God of War Ragnarök
God of War: Ragnarök is the ninth installment in the God of War series and the sequel to 2018's God of War. Continuing with the Norse mythology theme, the game is set in ancient Norway and feature series protagonists Kratos, the former Greek God of War, and his young son Atreus. The game is expected to kick off the events of Ragnarök, where Kratos and Atreus must journey to each of the Nine Realms in search of answers as they prepare for the prophesied battle that will end the world.
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God of War Ragnarök has a better story than its predecessor, and gameplay, whilst not substantially better, still feels fresh and more exciting than its predecessor. The game doesn't fully deliver on the story promises of the first few hours, and is dragged down by a few awfully linear, slow, and long sections, but overall, it is an excellent game, that is but a few milimeters away from a perfect score.
The story is epic, in the litteral sense of the word. it feels like you are playing through a mythological tale, rather than playing through a story with mythological lore. The beginning of the game really takes it time to set the scene, establish the dynamics between different characters, build tension between Atreus and Kratos, Kratos and Freya, Odin and Kratos and Atreus, tension between the prophecy of Ragnarök and the characters wishes... There is a lot of tension in the relationships, to the point where it is genuinely hard to see how the writers are going to conclude every storyline and I was really excited to see how Ragnarök would play out. But then, everything just started to resolve itself. Tension with Freya ? Go for a walk around her home-realm and it's solved like nothing happened. Tensions between Atreus and Kratos ? Nope, it just goes away after Atreus LITTERALY WENT RIGHT TO ODIN AND COULD'VE BEEN BRAINWASHED BY HIM. It's to the point where the conclusion to every story doesn't make. i'm not against this game having a good ending, but it's just that the tension between characters blows off way too early. The scene before the final fight with Odin should be this really stressful resolution to all the tension between different characters, but ends up being predictable because all doubt about the different characters intent in regards to one another has been solved. Kratos and Atreus are bound to the ground, Freya arrives: had the tension not been completely wiped out between these characters, you could've had a tease of Freya maybe turning on Kratos to avenge her son, and then face Odin one on one. Later, Atreus has a choice to make between his father and Odin, but there is no doubt about the fact he'll choose Kratos, because he keeps saying that he doesn't trust Odin, and he never even starts to trust Odin. Basically, it just feels like this game's story had an insane amount of gunpowder, and instead of just blowing up, it blows away in the wind. Don't get me wrong, the story isn't bad, it's epic and the first half is some of the best characterization I've seen in a video game in a while, but it doesn't deliver on its promise.
However, the real x-factor of this game is the presence of all 9 realms. Even though only 6 are truly interesting (Asgard can only be played through in story sequences, Jötunheim is worthless outside of the Atreus section and Helheim doesn't have a lot of side content), they all feel fleshed out. Alfheim has a huge (but small by comparison) desert to explore that will take a good three hours to complete, Svartalfheim is truly huge with lots to do (and looks amazing) and Vanaheim is ridiculously huge. There is a whole region that is completely optional and that just keeps on going. That region alone will take you 5-7 hours to complete, which you can add to the original 3-5 hours of extra content in the main region. This game went all out on the size and content of the realms, which makes it a bit annoying that the artefacts returned. They do give you hacksilver, but I was crawling under hacksilver after a few hours (i don't know why, but it felt like this game was way more generous with money than the first game) so their main interest is the trophies. Sidequests are now more interesting, as way less of them are given by spirits it feels like (except in Vanaheim which is a bit dissapointing in this regard). Favours are way more story-driven now, exploring the past of different characters like Mimir or Freya, as well as building the relationship between Kratos and Atreus. The themes of the story (parenthood, accepting the past and trying to be better, trust in your allies etc...) are often explored in the side quests, which makes it a nice, coherent package. I was surprised, but I actually really enjoyed raven-hunting this time around: there 48 (compared to the 51 in God of war 2018) which is quite small when you put into perspective with the size of the map. Furthermore, there is actual purpose to collecting them now, with equipment being given to you for (more or less) every 8 ravens collected.
I was however a bit dissapointed by the optional fights. Even though the common enemy selection is more varied than in the first game, the optional boss fights do feel a bit redundant. You fight a lot of the same dragons but with different elements (even though the sidequest of dragon hunting is really cool), there is only one optional valkyrie (which is an awesome fight) and the replacement for valkyries, Berseker souls, do feel awfully samey. The final berseker's moveset is nothing more than a combination of all the different bersekers you've killed, and that's what the final valkyrie was in the last game, but in this game I already couldn't tell apart two berskeker fights in terms of moveset (except when I was facing multiple at once sure) so the king just felt like any other berseker, but with more health and who deals more damage.
This review contains spoilers