On the build up to a larger reveal at GDC next week, Oculus has been teasing some of the combat mechanics in Asgard’s Wrath, the latest upcoming Oculus Studios title. The game’s physics-based combat will include the ability to finish opponents with brutal dismembering kills.
Asgard’s Wrath, an upcoming Rift exclusive in development by Sanzaru Games to be published by Oculus Studios, was announced last month as a Norse-inspired melee combat adventure game. And while the announcement trailer was filled with lots of fighting, the team behind the title says that the combat has a layer of depth that goes beyond what you might see at first glance.
Following some teases about the non-combat aspects of the game, the team recently posted a handful of teasers to the official Sanzaru Games community Discord server, and offered some details about how the game’s combat system will work.
Bows are confirmed to be in the game, but a bulk of the fighting appears to be melee-based. Mike Doran, Executive Producer on Asgard’s Wrath at Oculus Studios says that while the game isn’t a top-down physics simulation, the combat is being tuned with physics in mind to prevent players from doing unrealistic things like wiggling their swords rapidly to land lots of hits. Players will need to block, parry, and make broad swings in order to deal damage to opponents.
While some VR fighting games rely on a deeper physical simulation with regards to how fast players can swing their weapons (like Blade & Sorcery), Doran confirms that Asgard’s Wrath’s combat won’t use that sort of raw simulation.
“We don’t do [simulated] weapon delay. It feels bad. [I] can’t stand it. Like trying to fight underwater. We do however have lots of checks in place to stop exploits,” Doran said. “You can’t waggle your wrist and get free hits, for example. Forcing you to move to block effectively is another one. We want this to be all about your skill as much as possible. We use physics simulations to enhance the combat—not to define it.”
Killing blows, it seems, can come in the form of a brutal dismemberment with a burst of slow-motion so that you can appreciate your victory. It isn’t 100% clear at this point, but it certainly appears that dismembering slices through the enemy trace a very close line to the player’s actual swing, meaning that you may be able to cut enemies apart in arbitrary directions, rather than being restricted to pre-defined separations (like at limb joints). This would certainly notch up the satisfaction-factor, and pair nicely with the precise control that players have over their swings thanks to motion tracked VR controllers.
Doran also notes that managing weapon durability will be key, as every weapon and item (shields included, it seems) will be able to break if subject to enough damage.
“So, you can use your shield all day long, but it’ll break apart and you’ll eventually be shieldless, until you find a new one,” said Doran. “Shields are much more effective at blocking thrown enemy weapons than trying to dodge them. If you’re really good you can bat some thrown enemy weapons out of the air with a perfectly timed swing. Also, if you block an enemy strike with your weapon without moving the weapon toward the enemy, your weapon will get knocked away to simulate the physical properties of those two objects.”
Players will be able to repair their gear if it breaks, and use weapons found from enemies and the environment in a pinch, but (from the gif above) it seems that some weapons may be weaker and break sooner than others. Doran has mentioned “blacksmiths” on several occasions, and we’d venture to guess that players may be able to visit blacksmiths to upgrade and strengthen their weapons.
On weapon variety, Doran says that each of the ‘hero’ characters that the player will control have at least one unique “signature” weapon which will be upgradeable and have unique abilities. One of those signature weapons is a one-handed axe which can be thrown and magically recalled, a mechanic which seems very closely related to Thor’s hammer in Marvel Powers United VR (which Sanzaru also developed). Unlike Thor’s hammer in that game though, the magic axe in Asgard’s Wrath will apparently be able to lodge itself in an enemy’s head, and rip it clean off when recalled. So the game has that going for it… which is nice.
Doran also notes that “there are combat rules in play to prevent spamming [the axe].”
The game won’t feature two-handed weapons in order to avoid the complexities of trying to simulated a ‘connected grip’ when player’s hands are actually not connected, Doran says.
Two-hands may be out of the question, but players can expect to battle two enemies (or more) at a time, and they’ll need to carefully parry “signature attacks” (telegraphed when the enemies have red eyes and flames coming from their head) which will otherwise disarm them in the midst of combat:
Enemy difficulty can be tuned with a variety of parameters, Doran says, including how much damage they deal, how fast they attack, how varied their attacks are, and how much health they have. The number to the left of each enemy health bar is the enemy’s ‘level’, and will help players understand how challenging that enemy will be.
Asgard’s Wrath is planned to launch at some point in 2019 (though a more specific release date hasn’t been confirmed), and the creators say it’ll offer some 30 hours of gameplay between combat, exploration, and story. Next week at GDC we expect to get our hands on a demo build of the game to experience the combat mechanics for ourselves, stay tuned!
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