After several hours with God of War Ragnarok there are some things we can tell you and much, much more we cannot, but we’ll begin with our overriding sentiment so far: this is why we love PlayStation. The reality is, biased as we may be, no one does it quite like PS Studios. Nintendo may be the kings of gameplay – and, to be clear, Kratos’ sophomore sojourn in Nordic mythology is no slouch in that department either – but the way this sequel is able to draw you in with its characters, world, and just sheer production values is unmatched. We wished we could elaborate further, but let’s just say that one dude with the hammer – crikey almighty, that’s been worth the four year wait!
What can we say, then? Well, the first few hours are good – really good. While the previous God of War was a revelation for the franchise, this is clearly building from the same blueprint. That means you should expect more of the same: Kratos is short-tempered, but nuanced now, with an older Atreus making for an evolved father-and-son relationship that has advanced from the previous game. Rather than opt for a long, drawn-out introduction, Santa Monica Studio very quickly layers in all of the mechanics from the previous game, giving you more than enough time to find firm footing, without the kind of protracted build-up that many sequels adopt.
It looks good – artistically sublime at times – but perhaps not the new-gen PS5 showstopper you’ve been waiting for. Make no mistake, this is a handsome game – assuming you ignore the ugliness of the Raiders you’ll be roasting with the Blades of Chaos – but it feels like a supercharged version of its PS4 predecessor. Of course, before you all scream in unison into the void of the comments section, that’s because it is: you’ll be able to play the entire campaign on Sony’s last-gen system, which is wild when you stop and think about it really. The production values, though, the care and polish that’s been painstakingly invested into each camera transition and close-up – that’s where this is on another level to the kind of single-player campaigns you usually see.
And structurally, it’s impressive, too. The previous God of War was something of an oddity: not quite open world, but not necessarily linear either. The same is true with its sequel: the closest point of comparison we can think of is perhaps pre-Breath of the Wild era The Legend of Zelda, where exploring off the beaten path reaps rewards, but there’s a clear through line, too. Much like the green tunic-garbed hero of Nintendo’s iconic series, the title’s constantly layering in small little puzzles, which tax you for two-to-three minutes, and then are immediately abandoned in favour of something new. The mere act of getting from A-to-B is fun here.
Of course, the melee combat is also exceptional. Santa Monica Studio has gone hard on statistics, so if you weren’t a fan of that in the previous game, prepare yourself: crafting resources, rare materials, and attributes abound. But when push comes to shove, this is a release all about chopping mythical creatures into pieces with a magical axe, and it feels fantastic; there’s tons of combo potential, even in these early exchanges, and the game runs butter smooth at 60fps. We should also stress that the DualSense support has been custom designed for each individual moment in the game, making it another impressive showcase for Sony’s pad.
Needless to say, with the name Ragnarok, the stakes are high – but we’re not allowed to elaborate too deeply on that. One thing we will add, which we believe fits within the boundaries of our embargo, is that the world feels bigger and busier this time. The previous instalment was quite sombre in that its landscape lacked life outside of Kratos and Atreus, but here you’ll even sail into a city, populated by dozens of dwarves, and it feels like an actual place. This gives the world depth, and given events alluded to in the aforementioned subtitle, it helps build a bit of a context around everything that’s taking place.
So, it’s good, then? Well, like we said at the top of this preview, it’s PS Studios at its pomp. While this project may have been an easy bet based on the success of its predecessor, there are very few publishers willing to invest in production values like these. With the industry in a state of flux, as fat cats push for subscriptions and player retention, we’ll say this: savour Ragnarok – it certainly won’t be the last of its kind, like its name implies, but it’s not often that games like this come around.
Are you currently counting down the days to God of War Ragnarok? Will you be grabbing this sequel at launch, or are will you be sitting tight for a future sale? Recall the Leviathan Axe in the comments section below.
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