God of War: Ragnarök may be one of the most anticipated action-adventure sequels for PlayStation consoles, but fans don’t know much about it, apart from the few glimpses of content in recent trailers. With much secrecy comes equal expectations that Santa Monica Studio has the arduous task of satisfying. It’s been four years since players were left on a God of War cliffhanger, but the time has finally come to get some answers and connect all the dots.
God of War: Ragnarök is set three years after the events of God of War (2018), where every realm is suffering from Fimbulwinter. For players who aren’t well versed in Norse mythology, Fimbulwinter (Fimbulvetr) is the precursor to the end of the world and its eventual reincarnation. In God of War, Fimbulwinter commences as a consequence of Baldur’s death, where snowfall and blizzards worsen each day, leading to famine and devastating natural disasters.
Set during the third year of Fimbulwinter and with the imminent events of Ragnarök lurking around the corner, Kratos and Atreus must decide if they want any part of it. Since the events of God of War (2018), the father and son duo have been preparing for the unknowing consequences of killing three Aesir gods and kickstarting a series of events that lead to Ragnarök. Amidst these preparations, Atreus is trying to learn more about his Jötunn ancestry and his role as Loki in the Jötnar prophecy.
The game opens with Kratos and Atreus making their way back home, traversing Midgard’s snowy environment on a sled drawn by a pair of wolves. However, as soon as Atreus and Kratos drop their guards, they experience a set piece that sets up one significant theme. Atreus is no longer the feeble son who constantly needs saving and has grown as a warrior in the past three years. He’s learned new abilities by training with the titular God of War, letting him hold his own against menacing raiders and other foes. As a result, he can confidently defend himself without much intervention from Kratos, a stark contrast to his previous appearance.
After this intense opening segment, players will get acquainted with God of War: Ragnarök‘s combat systems and mechanics. Much of the basic gameplay has been retained from its predecessor, but Santa Monica Studio has expanded existing mechanics to a great degree. Returning players will find swinging the Leviathan Axe still quite satisfying, complemented with improvements such as smoother mobility, new Relic abilities, and aggressive takedowns. Unlike God of War’s slightly sluggish gameplay, the ashen god now feels faster, more agile, and an impactful force on the battlefield, giving players even more freedom to hack and slash enemies wantonly.
Kratos’ agility also translates well when traversing the semi-open-world of God of War: Ragnarök, especially when solving puzzles. What’s neat about these environments is that Kratos can also interact with them during combat. For example, when overwhelmed by more formidable enemies, he can detach and throw pillars to get a slight advantage. However, the main highlight of level design is how puzzles have been integrated with the environment. Many of these elaborate puzzles need to be solved using new mechanics, such as Atreus’ new Sonic arrows, or freezing water to control water pressure and move makeshift elevators. Moreover, Kratos can now swing across platforms using his blades of chaos to access unreachable areas. Like God of War, clearing these tricky puzzles is worthwhile as most of them are highly rewarding and benefit the ashen god in the long run.
Along with gameplay and level design improvements, God of War: Ragnarök‘s visual fidelity must also be commended as it sets a new standard for graphics. The alluring vistas of Midgard and Svartalfheim are instantly noticeable thanks to contrasting colors, detailed textures, and resplendent architecture. But these stunning visuals are further accentuated with highly accurate motion capture, and facial animations that make performances in cutscenes look lifelike. Within the first few opening minutes, some cutscenes will be heart-wrenching to experience, while others exemplify compelling suspense, as seen in a recent God of War: Ragnarök trailer.
Not everything is perfect, though, as one major complaint relates to a specific UI element in God of War: Ragnarök. When tracking multiple objectives, the top compass tends to get muddled due to overlapping symbols and text, making it hard to navigate to objectives. This isn’t much of a problem when tracking a singular side activity, but some quests require Kratos to visit multiple locations that are denoted with individual markers on the compass. It would have been preferable if these markers would shrink or be enlarged depending on how close Kratos is to the objective. While this suggestion may solve God of War‘s overlapping issue, it’s not a permanent solution. However, it’s worth pointing out that these observations are made on a pre-release build that will receive a patch closer to launch.
While knowing the Poetic and Prose Edda adds more context for God of War: Ragnarök‘s premise, it isn’t a requirement. Instead, Santa Monica Studio presents its reinvention of a complex saga with simplicity and an easy-to-follow tale. However, it all ultimately rests on how God of War: Ragnarök‘s narrative pays off and connects all the dots in the end without compromising standards set by its predecessor.
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God of War: Ragnarök releases on November 9, 2022, for the PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4. Screen Rant was provided with a digital code for the purpose of this preview.
God of War Ragnarok
- Original Release Date:
- Santa Monica Studio
- God of War
- Adventure, Action
- PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
- Sony Interactive Entertainment
- Ragnarok has arrived in God of War Ragnarok, the sequel to the 2018 game of the year released on PlayStation 4. Three years have passed since Kratos and his son, Atreus completed their quest across the realms while facing off with a small handful of Norse gods. However, their actions come with consequences. The Allfather, Odin, is ready for vengeance, and his son, Thor, is leading the charge. Atreus, looking to find more answers to the questions of his lineage bestowed to him by his mother, embarks on another quest with his father to discover the truth while contending with the wrath of Odin’s realm. New friends and allies will help them on their journey, but some allies turned foes will seek to end them before Fimbulwinter comes to a close. God of War Ragnarok will conclude the Norse saga of God of War and launch on November 9 2022.
- God of War