Fans around the world are sitting in anticipation for the launch of God of War Ragnarok next month. While we’ll still have to wait a few weeks for a full review of this game, I have been able to put together some thoughts on the first four hours of the game. It is hard to remember just how long I sat and played up until the early impressions cut off due to how engrossed I was in the action. In fact, God of War Ragnarok starts off strong. Within the first few hours, the game reminded me of just how incredible this new direction has been for the series. Characters feel authentic and the stories they tell pull at your heartstrings.
There’s obviously this giant elephant in the room known as “Ragnarok” in the new game. The story picks up three years after the events of the previous game. Those of you who watched the secret ending will know that Atreus dreamt of Thor’s arrival and Fimbulwinter setting in. While three years have passed since Baldur was killed, Freya has still not let go and pursues Kratos on a daily.
I can only share details about one encounter in the early game and that is with Thor. Kratos and Thor finally have the much-anticipated ho-down and it is quite an intense fight. Kratos gets whipped across multiple landscapes, trashed talked and thrown into wall after wall. I won’t deny thinking that he might have finally met his match. If you thought Baldur’s fight in the 2018 game was a great way to start off the game, you have seen nothing yet.
I don’t want to go into any details regarding these main characters but I will say that Kratos and Atreus have clearly grown a lot. There’s one specific line in the early parts of the game that really took me back. Kratos and Atreus are arguing about something the boy wants to do. Kratos refuses to support this decision and Atreus screams at him saying “stop thinking like a father for a change and start thinking like a lieutenant”.
This is quite a stark contrast in comparison to the relationship in the previous game. It seems that instead of being the hard-headed father figure we saw in the 2018 release, Kratos is actually letting go for a change. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the new game.
Story aside, God of War Ragnarok still feels as incredible as ever to play. Combat is especially fun and feels heavy and refined. Of course, much of the original mechanics have returned in Ragnarok. Kratos can charge up his Leviathan Axe and freeze it before tossing it at some poor soul’s noggin’. He can pull off deadly combos that shake the room while literally tearing apart his foes.
The Blades of Chaos are also available in the early parts of the game. They now serve not only combat purposes but also parkour and are tied into puzzle solving too. These fiery blades can burn vines preventing you from reaching a chest. Kratos can also whip objects around the game with them. For example, some pillars and blocks can be moved about in the distance as Kratos throws the blades into cracks and whips the chains in certain directions to toss objects around.
I was also forced to switch between the axe and the blade quite frequently in the early parts of the game. Mainly because some enemies such as the Hel-Raider are frozen undead zombies. These creatures are fast and can’t be damaged unless they are thawed away first. So tossing a frozen axe at them didn’t help much. Instead, you’ll need to use the blades to sizzle them away.
Generally speaking, the combat in God of War Ragnarok is likely what you’ll spend most of your time doing and it is shaping up to be the game’s highlight. You’ll slice enemies into the air, rip them in two, smash the axe into their shoulders and so much more. Every encounter also feels more dangerous than before. Enemies pack some heavy damage and can withstand a few blows before falling. Thankfully, the two weapons offer some nice variety when it comes to distant attacks and close-quarter battles.
I am excited to see where the combat goes from here though. For the most part, it remains much in line with the original game. Kratos can still equip runes that unlock new attacks, gear sets seem to build into certain playstyles and there are ways to tie this all together to deliver some cool results. Things will likely get a lot more interesting as I progress through the game.
There’s also a new “Goals” feature in God of War Ragnarok that provides incentives for using certain weapons and attacks. Each goal is tied to killing a set number of enemies with a certain attack or ability. You’ll earn XP for completing each challenge. These felt natural for the start of the game and I unlocked them quite easily. There are also multiple tiers for some of them meaning you’ll likely still be tracking down enemies to reach Gold Tier much later in the game.
I also need to say how impressed I was with the sheer number of settings in God of War Ragnarok. Santa Monica Studios really went all out on the great accessibility options and the general stuff. I immediately swapped dodge from X to O because who the hell dodges with “X”! Other settings include adding shortcuts to the touchpad for easy access like Spartan Rage and Shield Strike. You can also completely turn off the HUD.
God of War Ragnarok also looks fantastic. Playing the PS5 version, the game is utter eye candy. The console also offers a range of graphics modes that include:
- Favour Resolution – 4K/30FPS Locked
- Favour Performance – 60 FPS Locked
- Favour Resolution (High Frame Rate On HDMI 2.1 Mode) – 4K/40FPS Locked
- Favour Performance (High Frame Rate On HDMI 2.1 Mode) – Targeting 120 FPS
So that’s all I can share right now about God of War Ragnarok. So far, it is much of the same outside of the story which is okay. I have enjoyed seeing returning characters and missed their great personalities. Kratos is sort of warming up a bit but you never truly know what is going on in his head. I can just tell you that this adventure feels grander than before and so far, it is shaping up to be one for the ages. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel if the wheel was already complete perfection.