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Battle for Erie: Review of Busch Gardens’ Latest Ride
By Nancy E. Sheppard

BErie imageFor the 2018 season, Busch Gardens Williamsburg is slated to open the park’s newest attraction, Battle for Eire. Housed in the building formally occupied by rides including Questor, Corkscrew Hill, and most recently, Europe in the Air, the ride takes advantage of the existing motion theater technology while incorporating a new, state-of-the-art, 360- degree virtual reality system to create an immersive experience for riders.

Guests enter the same cavernous entrance that is familiar to Battle for Eire’s predecessors. At the end of the hallway, riders choose a headset harness (green for adults, yellow for those with smaller head sizes), which screw on the back to tighten. This plastic harness keeps the headsets (which are referred to as "enchanted lenses”) from touching the rider’s face to ensure sanitation. The harness itself is moderately comfortable, though can feel a little cumbersome. Guests are then escorted into a pre-show room where they learn from the story’s protagonist, Addie, that leprechauns stole the Heart of Eire for the antagonist, a cyclops named Balor.

After the pre-show, guests are then escorted into a second room, designed to appear as though you are inside the leprechauns’ workshop, where they are asked to stand on a light on the floor (with the same green and orange lights used since Corkscrew Hill). If you are a BGW enthusiast, you might catch glimpses of familiar pieces from now defunct rides that are used as scenery in this room. A large screen reiterates safety regulations and how to use the VR headset. Then, the doors are opened and guests walk into the motion theater.

With the exception of the additions of a curved screen and a headset cradle attached to the seats, the motion theater looks exactly the same as it has since King Arthur’s Challenge. The headsets attach to the face harness via magnets located at the temples. While neat, the headsets themselves are very heavy and feel quite uncomfortable while wearing.

The virtual reality experience starts as soon as the headset clips on. While the animation isn’t realistic, it is still quite beautiful and vibrant, which enhances the "fairly land” feel of the story. For someone who hasn’t previously experienced virtual reality technology, it might take a second to get used to it. No matter which direction you look, there is always something new to see, with hidden "Easter Eggs” for park aficionados throughout the four-and-a-half-minute ride experience.

The story itself can be difficult to follow, without a lot of depth, and you don’t feel a sense of urgency to retrieve the "Heart of Eire” nor to defeat Balor (who makes only a very brief appearance near the end of the ride). However, Addie and her dragon companion, Ollie, are just as lovable as they are enchanting. The motion of the ride is extremely gentle, which balances well enough with the overabundance of virtual reality technology. While a thrill ride enthusiast might not enjoy it, Battle for Eire is definitely something that will appeal to a broader audience because of gentle motion nature but beautiful graphics.

Overall, Battle for Eire is a welcomed addition to the once dying hamlet of Ireland. The only thing that will be difficult for the park to overcome are the heavy headsets and maintenance to the delicate technology. According to my media day guide, the park has not yet firmed up an opening date. While it may not draw in the crowds that a new roller coaster would, it will be a good option for a wider demographic of park guests.

Thrill Rating: C-
Tech Rating: A-
Overall Rating: B+

 





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