God of War Ragnarok is shaping up to be something special. I've been lucky enough to have spent some time with the highly anticipated sequel that will continue Kratos and Atreus' journey into Norse mythology, and frankly, it's looking like everything I hoped it would be.
Warning: spoilers for God of War (2018) and some minor spoilers for the opening hours of God of War Ragnarok
Naturally, I'm restricted from saying too much from my first six hours with the game, so don't worry about any major spoilers. What I can say is that this is a Kratos who has seemingly learned from the mistakes of his past, one that is more considerate of his son and one that looks to avoid war at all costs. The Ghost of Sparta speaks candidly to Atreus, unafraid to show feeling and put an arm around his boy. He's still loveably grumpy but that wall keeping the two apart has firmly been broken down.
I must say, I'm extremely impressed. Just the opening hour alone is a rollercoaster, catapulting the player straight into the action with a thrilling encounter on a snow sledge as Freya attempts to murder Kratos for the death of her son, Baldur. Amongst this, it still makes room for those quieter moments, such as Atreus spending time with his wolves, Speki and Svanna. There's just a quicker pace to the opening when compared to the 2018 release.
Atreus, now three years older than when we last left off, is curious to find answers about Loki and why as gods, the pair cannot take the battle to Odin, Thor and Asgard. There are both heartfelt moments between the father and son – one that had me tearing up barely 30 minutes into the adventure – as well as disagreements about their next move. "Nature will take its course," Kratos states. It's clearly the heart of this story, as the former warrior looks to teach Atreus to not repeat the same cycle of war he engaged in.
One thing that I already love more than its predecessor is the constant presence of Mimir. Having the "Smartest Man Alive" by your side from the beginning is a treat, providing some true belly laughs. The dynamic between Kratos and Mimir is stellar, one that has clearly grown over time, even considered brotherly. Kratos now speaks to Mimir in a way you couldn't imagine upon their first meeting.
With that, everyone's favourite shopkeepers, Brok and Sindri, return with the latter's house now used as the main hub. Located between realms within the World Tree, here players stock up and plot out their next move. It's not exactly the freedom Midgar (which is locked due to Odin sealing all realms) offered, so I'm curious as to whether a bigger open land will open later, or if visiting all nine realms for smaller hubs will be the replacement instead. We will see.
God of War Ragnarok is gorgeous. That shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that played the first game, yet it still blows me away. The snowfall, the use of lightning, the simple things like sunlight and shadows, every vista could be a painting. It's an interesting contrast visiting the dwarven realm of Svartalfheim, immediately hitting you upon entry with its sandy colours and occasional pops of greenery. Just the water alone appears more translucent, potentially something learned from Guerrilla Games and Horizon Forbidden West. Either way, Sony Santa Monica is clearly utilising the PS5 hardware to its max and is an obvious technical showpiece for the console.
The same can be said for the PS5 DualSense controller. Everyone remembers that powerful feeling of calling back the Leviathon Axe, now it's enhanced thanks to the haptic feedback. It slams into your hand like catching a baseball. It takes full advantage of the tension grips as well, feeling the force as Kratos chops down a tree.
My biggest takeaway from God of War Ragnarok so far is one of progression. It's slicker, faster and its attention to detail is second to none. I feel I've faced at least a dozen different enemies in such a short span of time, all requiring a mix of the Leviathan Axe and Blades of Chaos.
There's one side-mission that I'm unable to talk about that I needed to complete there and then. I couldn't focus on the main story, this took my priority. It's these things that make a game great. This is a world that I want to get lost in, learn about the lore and one that looks to deliver as a worthy sequel.
God of War Ragnarok is scheduled to launch across PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4 on November 9th, 2022.
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