch from what was historically available. For props and things that didn’t exist, we filled in the gaps with more high-fantasy-inspired designs.”

Lead Concept Artists Carolina Zeleski and Isaac Davis tackled the earliest character designs, including Ingrid, Frodi, Loki, and Tyr, as well as some of the first animal followers. Davis and Zeleski’s references extended beyond hair and costume, drawing as well from carvings, book illustrations, and architecture.

“There’s a fantastic portrait of Baldur hanging in the tavern above the bar,” Morales Lingad says. “Although the portrait in game isn’t a full-body image, the original concept that Isaac did has Baldur with these crazy long braids, which was super over the top and amazing. Hair goals, honestly!”

From Sights to Sounds

For sound design, Sanzaru turned to Clean Cuts Interactive. “We have been long-time partners with Clean Cuts, going as far back as 2013,” says Development Director Jenny Huang. “We’ve collaborated on seven shipped titles, including VR titles such as Asgard’s Wrath, MARVEL Powers United VR, Ripcoil, and VR Sports Challenge. This, on top of the prototypes and one-off requests we frequently have, they are clearly our go-to for all audio needs. It’s been a fantastic partnership, and we sync up more and more with each other’s processes through each project. They feel like an extension of our company even though they’re located out on the East Coast.”

The game’s music was composed by Rob Westwood of Blue Oak Audio, who originally worked with Sanzaru on the soundtrack for MARVEL Powers United VR. “His music was an instant hit for both our studio and Oculus,” Huang notes. “He has a great sense for the style and mood each track needed. Even though he’s located out in the UK, we hardly noticed a time zone difference because he’s a night owl and often putting in the late hours. He is extremely talented and passionate about his work, making him a pleasure to work with.”

Memorable Moments

Sanzaru has brought years of lessons learned from VR development to bear on Asgard’s Wrath, from hand presence and full-body IK systems to smooth locomotion and visceral combat. As a result, players are often captivated and find themselves not wanting to leave this unique VR world.

Asgard’s Wrath has so many different unique surprises for players,” explains Kraemer. “Sanzaru likes making games that keeps players on their toes and keeps them playing. Asgard’s Wrath is the culmination of this philosophy and has so many creative mechanics and narrative surprises. Even after 3+ hours of play, players have only scratched the surface of what the game has to offer.”

Those offerings include high-fiving and fist-bumping with your animal followers—already a fan favorite. “That was originally a silly idea that I wrote on my whiteboard years ago that turned into a whole game system,” Morales Lingad explains, who also points to Loki as a project highlight. “I’m really pleased with how he turned out, from his character concept design to the stellar performance by Matthew Mercer. Writing his character and watching it all come to life was one of my favorite things on this project. I love the cute little huldufólk, too, for similar reasons.”

Forge Your Way Across the Bifrost

In many ways, Asgard’s Wrath is a passion project, representing years of effort across multiple teams. The end result is an ambitious RPG of epic god-scale (and mortal-scale) proportions that reimagines what VR is capable of.

“I am extremely excited to see everyone’s reactions to the game,” says Kraemer. “Please join us on our Sanzaru Discord channel to share your experiences in the world of Wrath!”

“Thank you to everyone for all your support,” adds Morales Lingad. “We can’t wait for people to take that walk across the Bifrost for themselves and start their own sagas.”

Grab your sword and shield and steal yourself for battle. Asgard’s Wrath is out now on the Rift Platform.

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