Which stoner lit a blunt one day and thought “Bro, wouldn’t it be cool to make a soccer game, but, like, you’re playing as Robin Hood or somethin’?” Whoever you are, you’re a genius! Nock is a virtual reality (VR) title that launched in mid-March that lets you shoot with a bow and arrow like Hunger Games’ Katniss, but instead of targeting enemies, you’re hunting a humongous soccer ball.
I first tried this game at a Meta’s Reality Labs Showcase event, and I’m not going to lie, I hated it — at first. However, you and I both know that one of the many reasons people dislike certain competitive games is because they’re not good at it (hence why I cringe when anyone suggests that we go bowling). This isn’t a game that you can jump into and play intuitively — there is a steep learning curve
Once you get the gist of the game, learn all the tricks, and get into a groove, Nock is arguably one of the most addictive VR sports games you’ll ever play. I may be singing its praises, but that doesn’t mean everything in the game is on target. Read on to find out the pros and cons of Nock and whether it’s the right game for you.
Nock price and availability
Nock is typically $9.99 via the Meta Quest Store. Sorry to anyone who doesn’t have a Meta-branded device, but Nock is only available on the Quest 2.
As of this writing, the Meta Quest Store has a summer sale, so Nock is currently $7.99. Run, don’t walk, and snag a copy before the discount expires!
How does Nock work?
You’d think that the tutorial would give you a thorough understanding of how Nock works, but it doesn’t. On the plus side, it gave me clear guidance on how to shoot my bow and arrow. It’s very natural and matches what one would do if they were simulating archery in real life. While holding the bow in my right hand, I pull the string toward myself while pressing and holding the left trigger, and once I’m ready to fire, I let go.
The tutorial also showed me how to glide across the Nock arena; I simply “grab the atmosphere” while holding the right grip and fling myself toward my targeted direction. And guess what? By using the left grip, I can propel myself upward into the air like a bow and arrow-wielding Wonder Woman. The weightlessness and badassery I feel while performing aerial archery tricks is indescribable — you just have to experience it for yourself.
But here’s my gripe with Nock. There’s no instruction in the tutorial that you can do the following:
- Pick up green artifacts around the arena to keep yourself fully armed with arrows
- Throw 3D blocks to hinder your opponents from scoring goals
- Use your “body” to guide the ball toward your desired direction
Without this knowledge, I found myself questioning why the hell my bows weren’t firing in the game — and all I needed to do was collect ammo on the ground (or the air). You can only hold three arrows at a time, which means that every shot must be intentional.
The main objective of Nock is simple: get that gigantic ball into your opponent’s goal. You can use your bow and arrow to — well — knock the ball into the goal. Or you can use your body to guide it into the net. However, the ball doesn’t move great distances if you use the body-slamming method — and this is by design. The creators want archery to be gamers’ main scoring tactic.
Thanks to my co-worker Laptop Mag Editor Darragh Murphy, I eventually learned the pertinent details of Nock that weren’t explained in the tutorial. Once I got the hang of everything, playing this archery-soccer hybrid game was fun — too much fun! The hand controls were as smooth as Sunday morning, perfectly translating my real-life archery motions into the VR game. The same goes for gliding and going airborne; I always landed exactly where I wanted to.
Nock game modes
Nock is, by and large, a multiplayer VR game. It’s designed to be playable with friends, family, strangers — and even bots.
If you want to play with friends and other people you know, you can launch a private game. I did this with Murphy, and the process was seamless. The room code is always front and center on the home screen, allowing me to tell Murphy the numbers to join the Nock party. Once he punches in the numbers, he’s in the lobby with me in seconds. At this point, we can set up our two teams. We can play against each other on different teams or we can be on the same team while playing against bots (and those bots are good!) If we wanted to up the ante, I could be on one team with a bot while Murphy could be on another team with his AI partner.
If you don’t have friends (or you don’t know anyone with a Quest 2), no worries. The game can set you up with strangers. You can choose between three modes: 1v1, 2v2 or 3v3. It’s worth noting that all game modes come with voice-chat capabilities. If this isn’t your cup of tea, you can mute yourself, other players, or both. After hearing the gross heavy breathing of another player in a 2v2 game, I decided that it was time to exercise my right to use the mute button! However, when it comes to playing with friends, I prefer to keep voice chat on — a little trash talk never hurt nobody.
If you don’t care to play with strangers, you can also play against a bot. You can adjust the difficulty of your AI opponent to your liking, too.
Nock design and graphics
Nock will never be the game where people say, “The design is beautiful! The environments are stunning!” Like I told my co-worker Murphy, while gliding through Nock, it feels like I’m playing inside an MS Paint drawing — an interactive one with cool geometric shapes and figures.
The default oval arena is nothing to write home about. The goals are blue rectangles placed on either side of the field, ready to receive the gigantic soccer ball. Speaking of the ball, it looks like a massive, shiny marble with sparkly hues of orange, purple, blue and yellow. The floor and ceiling look like an excel spreadsheet — I’m not a fan of the grid design. However, I understand that the grid is there to help players determine how far the ball is relative to where they’re standing. Finally, the arena is surrounded by white Greek-style columns with a bright, blue background wrapping the field.
If this arena doesn't float your boat, there is another option that is sort of like the "dark mode" version of the one I just described. I like it! It's like playing inside a pinball machine.
At the end of the day, I don’t play Nock to gawk at the decor and marvel at how pretty the field looks — I just want to perform aerial archery tricks and knock that pesky ball into the goal. Still, it would be nice if the Nock developers could add some new environments to keep the game fresh and interesting. It’d be cool to play Nock on a far-out planet like Mars or the jungles of Brazil. On the other hand, I have a feeling that the Nock developers are keeping the game rudimentary on a graphics level to ensure faster, smoother gameplay.
What is attractive about Nock are the avatars, which are modeled after the wobbly, wavy, cute characters of the critically acclaimed Half + Half social VR app.
How Nock can improve
In addition to improving the tutorial and adding more variety to Nock arenas, the developers should tweak the matchmaking process. Listen, I’m a total n00b — I do not want to be set up with Hawkeye on steroids. Unfortunately, I’m often matched with players who tower over my skill level and end up whooping my butt like nobody’s business.
I would also appreciate a blaring-red “out of ammo” alert. It’d be a better, more conspicuous indicator that I need to hunt for more arrows as opposed to the easy-to-miss, empty three dots that appear next to my bow (the three dots turning green indicate that your ammo is full). On that note, it’d be cool to have a “full-ammo mode” where players are fully equipped with arrows indefinitely. All they’d need to focus on is getting the giant ball into their opponent’s goal. But I get it — limited resources add to the fun.
What I love about Nock
As mentioned, the AI players are good — too damn good. If you want to play against a bot, it will certainly help sharpen your skills, especially if you’re new. I also love the audience soundtrack that accompanies each game. When a player almost scores a goal, but an opponent knocks it out of the way, you can hear the audience yell, “Awww!” in a “Whoa, that was close!” type of way.
I also noticed that the physics inside Nock mimics real life, which is impressive. For example, if you want the ball to veer left, you must make sure your arrow hits the right side of the ball (the ball will fly off to the left just like in the physical world). If you throw 3D blocks into the field to deflect the trajectory of the ball, it will bounce off the cube exactly how you’d expect it to in the real world.
I once complained about players being limited to three arrows in their arsenal, but what I didn’t know is that accurately hitting the ball rewards gamers with a replacement arrow. For example, if you have two arrows, and you accurately fire one into the ball, you will still have two. However, if you fire and miss, you’ll be left with one measly arrow.
One of my favorite aspects of Nock is that if you fire a high-speed ball into a player (you’ll know it’s high speed because it’ll turn red), you can kill ‘em. That’s right! You can knock ‘em right out of the game for a few seconds and cackle like an evil villain knowing that they’re stomping their feet in anger and frustration.
Normal, the developer and publisher behind Nock, has a ton of new features in the works for the addictive title. They're poised to add new unique avatars, novel bow designs and attractive custom skins for 3D blocks. Normal is also working on adding a new quick-chat feature, allowing users to communicate with other players by typing. For those who want a PCVR version of the game, you're getting that, too; it's on Nock's roadmap.
As I write this review, I’m already itching to throw my laptop aside, hop into Nock and practice all the cool new Nock tricks I learned from my co-worker. You’ve been warned, though. This game has a steep learning curve and a high skill ceiling. There are so many aspects of the game you must master, including shooting with accuracy, placing blocks at the right angle to stymie the ball, learning how to be resourceful with a limited three-arrow arsenal, firing shots while gliding and double jumping, and more.
Watch out! Nock is on track to becoming one of the best competition-driven, sporty VR games ever.