VIRTUAL REALITY EXPERIENCE – THE QUICK AND DIRTY
Play if… you’ve ever wanted to go to Ireland and catch a leprechaun.
Avoid if… you get motion sickness.
Address: 1 Busch Gardens Blvd, Williamsburg, VA 23185 (click address for Google Map)
Contact and Website: 757-229-4386
Experience – The Battle for Eire:
Description (from the company website):
The Otherworld needs a warrior. Team up with the last fairy guardian, Addie, and set out to rescue the sacred Heart of Eire. Hang on tight as you soar above the lush landscapes and mystifying powers of the Otherworld. Prepare to battle the dark forces on this motion simulator, virtual reality ride.
Will you be a hero? Take flight and fight the evil Dark Lord, Balor, to bring light to the darkness. Test your courage and send your spirit soaring on this one-of-a-kind, thrill ride.
A 360-degree virtual reality adventure
Minimum Height Required: 42″
Thrill Level: Moderate
Length of the Experience: Roughly 5 minutes (simulation time only)
Cost: Included with admission to Busch Gardens Williamsburg (located in the Ireland section of the park)
Ride Type: Family Ride
Staging Area: The line starts at the entrance to a castle, and progresses indoors through a series of corridors.
This is the video we took before we entered the ride experience:
This is the video we took just after we completed the ride experience:
Note: The ERG were given the opportunity to check out this experience for free, with the understanding that we would continue to provide an honest review and follow the same process we’ve used on all of our other ratings.
Description of the room: You start off outside a castle, and then traverse the line by roaming through corridors underneath the castle. There is an ante-room before you get into the VR experience, which is really cool (we’re not going to spoil the surprise) and then the VR room looks like a small movie theater, but each of the seats have a seat belt.
Understanding of the Mission: We have to help the last, remaining fairy guardian Addie (real name is Aednat, pronounced EY-nit) resume the Sacred Heart of Eire from the Dark Lord, Balor.
Did We Succeed: Yes, but we’re not going to tell you how (obviously)
Our Suggested Party Size: We had four, but they count as you enter the anteroom, so we’re guessing it can accommodate any party size as long as you can all fit in the theater.
Members of our group (other than the ERG): Heather and Steph
Worth the wait? Absolutely!
Where to Eat/Drink Before/After:
- You’re in Ireland (in Busch Gardens)! Check out one of the local pubs or restaurants.
|JASON SAYS:||MIKE SAYS:|
|Overall Expectation (Summary)|
|Before getting on line for this ride, all we knew was that it was a virtual reality ride. Or should I call it an experience. I’m still in the air about that.
I’ve been on these rides before, however not with a VR headset. So I wasn’t sure what to expect from that. What we got was a damn good combination of the two technologies, and at the time we went, did not require an entire day of waiting. That was my biggest concern. (As a reference, if you’ve been on any of the simulation rides at other amusement parks where you sit in a seat and the seat moves in multiple directions, that is the style of this ride.)
|I saw the promo for this virtual ride a few months ago, and we were already planning a trip to Williamsburg, so we thought we’d definitely come and check it out (and Williamsburg too… only Heather had been here before).
I recently got an Oculus Go, and it’s pretty amazing, so when the opportunity came to check out a VR ride where the seats actually tilt to give you the full experience of movement, I was all in.
Plus, I am a part Irish, love Irish lore and fairy tales about the Sidhe, and my trip to the Emerald Isle was one of my favorite trips (so much so I want to go back again soon), so there were TONS of reasons why I wanted to check this out.
|So, this isn’t an escape room, which is slightly outside our normal review scope, but I think that we can still touch on the main points we normally rate on.
(Note: some of the information below may seem like spoilers, but all of this information is on Busch Garden’s website and Battle of Eire blog.)
|There was nothing for us to physically do as there would be in an escape room, as this is technically a thrill ride (other than wait in line, of course). (I wonder how that would work, though, having actual input…) However, the short version of the story is that you are following a fairy (Addie) along on this ride/adventure, the last of her kind, to ensure that a crystal (the Sacred Heart of Eire) is not stolen by the evil Dark Lord Balor and his goblin army.
Now, as I’m sure you’re expecting me to say, the goblin army steals the crystal from the non-existent fairy guardians and subsequent Dragon (Ollie), who is your faithful steed throughout.
The level of detail in this virtual reality experience is phenomenal. From the mission briefing room to being able to look around in 360 degrees before the actual ride itself starts was staggering. (I love virtual reality games and such. I desperately need to buy an Oculus Rift; I just don’t have the money to build the appropriate PC for it. Maybe I should start a GoFundMe page…)
I have two main gripes with Battle for Eire, however. The first, and this is mostly just me bitching (though I did hear a few other people on the way out say similar things), was that the HTC Vive headset (the Enchanted Lens, as they call it for this) that was mounted on my face (via magnets to a headset you are given while waiting online), fell off twice during my ride. (You can see them in the picture above.) And yes, it was properly secured. (I ended up holding it on with one hand the remainder of the ride, just in case.) If and when you go on this ride, do not look down, and I mean straight down, for more than 2 seconds at a time.
Secondly, the ride was FAST (well, the visuals, but you know what I mean). I will be the first person to admit that I absolutely love DRAGONS [Hi Ollie!]. (I have 2 tattooed on my body.) But, the ride was too fast. Ollie flew through everything at such a speed that you could not adequately take in the details of where you were going and what you were looking at. (I know, he’s a DRAGON. I also know that you were trying to save everyone and everything in the land. But cut the speed by 15-ish % and I bet it would be perfect. That would give you just enough time to look around and be able to really see where you’re going. There’s a point in the journey where you follow the Addie under a drapery on a wall, through a hole in said wall, straight down what looks like a mineshaft. I say “what looks like a mineshaft” because I have no idea what it really was because it went by so fast!)
As I said before, the level of detail was phenomenal. This is just a testament to the developers level of skill and the technological advancements we have seen in recent years. Think back to the times of the Virtual Boy 20+ years ago to even the 3DS, Google cardboard or daydream, and all of the headsets in the last 2 years. It’s staggering. It really is. (Apparently there was even a Sega VR in 1991 that was not released?) Ever been to Disney Quest in Florida? I have. And it was awesome (look it up). I own a 3D TV that I love watching 3d movies on. I don’t understand why people knock it so much. But that’s not the point. The fact that you can put on a headset and be transported to somewhere entirely different while sitting on your couch in your living room… If my grandfather was still alive, he would just say “Wow”.
In short, you owe it to yourself to see what this experience is like. Go to Busch Gardens. Pay the admission fee for the park. Go on some roller coasters. And then wait in line for Battle for Eire. I honestly think you will not be disappointed.
|I was really intrigued by the story behind this virtual experience. You are humans who have made your way to the Otherworld, a parallel world to your normal reality that is populated by the mystic creatures of the world. You are in Ireland, and encounter Addie, the last of the fairy guardians who is the sole protector of the Sacred Heart of Eire, which contains all the magic of Ireland.
Addie is beseeching your help to protect the stone from the evil Dark Lord Balor (an orc-like cyclops) and his army of Slaugh (pronounced SLEW-ahh), which are tiny evil fairies who were once fairy guardians.
Well, then something bad happens…
… And you have to help Addie and her dragon friend, Ollie, rescue the Sacred Heart of Eire from Balor and his army of Slaugh. If you don’t, the magic of Ireland will be forever lost and corrupted by Balor to enhance his evil powers.
You may have to traverse the land in a unique and fun way to solve your mission, but that’s where the fun begins.
Oh, and DRAGON!! Did you catch that?
Now, when you are standing in line, you are given an emerald helmet (see the photos above) that you need to wear, and to which the Enchanted Lens (the VR mask) is attached. After you get strapped in and get your Enchanted Lens in place, you enter the Otherworld (the Enchanted Lens allows you to see the Otherworld… get it?!).
You start off in the top of the castle that you just waited in line to get to, and you get a really good immersive 360 degree view. For those of you who aren’t afraid of heights, lean over and look DOWN before the experience begins. It’s quite cool.
Then the experience starts and you are whisked along the land, sea, and sky to recover the Sacred Heart of Eire from Balor.
The ride (which is essentially your seat tilting back and forth and sideways) coupled with the Enchanted Lens really does make you feel like you are on a roller coaster. The graphics and scenery are truly spectacular, and the audio lends itself quite well to the experience.
My only small gripe is that you are whisked along too fast that your natural default is to keep your eyes forward so you can see where you are going. I did, at times, try and look off to the sides and up and down to see how immersive the 360 degree experience was, and it all fit into what I would have been passing on the sides, or moments before. I understand that they can’t make this a 10-minute experience (due to only having a limited number of seats in a smaller theater and a LONG line), but it would have been nice to enjoy it a bit before being pulled along the journey.
The ending is really cool and you have to participate… just know that there is a dot you see that represents you and you can move it around (a few members of my group missed that), and you’ll know whether or not you’ve succeeded.
All in all, this was well worth the hour’s wait we had, and I’d definitely do it again so that I catch some of what I may have missed the first time around. Plus, the line leads you through the castle corridors, which are air conditioned, which is even better on a hot late Spring or Summer day.
There is no extra cost for doing the Battle of Eire, so definitely check it out when you are there.
Something for the future as the tech gets better? I’m looking forward to possibly seeing some additional scenarios that change the story and ending based on what actions you take… this way it can be a different experience depending on what path you choose.