Turtle Rock’s Journey of the Gods is a Zelda style retro action RPG experience for the Oculus Quest. It’s also one of the few launch titles developed specifically for the system, as opposed to being a port of an existing PC VR title. It may not have the brand name popularity of those big name releases like Beat Saber, Superhot, Robo Recall and Moss but this is absolutely one of the best games you can buy for the Quest right now. I’ve been playing it for over a week, and am having an absolute blast. It’s best described as an RPG lite, with the look and feel of an early 2010’s Zelda title , graphically on a par with say Wind Waker on the Wii U. This may not seem impressive in screenshots today, but inside the headset it’s beautifully stylised and the simple low poly art style allows the game to run flawlessly. This is the smoothest gaming experience I’ve had in the Quest, not so much as a glitch or slowdown in sight.
The story is standard fantasy fare, some baddies called the Moon beasts are threatening the world with death and destruction and you as a part human, part God hero, have to save the village folk. You are armed in your quest with an upgradeable sword and shield for hand to hand combat and a crank loading crossbow for ranged action. As you progress through the story you also learn various God powers such as raining down lightning strikes on your enemies like Zeus, slowing down time, raising up trees from saplings and even the ability to turn enemies against each other. These are introduced one level at a time, and whilst I would have liked them to have featured a bit more, they do provide a welcome break from the straight combat action, allowing you to solve some simple puzzles.
Combat in this game is excellent. It’s simplified without the sword physics and parrying you would get in a PC title like Blade and Sorcery, but it’s a smooth experience with no slowdown or lag whatsoever, which makes for a really fun and engaging game. Enemies are varied with unique attack styles. Then there are the bosses. Most levels start or end with a monstrous foe to overcome and they all serve to emphasize one thing that this game does marvelously, scale! Some of the enemies are HUGE, towering above the landscape, grabbing hapless villagers or even ripping the roofs off of their homes! This sense of size isn’t restricted to the boss fights either. During your travels you’ll encounter huge waterfalls that rival some of the largest in Skyrim, whilst ancient mythical stone birds act as transports, flying you over the landscape. You’ll be carried over forests and sinister looking swamp lands into winding caves and caverns.You’ll also spend time high up in villages nestled in the snowy mountains, seemingly floating among the clouds. It’s a gorgeous environment and one I’ve thoroughly enjoyed exploring. The visual style is enhanced by excellent audio and subtle effects such as your sword, it’s electrical charge, positively crackling and flashing as your slice it through the air. The game might not be that well known at present, but if this represents the standard for Quest content moving forward, then count me in!
Ok, so the game is great, but let’s see what we can do to make it a physical challenge as well, so that we can enjoy a guilt free video game romp whilst not slacking on our fitness goals!
The game is played standing and is fairly combat heavy. But unlike Blade and Sorcery, weapons don’t have a weight to them so you don’t need to be overly physical to defeat your foes. This is great for accessibility but not for our cardio requirements so when playing this game I adopted what I’ll call the Jason Paglow method from his Skyrim VR review for making that game a physical challenge by running on the spot. There are two movement speeds for this game and if you select fast, your character covers ground at a fair old clip, perfectly synchronized to a jogging pace. The Quest, being completely wireless is actually a lot easier to run with than PC VR and when needing to change direction you can just turn yourself, no need to press a button to initiate a 45 degree snap turn anymore! I found it incredibly freeing and liberating and discovered that jogging actually drew me into the experience more, and helped me embody the character and increase immersion. It might take a little while to get used to it, but once you do it becomes second nature.
I chose the third level for my fitness test, a combat heavy ‘defend the base’ type level where you need to help your fellow villagers to defend a sacred giant egg, (it’s a game don’t overthink it) from attack by hordes of evil moonbeasts. It was a pretty frantic affair, and one for which I cleared my playspace, donning a headband to minimize sweating too much into my new favorite toy. I recorded the session on my Fitbit Charge 2.
Intensity 7/10 (or 5 if you don’t run!)
- Calories burned: 151
- Calories per minute: 5
- Average heart rate: 119
- Max heart rate: 137
- Steps: 1651
- Active Minutes: 13
As you can see from my results by jogging along to the game I was able to turn what was an enjoyable video game session into a worthwhile workout, averaging a 5 calorie per minute burn, which according to the VR Health Institute is roughly equivalent to using an elliptical machine. Had I just stood still it would probably have been 2-4 calories
As with any games based around sword play you have ample opportunities to swing, slice and thrust your way through hordes of enemies, getting a reasonable arm workout. The bow operates by a crank however so isn’t as active as the hand drawn bows you might be more used to in games such as Skyrim or In Death.
Legs 7/10 (or 3)
If you’re reading a fitness oriented game review then I’ll assume you want to play the game as actively as possible. That means jogging in place and manually turning your body to move around. This game is very well suited to that, the default fast run speed is a jogging pace that is fun to match, and without wires it feels free and liberating to treat the game as a run and slash. If you just want to stand still and play you’ll obviously burn a lot less calories, however you wouldn’t be reading this if that was you now would you!
Core and Balance 7/10
The ability to free turn with the Quest allows for far more body turning in a 360 degree experience where you don’t need to worry about the cord tangling up. In later levels when the enemy count increases there’s often times where you’re facing foes on all sides and this constant pivoting whilst swinging your sword can activate your core. As with all sword games you use your core to stabilize yourself after swinging so you’ll get some work, but the crank powered bow doesn’t work your body in the same way as the more traditional bow games. Jogging is good for your core though!
Time Perception 10/10
Make no mistake this is a brilliantly entertaining game and I have enjoyed multiple sessions of longer than an hour, which is about as long as I can tolerate the weight of the Quest on my head before it starts to get uncomfortable. This game easily holds my attention.
There’s a six to eight hour experience here and I’m enjoying it enough to want to replay it again on hard. After that there is no arena mode or even a level select so you’ll probably not be playing past that, but it’s a full size single player action RPG with a lot of fun content.
Fitness Scalability 7/10
By default this is a low activity game suitable for all. You can even choose to play seated. But for those us wanting to make it more physical, simply matching your characters running speed by jogging increases the challenge immensely, whilst also being fun and even immersion increasing.
Lack of Nausea 7/10
Unusually for a VR game this is a full locomotion game only with no teleport option. Full movement can cause nausea for some people especially if the frame rate isn’t great. I’m moderately susceptible to motion sickness but never experienced it here. There is a run vignette option which narrows the FOV when you run which can help the over sensitive, but I felt fine throughout all my play times, testament to how smooth and well optimized this game is.
Social Competition 0/10
This is a single player experience only.
VRFI Fit Score 7.5/10
If you’re willing to get creative to make the game more active you’ll have a blast with this. It’s a wonderful launch title for Quest and my favorite game on the platform so far. I’m already hoping for a sequel and extra content. Fitness and rhythm games are great of course but sometimes you want to actually play a proper video game in VR, and they really don’t come much better than this. It’s one of the better games I’ve played in the last couple years on any VR platform!
Captivating Zelda-esque experience with a wonderful visual art style
The smoothest and most glitch free game I’ve played on the Quest
Like a lot of Quest games its priced a little high.
Shame the game doesn’t have an arena mode or level select to give the game some extra longevity.
Journey of the Gods was a launch title initially exclusive to the Oculus Quest, but with a Rift version released on June 18th. It’s crossbuy meaning if you buy for one system, you’ll automatically get if for free on the other.