The Morrigan VR Game Review – A Dark and Mysterious Dungeon Crawler

Can you defeat The Morrigan?

The Morrigan is a female character from Irish mythology, whose name translates roughly to ‘Nightmare Queen’. Maybe not quite Daenerys Targaryen level nightmare but she’s pretty cruel and scary in a Brothers Grimm kind of way. In this game from developer The Pixel Mine, the eponymous villain has come to collect a debt, namely the eldest daughter of a weak king who made a deal with the Morrigan early on in his reign when faced with insurmountable foes, to give up his daughter to her when fully grown in exchange for victory now. Obviously, when she shows up to claim her prize the king is upset and hires a hero to help him weasel out of the deal. That hero is of course you!

What follows is an enjoyable romp through the kind of castle that kids growing up in the ’80s loved secret doors, traps, spikes, portcullises, and collapsing bridges. It’s a Castle Greyskull for virtual reality then. Of course, no castle would be complete without a cast of skeletons, undead warriors and troll creatures to keep you from getting to the queen, and this is where the fitness part comes in, as you’ll have to beat them to death with a variety of swords, axes, hammers, and bows.

It’s still an early access game with more content to come, but it’s shaping up really well, with a wonderful art style, part Minecraft, part lego, part Rec Room quests, which looks and feels really good inside the headset, whilst maintaining a low enough polygon count to run flawlessly. Enemies, despite their toy-like appearance, manage to be genuinely menacing and I jumped more than once when an undead warrior sprung out from a wall in a surprise attack.

Whilst not primarily a fitness game, this is an action adventure, exploration title that allows you to actually quest like a chivalric knight rather than just fight endless hordes in the arena, a la Gorn or Blade and Sorcery. Those games are great of course but all good knights need a damsel in distress to rescue and a chance to put those sword skills to use and do some good rather than just endless killing.

That said, this game DOES also have an arena mode, and it’s to there that I went for my fitness benchmark. Just note that the actual game proper will have less combat and more questing, pulling levers, finding keys etc. Plus you get to hold a flaming torch to light your way through the dark dungeons which is just plain cool! Ok onwards, to the arena!

Preparation

As this is a sword game I made sure my play-space was clear, put on my trusty VR cover and headband to sweat proof my HMD and used my Fitbit Charge 2 to record the session.

Intensity 6/10

  • Calories burned:130
  • Calories per minute: 4
  • Average heart rate: 119
  • Max heart rate: 136
  • Steps: 1077
  • Active Minutes: 0

Arms 8/10

As expected this game primarily works your arms and shoulders. The sword mechanics are simplified but nicely implemented. To score a successful hit not only do you have to strike the enemy with the blade edge of the sword, but you also need to take wide, arching swings to score. Joystick wiggling doesn’t work here. That’s great for encouraging you to put more effort in, but be careful of your furniture and overhead lights as you might end up destroying more than the denizens of the castle! The game has an excellent inventory system and you can hold swords and bows in either hand, so if you want to mix it up you can switch to your less dominant hand to ensure that gets worked out as well.

Legs 3/10

This is a standing game, and if you have the room space you can lunge forward to strike or jump back to evade blows but there is no real leg exercise in this game. You don’t even need to duck to avoid blows, and unlike Blade and Sorcery, there is no kick mechanic that you can imitate in real life, by kicking at the same time as your virtual character. I loved doing that in Blade and Sorcery as it provided both a greater workout, and made combat more fun, so I have emailed the developer and asked if they would consider implementing it.

Core and Balance 6/10

As with any sword game you need to use your core muscles to bring your body to a standstill after swinging else you would simply topple over so there is some core work involved, albeit light. You could enhance this if you have a large play-space by physically lunging and swinging from the torso to evade hits.

Time Perception 8/10

I spent the thirty-minute play-test in the arena and thoroughly enjoyed it. You earn coin and unlock weapons every few waves completed which meant I was wanting to continue and the action gets progressively more frenetic as you complete waves. It reminded me a bit of the excellent archery level in Valve’s The Lab. Simple gameplay that starts easy but soon has you fighting more and more enemies. It easily held my interest for the play session.

Replayability 7/10

If you were to compare the arena and fighting of The Morrigan to dedicated arena games like Blade and Sorcery and Gorn then it clearly doesn’t hold up so well. But the arena is just one small aspect of this title. The actual game comprises multiple levels and is a really rather fun and charming quest to rescue a princess from an evil queen. One of my disappointments with games like Blade and Sorcery is that it’s excellent combat without a ‘game’. The Morrigan is simplified combat, but a super cool little adventure that even in its current early access state is well worth playing through.

Fitness Scalability 5/10

Primarily an action adventure, there is no way to really make this a physical challenge in the way that dedicated fitness games in VR can be. It’s rather a physical video game that will get you standing up and playing rather than sitting on the couch. I would say if you’ve ever played the Rec Room medieval quests or Vanishing Realms that’s how active this game is. If you want a harder workout, play something else, but if you want to take a break from just punching orbs or mindlessly killing people in a market place and actually want to play a fun game with exploration, puzzles, and adventure, this is a worthy investment of your money and time.

Lack of Nausea 7/10

Credit to the developers here for including all the necessary movement options, teleport, full locomotion, along with options for snap turning and run vignette. All options can be enabled or disabled and you can use both full locomotion and teleportation together so everyone should be happy.

Social Competition 0/10

This is a single player game only currently. In answering discussions on the Steam forum the developers have hinted that coop multiplayer is on their radar for the future, but nothing promised as yet.

VRFI Fit Score 5.5

If sword fighting is your thing then this won’t compete as a fitness title with Gorn or Blade and Sorcery. However, what you get is a charming little dungeon adventure with some excellent gameplay and exploration elements. It’s an early access title so a little rough in some places, but the graphical style and atmosphere, puzzles and combat combine to make this one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played in recent months. If you’re getting bored of all sword games just being arena combat and actually want to go on a quest, then this is definitely a title to consider.

The Good

Great graphical style that simultaneously manages to capture both cutesy and dread.

Surprisingly great music throughout enhances the sinister atmosphere further.

A proper dungeon crawler with exploration, puzzles, combat and a storyline.

It’s a fun adventure!

The Bad

Combat not as deep or realistic as Blade and Sorcery, or as over the top fun as Gorn.

Still, early access so some features are a bit rough and content lacking, but game updates have been appearing regularly, and the game has a ton of potential.

The Morrigan is available on both the Oculus Store and Steam priced at $19.99 or £14.99 and supports Oculus, HTC Vive, and WMR headsets.


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