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God of War Ragnarok may end up being better than the original

The sequel to the smash-hit from 2018 looks to expand on the mythology-altering events of the first game while maintaining its tight and brutal combat.

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God of War Ragnarok is the eagerly anticipated follow-up to 2018’s wildly popular and critically acclaimed reboot of the franchise. In the lead up to the game’s full release on November 9, I had the privilege to spend some time with the game on PlayStation 5, and boy, it’s good to be back.

After booting the game up and reaching the title screen, I was greeted with the option to get a recap of the events of the first game. For those that need a refresher, or players joining in for the first time, it’s a neat opportunity to learn, albeit briefly, about the mythology-changing actions and events that transpired.

Kratos holding the side of Atreus face, they look to be mid conversation

Source: PlayStation

It’s always nice when the timeline of a game somewhat matches that of the real world. It has been four years since God of War graced our PlayStation 4 consoles and it seems as though a similar time has passed for Kratos and Atreus. The boy is no longer a child but a budding teenager, who is – much to the chagrin of Kratos – quickly turning into a young man. It’s immediately evident that the relationship between the two hasn’t changed drastically from the original, with Kratos trying as a single father might to guide his strong-willed son into adulthood, with all the challenges that come with it.

Atreus and Kratos stand talking to Brok at his smithing station, Mimir is seen on Kratos' hip

Source: PlayStation

To that end, the story so far looks to be as gripping and enticing as it was in the original. Part of this is thanks to the performances of the actors as they discuss goals, talk about the past, or try to work out an emotional problem. The other part of why the narrative remains so appealing is the game’s iconic camera work, never cutting away from a character or using some scene transition.

After a call to action, Kratos, Atreus and the smartest man in the world head off on their new adventure. To begin with, God of War Ragnarok introduced a new traversal system in the form of a sled pulled by two giant wolves. But this wasn’t the only new way of moving that I noted. During puzzle platforming sections, Kratos can now use his Blades of Chaos on specific anchor points to haul himself up levels or across gaps.

Kratos standing outside his snow-covered house in Midgard in God of War Ragnarok

Source: PlayStation

During the preview window, I was able to explore some familiar locations like around Kratos’ house and the stone temple right before you fight a troll in the first game. And though they were familiar, the presence of Fimbulwinter meant everything was covered in a thick layer of snow. It was refreshing being back in these locations, but because everything was slightly different, there was an air of mystery and impending danger.

But adventure called and a new location was waiting to be explored. Kratos, Atreus and Mimir hopped on over to the realm of Svartalfheim – an area players didn’t get to explore in the first game. With boiling geysers, rocky formations, crystal clear waters and lush greenery, the area looks downright balmy in comparison to the frigid conditions of Midgard.

Kratos stands at a pier in Svartalfheim, a canoe in clear water with lush trees and a temple in the distance

Source: PlayStation

It’s in Svartalfheim that I got a sense of the scope of God of War Ragnarok. A laundry list of discoverable things filled the map screen, just waiting for me to stumble into them. Though many remained hidden, locked behind some seemingly yet-to-be-earned equipment, I was able to pop open a few Nornir chests, locate dozens of lore scroll and artifacts, and even destroy Odin’s pesky spying ravens. One chest contained part of a key to Muspelheim, which certainly hooked me in, leaving me eager to see what challenges await for me there in the full game.

Sightseeing and collecting items wasn’t the only thing on the agenda, as mentioned, Kratos has a couple of new movements available to him, which come in handy solving the game’s puzzles. At one point during my time in Svartalfheim, I took to mining rigs to try and shut them down. What this involved was using wheels to raise and lower platforms, the Blades of Chaos to pull and turn cranes, and the Leviathan axe to alter the environment by changing or stopping the movement of an object.

Kratos deflects an attack with his shield, Atreus stands ready to fire an arrow at the three attackers

Source: PlayStation

As for the combat, it remains as visceral and brutal as the first. The Leviathan axe bites into flesh with satisfying heft while the Blades of Chaos scorch and sear foes. Even Atreus’ support through his arrows ties in well. There’s also a meaty build system whereby players can change armor, add handles and pommels to weapons improving stats or adding abilities, unlock and upgrade moves, and slot in Runic attacks. Brok and Sindri will also be able to craft and upgrade gear.

From my brief look into the early game in God of War Ragnarok, I was left impressed with the consistency that the team at Santa Monica Studio is able to bring to the game. It’s feeling familiar to the original but also refreshing as Kratos and Atreus set out on a new adventure. If God of War Ragnarok maintains this level of quality and polish to its combat, puzzles, and narrative throughout the whole game, Santa Monica Studio might just be on-track to deliver what many strive to achieve: a sequel that not only stands up to the original, but exceeds it.

Guides Editor

Hailing from the land down under, Sam Chandler brings a bit of the southern hemisphere flair to his work. After bouncing round a few universities, securing a bachelor degree, and entering the video game industry, he's found his new family here at Shacknews as a Guides Editor. There's nothing he loves more than crafting a guide that will help someone. If you need help with a guide, or notice something not quite right, you can Tweet him: @SamuelChandler 

From The Chatty
  • reply
    October 21, 2022 6:00 AM

    Sam Chandler posted a new article, God of War Ragnarok may end up being better than the original

    • reply
      October 21, 2022 6:18 AM

      Is this going to be a real open world game or an on rails with some open world trappings like the last one?

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        October 21, 2022 6:57 AM

        Hopefully on the rails, it’s why I finished the last one.

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          October 21, 2022 7:46 AM

          Agree, I thought it was right balance

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            October 21, 2022 8:29 AM

            +1, I get severe open world game fatigue but it was perfect

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            October 21, 2022 8:30 AM

            Definitely, games built around a story and decent gameplay mechanics (like the combat system here) seem to hold my attention a lot better with semi-open, but still linear, progression.

            Fully open always feels like it's compromising the gameplay for the sake of endless to-do lists.

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              October 21, 2022 11:07 AM

              I get bored of nothing but one combat encounter after another, being able to mix it up with a bit of exploration adds a lot to the experience, and I also like having the freedom to plan out how I want an encounter to go down, which isn’t really possible when it’s on rails.

              I get that lots of folks prefer the on rails approach, though.

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        October 21, 2022 7:47 AM

        hopefully like the last one

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      October 21, 2022 7:50 AM

      Damn, it's going to be a long wait for this on PC.

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        October 21, 2022 8:28 AM

        I know, bummer. I played the first one earlier this year on PC for first time, and it was easily one of my favorite games of last ten years

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          October 21, 2022 10:44 AM

          Yeah, 10/10 masterpiece all the way. The combat does get a bit tiring in GMGOW mode, but great story, crazy action, insane graphics, memorable bosses, just an astounding effort from start to finish. The pinnacle of AAA gaming IMO.

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          October 21, 2022 11:00 AM

          Same! It's in my top ten all time games now. Just incredible.

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          October 21, 2022 12:00 PM

          i'm accustomed to not enjoying widely acclaimed games, but this one makes me think i'm a bit broken. tried and failed to play through it, once on PS4 and then again on PS5.

          it just doesn't click with me for some reason. on paper it's very much my jam, and i can't quite put my finger on it i just loose interest after about 10hrs.

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        October 21, 2022 10:39 AM

        I way prefer the PC controls. :(

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        October 21, 2022 12:03 PM

        I don’t know — it’s also being sold on PS4, so it’s not like they’re using it as a huge carrot to get people to buy the PS5. :/

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        October 21, 2022 12:04 PM

        I'm still holding out for a PS2 release. I just don't see Sony abandoning that hardware so soon.

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        October 21, 2022 12:08 PM

        PS5s are a lot easier to find now, if you use PS Direct. There seem to be a couple of drops per week with several hours of availability.

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