Describing the power and impact of the God of War reboot, which took place in 2018 under the careful guidance of Cory Barlog is, even today, a daunting task. One could speak, for example, of what happened the emotional impact of the game on the audience and, more particularly, on the fans, but it would be wasted (digital) ink, because that is an aspect that, ultimately, it hardly exceeds the bounds of personal appreciation, although the game was rightly considered a masterpiece.
We could then talk how much God of War has been a very different tale than in the past of the series and how much, in fact, it evokes and materializes the fears and, perhaps, the hopes of its director at the time of development. A man, Cory Barlog, who, like Kratos, she was facing the doubts and burden of parenthood, perhaps with the fear of not being adequate, or ready. We could, but then it would matter only to a few… perhaps very few of the more informed players.
Let's say, then, that God of War, in its Norse incarnation of 2018, has had an important impact because, first of all, in addition to being a powerful and granite game, it is also one of the most successful examples of how "one looks ahead" or, if you want, of "how to reboot", in a sector that is increasingly anchored to the backfire, to the remake, and to the remasterings sold with great fanfare and at full price. And indeed the strength of him is there, in being yes a sequel to the glorious story of Kratos, but also something completely different, which had as its only trait d'union a certain taste for mythology and, last but not least, violence. But that, is nothing more.
Nothing, in my memory, is in fact similar to that God of War. There is no reboot that has done the same, that is, that has taken the old, effectively putting it at the service of the new, but reconfiguring as much as possible so that it is, to all intents and purposes, something new. Come to think of it, only Resident Evil 4 came close, but the result was not the same, because the game, in fact, was not able to communicate anything different from any other chapter, but this is perhaps another story.
Making everything work, starting from the plot, up to, of course, the smallest gameplay refinements, it was an immense, titanic job that required an enormous sacrifice from the development team and, in some ways, perhaps so significant as to have somehow influenced God of War Ragnarok, starting from Barlog's absence as director who, with this sequel, has occupied the more secluded position of Producer.
But then, without the “father of the 2018 revolution” what's left of God of War? What it is, how it is and, above all, what does Ragnarok represent? Obviously we can't tell you now, even if we would very much like to, but in agreement with Sony we are free to tell you a little about the first impressions that hit us when starting the game, received well (and never too welcome) in advance and on which, we tell you right away, we will impose many stakes, especially narrative ones, postponing any definitive judgment to next November 3rd, when, finally, we will be able to go into more detail about God Of War Ragnarok.
The new journey
Therefore, it is clear that it is not possible for us to tell you anything, at least at the moment, about the plot of God Of War Ragnarok, we will limit ourselves to telling you the bare essentials, without spoilers, and using as a basis what are the information that anyone can deduce from the various trailers published by Sony for the game.
The center of the story, of course, it is the approach of Ragnarok on the Nine Realms, or what is the end of everything, an Armageddon, as foretold in the prophecies of the northern myth and to which, as we discovered at the end of the last chapter, precedes Fimbulwinter, or a sort of eternal winter, which has covered the world with ice, causing quite a few problems.
The elapsed time from the previous game, to now, it is undefined, but we know that enough has passed for Atreus to grow up who, as a kid that he was, he is now a teenager, not only stronger and taller, but also driven by a new will, with thoughts that, although children of the paternal inheritance, they are now inexorably directed towards something different. Because Atreus has grown up and willy-nilly this will still have consequences.
The story of God Of War Ragnarok, therefore, starts once again from the edge of the house of the two, or that forest in the center of which is the house built by Kratos, and in which father and son live an existence, after all , placid and detached, given the Spartan's will to meddle no more with the worries and skirmishes of the northern gods, especially after they had forced him to take up arms again to collide with some of them. Other gods, sure, but gods nonetheless: lascivious, biting, unreliable, and violent.
Gods from which Kratos, apparently, will try again to detach, although aware that by now both he and Atreus, or Loki if you prefer, are watched over by the vigilant gaze of the Vanir, who perhaps crave revenge for what happened during the first journey between father and son when, following the advent of Baldur, the ax of war involuntarily fell upon the Spartan.
This peace, this gentle expectation of the end of the world, however, it will end up being quickly broken. Thanks to a climax of events which, without saying too much, will lead the duo of heroes/protagonists to embark on a new journey which, as told by various information disseminated directly by Sony, will bring up the search for Tyr, the Norse god of war already seen in trailers, believed dead by all, but probably just hidden from the world for some as yet unknown reason.
Our research will start from here which, inevitably, will lead us to wander again through the Nine Realms in which existence is divided, starting not so much from Midgar, or the land of men in which Kratos and Atreus themselves have their home, but from an unprecedented place and, for today, only talked about in the course of the saga, or Svartalfheim, marshy domain of the dwarves, largely gathered under the banner of the capital of Nidavellir.
Here we stop, aware that I have not said more than you could understand from the trailers, it is enough for you to know that God of War Ragnarok has not lost what was its enamel, at least the one inherited from the management of Cory Barlog in the weaving of the loving but conflicted relationship between Kratos and Atreus. Already from the first hours, in fact, one can glimpse what could be the most important and intuitive themes of the work, not least the maturation of the relationship between father and son, with the latter who, having discovered that he is not only a god, but also a giant, he quivers in the need to define his own nature and purpose, torn as he is between being Atreus, son of Kratos, and Loki, son of Laufey.
A path that, up to now, leaves us alone with a lot of curiosity, and with the desire to understand whether or not Ragnarok will be able to keep the quality of his narration at the right level since, at least in the opinion of the writer, the work done with the previous chapter was not only commendable, but also necessary , to give Kratos that new and rediscovered identity that made him, to all intents and purposes, a character with a more defined three-dimensionality, very far from that ferocious, and often senseless, war machine of its origins.
The first impact
As mentioned, therefore, already during the very first hours spent together with God Of War Ragnarok, we got to visit the first realm available, as well as the first unpublished of this new episode, or the splendid Svartalfheim, home of the dwarves and, therefore, also the realm of origin of Brok and Sindri. The impact with the game world is wonderful and, in some ways, the fear deriving from the premises of the plot which, as you know, foresees that Fimbulwinter has struck all the Kingdoms, a long and cold winter that originated with the death of Baldur, right at the end of the events of the previous chapter.
The fear was that the harsh and unstoppable winter, and especially the snow, somehow break the wonderful variation of environments, themes and architectures that had characterized the 2018 chapter, smoothing out the entire aesthetic under an icy, white and unforgiving mantle. As you may have noticed from the trailer, however, Svartalfheim is somehow still sunny and lush, and it is indeed largely dominated by a vast swamp which, armed with our trusty canoe, we will be able to explore on a series of routes that are long, but quite linear and with few variations.
In fact, the very linearity it is perhaps the thing that has left us most perplexed at this juncture. Although even the 2018 title was, in the end, a game with few variations, if not for the Lake of the Nine Kingdoms area which, acting as a HUB, also allowed for a good exploration, in this chapter the first impact is with Svartalfheim, a beautiful area to see, but also very linear, even net of the exploration with the canoe which, for the moment, has forced us to proceed straight ahead with very few digressions.
Now it is obvious that it is not possible to establish the trend of an entire game from the first few hours alone, also because the same chapter of 2018, especially at the beginning, was proposed as a game set up on a long track, up to the discovery of the lake, however the first impact was so beautiful from an aesthetic and playful point of view, how alienating from the point of view of exploration, and controlling the now famous canoe without being able to go far and wide left us, in fact, a bit disappointed.
Filed this perplexity which, we repeat, is the result of a few hours of play (too few for a definitive opinion) let's go back to the kingdom of the Dwarves, whose village, the aforementioned Nidavellir, always glimpsed in the trailer, will, in fact, be the very first place we will visit in the game and from which, as you can imagine, the track will open that will lead us along the events of the entire title. Here, the impression is absolutely positive, and a few quick glances around already suggest what future backtracking will be like, when all skills are unlocked, and exploration will certainly be freer and more rewarding.
Halfway between steampunk and medieval-fantasy, Nidavellir is a warm and wonderful place, characterized by tons of details that testify to its still present life, and some moments of everyday life. A girlfriend for God of War Ragnarok (or rather for the entire franchise), whose deadly character is often expressed also in the creation of its places, always empty and deprived of life, without any luxuriance and often reduced to ruins. Here things are very different, and although there are monsters sprouting from everywhere, the general impression is that of a new and fascinating place, under the surface of which, certainly, who knows how many stories and even more secrets are hidden.
Secrets that, as you will understand, we are preparing to reveal, on the trail of Tyr and his hiding place, even if we can't, and don't want to, tell you more. Suffice it to say that the impact was absolutely positive and that, albeit in its momentary linearity, God Of War Ragnarok has brought us interesting and new game design solutions, almost going against the trend of the previous chapter in which, as you will remember, there was a certain shortage of environmental puzzles, also from the point of view of exploration.
Sharpen your eyesight, sharpen your wits
The impression, at this juncture, is that we have come very close to the older chapters of the series, in which there was a certain (pleasant) balance between fights and puzzles, all surrounded by a good exploration of the environments which, obviously, had already been greatly expanded with the 2018 concept, apparently inherited here.
Kratos Weapons, trusty Leviathan and the mighty Blades of Chaos (now an integral part of the equipment), already from the first moments of the game, they show greater centrality in solving environmental puzzles, which are not bound exclusively to hitting distant objects to activate switches (just to propose a basic option of the previous game), but also allow a certain "elemental" interaction, according to the principle that regulates the weapons themselves: the Leviathan generates ice, and therefore freezes, Blades of Chaos generate fire and therefore they can burn.
Already in the first kingdom present in God Of War Ragnarok, we immediately witness the first puzzles based on this principle which, undoubtedly, they made some situations not only more interesting but also more participatory on the part of the player, who now has to go back to thinking a little about what he's doing, sometimes carefully investigating the environment even experimenting with solutions, given that certain puzzles, such as those based on freezing water, have some types of approach that do not automatically lead to the solution.
We intentionally want to remain vague, but it is enough for you to know that, in God Of War Ragnarok, there is greater attention in the construction of environmental puzzles which, although intrinsically based on simple mechanics, strive to never be trivial, while never proving to be really difficult or, in any case, too complex. We are on that level which mixes, in a satisfying way, accessibility and ingenuity, a standard that turned out to be the winning matrix of many old episodes of God of War and which, as "hindsight" suggests, was perhaps a little lost with the 2018 chapter.
God Of War Ragnarok between ice and fire
Of course, if we're talking about axes and blades, one can only speak of battles, which also in God of War Ragnarok are a fundamental component, if not quite the beating heart of the work. Violence, we say it right away, is there. She's here, she's visceral and vivid, bubbling like lava under every blow from Kratos, making enemies feel full strength and heaviness in her. In these terms, the most pleasant observation is immediate is to grab the pad, and of immediately feel comfortable with the combat system, whose formula and approach are perfectly in continuity with the past.
Net of this feeling, so pleasant and, in some ways, desirable, however, it is clear how much Santa Monica has worked hard to include variations in the gameplay that enliven the clashes, making the overall experience certainly similar, but still different from the previous chapter, and perhaps even more technical and engaging than in the past.
At present we cannot tell you too much, but it is enough to know that, first of all, Kratos' two weapons now have the possibility of being instantly charged with their elemental power, by holding down the Triangle key, thus allowing the use of new abilities, as well as more powerful blows.
If the Leviathan ax, all in all, does not offer a really significant change to the moveset, since loaded or not, it leaves little room for imagination compared to the previous chapter; the Blades of Chaos, on the other hand, now have a new and newfound vigor, since it is possible to use them to grab an enemy by instantly bringing him closer to us, or hook him to leave him in his place, but unloading a fast and devastating flame on him.
The general feeling is that more interaction between the two weapons is required, unlike the previous chapter where, after all, the use between the two was roughly limited to the type of enemies present on the battlefield. Here, however, the gameplay seems to constantly entice you to switch, so as to maintain control over the battlefields which, often, are very pleasantly crowded with enemies large and small, some even very elusive.
The shield has also been completely overhauled, so that it is now not only a freely equippable item in two different varieties, but he can also deliver a guard breaking blow by quickly pressing the parry key which, in certain circumstances, can even interrupt an enemy attack, as well as parry in a classic way or in a parry version. An addition that seems, all things considered, very modest, but once mastered adds a certain depth to an already very refined and technical combat system, in which the fluency of the player is always put to the test, and this from the very first lines.
Atreus' mobility and support in battle have also been completely overhauled. And even if the command to the character, run by AI, always remains bound to the Square key, with which he can be asked to shoot arrows, the young man, now a teenager, is clearly more active and participatory, and is no longer limited to blocking or poking enemies, but deals with them with a certain autonomy.
The first impact is that of a combat system with which you find yourself immediately at ease but which, invariably, offers variations, all perfectly understandable by the player who, in a nutshell, he just has to learn to manage the new times of the struggle, now more dynamic and, for this reason, even more exciting and captivating, so much so that it is often rightly demanding although, up to now, never really punitive.
The equipment system remains intact, and with few variations, which, at least in these first few hours, seemed to us very similar to the one already appreciated in the previous chapter. There was obviously no space to delve into the matter accurately, also because God of War was and remains, as for the 2018 release, a greedy title anyway. in which equippable items are granted to the player with a dropper, or in any case after a good search for boxes and related puzzles.
In summary, for now, however, we can tell you that the level up function remained the same, with Kratos' equipment items effectively setting the character's level. Then there are the experience points, which are reserved for unlocking skills from the appropriate skill trees, one for each weapon including, of course, Atreus' bow. The initial impression is that the number of skills is roughly close to the past, even if there is a lot of empty space on the various boards, and it is plausible that new skills will be unlocked in the course of the game, initially not even mentioned on the menu, making the compendium of options even more varied and satisfying.
In any case, it seems that the will is to make obtaining them less hurried and more reasoned, given that the cost of many skills has risen a lot compared to the 2018 game and, this, probably, it serves to not make the player's life too simple something that, if you think about it, did not happen with the previous title where, having reached level 7, if the challenges of the Valkyries were excluded, it was possible to serenely unlock every available skill, transforming into a bearded steamroller.
We will see, as the game progresses, whether or not this apparent balance will bear fruit but, in the meantime, we would say that there are no significant changes.
The eye catcher
From a technical point of view, God of War Ragnarok is lavish, as the previous chapter was already sumptuous, but it shows that the arrival of PS5, in some way, rightly pushed the development team to give it their all, making what was an already impressive technical sector, even more impressive.
The models are detailed, massive, and exude obsessive attention. Even Mimir, all in all not very subject to variations given the absence of a body or clothing, it has a more realistic and defined look, so much so that the details are pleasantly appreciated. The faces are more refined and refined, and it is evident, for example, how it is wanted to highlight the passing of the years and the suffering on some faces, not least that of Kratos, who actually looks older and "wrinkled", although still titanic in his stage presence.
However, the game environments are the masters, which are always, and in some way, characterized by a strong visual and emotional impact. Whether it's the ice that cloaks Midgard, a cavern hidden who knows where, and partially illuminated by light, or the simple, yet refined, beauty of the city of Nidavellir, God of War Ragnarok seems intent on impressing at every turn, at every glimpse, at every corner behind which we cast our gaze.
The summa, which above all differentiates this title from the previous one, it is obtained thanks to small but ingenious tricks, designed to enrich the visual space, filling the view with moving objects, such as swinging branches caused by the wind, little critters who climb walls and ceilings, or that disappear in the sand when we get close, and dynamic light effects that move the shadows and sometimes make the game environment "vibrate". They are, precisely, contour details, but generously and continuously present, even in the most barren landscape and which, up to now, have offered us an incomparable visual richness. A work that, in scale, we dare compare to the florid and extensive magnificence of the work packaged by Guerrilla for his Horizon Forbidden West.
Having said that, we know that, in principle, accounts with the technical sector will have to be done in the end, both because it is only by playing that we will be able to see the most complex and sumptuous views, and because the code currently in our possession is without the day one patch which, according to the team, should further improve the overall experience, in addition to probably solving some bugs.
For now we tell you that God of War Ragnarok is a massive, beautiful and fulfilling title, clean and free from major blemishes, capable of offering a solid experience without framerate drops, while choosing, among the various options, the one that rewards the visual rendering over the speed of the game. So beautiful that it seems to have no equal in the current console production. So damn good that one wonders where one could have gone without the "limits" of cross-gen development.
My first doubts about God Of War Ragnarok
We have said a lot, perhaps too much for an article like this which, after all, should only present our first impressions. The point is that first impressions are many and, thanks to Sony's veto, with a particularly wide sleeve, aWe have already been able to play for quite a few hours before having to impose a stop to the contents that we can tell you about in this article.
Very clear that this is in no way a final judgment, it must be said that these were precious and beautiful hours which, at least at the moment, they have already repaid us for the long wait between this game and its predecessor but in which, for the record, some doubts have also arisen.
The first and fundamental is that of the game action. Ragnarok, in fact, although it seems more balanced than its predecessor in terms of the relationship between action/exploration and puzzles, however, it is a very derivative title which, despite all the precautions, offers a feeling in full continuity with the previous chapter. However, as you will remember, the team promised us a long game, perhaps a very long one which, it seems, could even be divided into two separate games. The point is: will we feel the weight? This God of War, apparently "bigger" compared to the previous one, will also be "better", or will show the side to a certain repetitiveness, in what is gameplay, for many, already widely chewed and digested?
It is impossible to say now, and we just have to hope that the game, at least later on, introduces the right number of opportunities and variations, at least to avoid the specter of repetitiveness of the fights which, if we avoid any technicality, are in any case completely identical to what was appreciated in the 2018 episode. Or so any button masher would interpret them.
The last doubt, which haunts us, is the one relating to the plot. The previous God of War was a personal, almost authorial title, born from the need of its Director to face, moreover through a character not inclined to the theme, the story of parenthood and this, regardless of the goodness of the gameplay, had made the game a memorable title, completely reversing the idea that the player could have about Kratos, but also about what a game like God of War could say or tell.
Now that Barlog is far away, what will God Of War Ragnarok tell us? Will he be able to break down the barrier of narrative more of the same? Or maybe he will offer us a completely new and unpublished story? For now we can only postpone the sentence to posterity, hoping that this journey, this icy, awaited and splendid journey, will live the conclusion it most deserves, consecrating the saga in the Olympus of greatness: the one that suits the new way of describing video games, or that trace of maturation, not only artistic, but also narrative which, especially at Sony, has already pleasantly marked many titles and various sequels, as we have learned from masterpieces such as Uncharted 4 and, above all, the intimate and shocking The Last of Us 2.