In Midgard, Fimbulwinter has come, the age of great winter that heralds the beginning of Ragnarok. Lake of Nine froze, and the ground was covered with a thick layer of snow. Kratos and Atreus continue to hide in their forest cabin, hoping that the magical barrier placed by the Faye will keep the unwanted guests away, and cannot agree on what to do next. Kratos is sure that Atreus is not yet ready to face the aces and is trying to avoid the next big war altogether, the guy meanwhile believes that Ragnarok will come anyway, and he himself will have to play a key role in it, so why wait? It is clear that this cannot last forever, and soon new guests from Asgard appear at the door of the hut.
|Game||God of War Ragnarok|
|Genre||Action-adventure, hack and slash|
|Developer||Sony Santa Monica|
|Publisher||Sony Interactive Entertainment|
To be honest, I was a little apprehensive about launching God of War Ragnarok, as I had no confidence that Sony Santa Monica would be able to repeat the success of the previous masterpiece. First of all, it was decided to make a dilogy out of the trilogy, which definitely had to influence the number and quality of the storylines. And secondly, no one has yet lifted the curse of sequels.
But Sony Santa Monica succeeded, Ragnarok is an epic Nordic saga that does not get lost at all against the background of God of War of 2018, although I cannot say that it managed to surpass its predecessor. Even though there are more techniques, locations, enemies, bosses, adventures and drama.
Let’s start with the last one. Last time we watched Kratos gradually grow closer to his son Atreus. The former god of war was having a hard time with the loss of his wife, and in the best Spartan tradition, he kept his distance from the boy as much as possible. Yes, Atreus was annoying from time to time with his behavior, but you could understand him – he had just said goodbye to his mother and was trying his best to earn his father’s favor. It was interesting to watch the dynamics of their relationship. But in God of War Ragnarok, Atreus turns into a source of endless irritation – several years have passed since Kratos and his son scattered the ashes of Faye, and Atreus became a teenager.
And he is the worst of them – privileged, with all the consequences that follow. Atreus knows that he is a god (remember the episode from the first part – “we are gods, so we can do what we want”?), at most, he is also Loki, the giant from the prophecy who will provoke Ragnarok. He is chosen, he has his own altar, he must be in the center of incredible adventures, and the old father does not understand anything, he has become too cautious and forces the “great hero” to hide in a tiny hut. The guy is inexperienced, unable to predict the results of his actions and too self-confident, but very prone to teenage tantrums, which make the player grunt and roll his eyes in sync with Kratos.
Yes, Sony Santa Monica was able to convey teenage behavior quite reliably, but was it necessary? I may be wrong, but it is very difficult for me to imagine a fan of brutal slashers who would take a break from winning combos and slashing enemies, put the gamepad aside and say – it’s kinda boring, the game’s not serious, now I would like to watch teenage tantrums for a couple of hours in a row, I love this kind of drama. Spoiler – it didn’t work. You know that feeling when, in horror movies, the heroes, escaping from a masked killer, do some downright stupid thing, and you are forced to watch it? Here’s the first 10-20 hours of God of War Ragnarok, depending on your playstyle. I admit, I was hoping that someone would sneakily kill Atreus and we would go back to the good old God of War, but no. Kratos was gradually giving up, chewing his lips like a grandfather (literally), and the further he went, the more he passed the initiative to his son, who continued to do stupid things that led to tragic consequences. However, closer to the middle of the story campaign, Atreus becomes smarter, the situation gets a little better, and towards the end it evens out completely.
And at the same time, the pace of the story breaks down a bit, apparently due to a decision to combine two parts of the game into one. Plot lines are cut off too abruptly, important events for some reason start to take place behind the scenes, there is a noticeable imbalance in filling the locations with content – in some you can easily get stuck for several evenings, while you run through others in a few hours, and after you can forget about them forever. Even elements of metroidvania do not save it – returning to locations after opening new tools that allow you to get into previously inaccessible parts of the level, or additional activities that become available after the completion of the main plot. Not only that, sometimes even the gameplay in different locations is not coordinated with each other, the game seems to be unable to define a genre and jumps from a classic adventure game with switches, puzzles, platforms and long cutscenes to a full-fledged straight slasher, with tons of enemies, decalitres of blood and a good, even if it is not perfect, combat system, which has been somewhat refined.
Kratos’ main weapon is still the Leviathan Axe, but the Blades of Chaos are now available from the start and no longer play a purely supporting role. Firstly, some enemies are immune to cold attacks, secondly, arenas have become multi-level, and Kratos moves between these levels precisely with the help of blades. And in general, thanks to the synergy from different types of natural damage, the game encourages you to switch between different types of weapons of Kratos and arrows of his companions. Over time, the Draupnir spear (forged from Odin’s ring of the same name) will appear in the arsenal of the retired god of war: a less lethal, but very fast weapon, indispensable in some situations, and several types of shields for all tastes – simplified parrying, a more powerful block, the ability to make a dash with the shield towards the enemy or it is easier to break through his defense, choose what you like more.
And, of course, you don’t need to forget about different types of runic attacks, weapon modifications and skills, which sometimes fundamentally change the style and dynamics of the battle. In clashes with ordinary opponents, which are now more diverse, this is not of particular importance, most of them are quite weak and deprived of even the rudiments of intelligence, and therefore are not a serious threat, which cannot be said about the local bosses. There are more than fifty of them, by the way. Ragnarok, of course, is not a game from the Souls series, but not every boss here can be easily defeated. It will be necessary to learn behavior patterns, and perhaps change the equipment according to the situation, especially if we are talking about berserkers who replaced the valkyries from the first part.
God of War Ragnarok slowly gets better, and in the end it still turns into one of the best exclusives for the current generation of consoles from Sony, although for each of its undeniable advantages there is a small, but unpleasant “but”. There are great locations that are really interesting to explore, but the limitations of the PlayStation 4, on which the game is also available, are evident and as a result there are too many hidden loadings implemented using narrow corridors. The acting and facial animation are fantastic here, but the issues around which most of the dialogue is built, to put it mildly, will not appeal to every player. Love each other and your children, because if you don’t, then everyone will suffer, then they will kill each other and Ragnarok will come. Seriously? Is this your deep philosophical thought? So Odin did not love his sons and you see what happened? So Freya raised Balder incorrectly and you see what happened? At first, Kratos did not treat Atreus the right way, and… So Gryla didn’t like Angrboda… So Thor… Leabe me alone, for the sake of the All-Father, I’d better go and call some side tasks. Spirit, why are you standing here, what do you need? Oh yeah, you had a son and… goodbye.
There are good puzzles here, but the companions start giving hints almost immediately after you approach them. There are interesting characters, but a good half of them appear out of nowhere and disappear into nowhere, sometimes literally in the middle of their own story arc. There is a good combat system here, but the game does not do a very good job of revealing its full potential to the player. Mimir will keep annoying you with warnings about Kratos being affected by bifröst or tips on how to interrupt a very slow “blue” (by the color of the indicator) enemy attack, but the correct parrying, which is very important for long combos, is given too little attention.
God of War Ragnarok is a large-scale, incredibly beautiful and exciting adventure, which, unfortunately, is a little under-polished. And it seems to me that this happened precisely because of the decision to turn the soft reboot into a dilogy. The only hope is that the developers rushed to finish with Scandinavia in order to transfer Kratos to a new setting.