God of War Ragnarok doesn’t dethrone the pantheon because it doesn’t have to be | preview

2018’s God of War wasn’t just a reboot of a popular series, it was a fresh reinvention that turned a gruff thug into a story with emotional resonance, and established Sony’s first party as the creative force that made it happen in the world of to beat applies to blockbuster games.

God of War Ragnarok doesn’t have the luxury of coming out on PS5 with a new look, a new perspective (both gameplay and story-wise) and a new world to build. But while it’s remarkably similar to the last game, given its undeniable brilliance, that’s hardly a bad thing, is it?

At the start of God of War Ragnarok I was a bit apprehensive. Before it’s really had time to reestablish its characters, setting, and scenario, it’s already not so much tugging at hearts as tugging at your arteries with the Chains of Olympus. If the whole game were laying it on that big we’d get lost in the nine realms of melodrama, but luckily Ragnarok quickly finds his footing and engages in the tonal ping-pong of a contemplative coming-of-age story that explores human relationships with a dark fringe that also takes regular breaks to bash monsters with a giant ax until their heads fall off. That’s how video games are.

God of War Ragnarok is a very direct sequel to 2018’s God of War, dealing with the aftermath of the final game and the conflicts that arose from the revelations at its peak, and developing the arcs of existing characters throughout it also introduce new ones.

Early in the game, it’s all wrapped up in the familiar package of well-balanced, barbaric combat that’s easy to pick up on, but demanding enough in terms of reflexes and combo inputs to be as challenging as you’d like.

Also, the sound and visual design are as great as ever. It’s become cliché to talk about the “weight” of combat, but the audio tricks and artful slowing down of the action to maximize skin-to-skin spanking and ax-to-bone crunching grab every drop Pump out the adrenaline and masterfully ensure you make it Eyes are always front and center in every fight. And of course, all of this is played from that over-the-shoulder perspective that feels like lugging a fully loaded backpack down a flight of stairs – pounding but safe.

Kratos and Thor fight each other in God of War Ragnarok

The main problem with God of War Ragnarok, however, is that the bar is set so high that it’s very easy to take some of its best elements for granted. A few times I’ve found myself hurtling through the lush, detailed environments without really appreciating their scale and ambience as I hop from one monster closet to the next. This is a sprawling retelling of Norse mythology with plenty of impressive lighting. Perhaps it’s thanks to the game that the fantasy world around you doesn’t catch the suspension of disbelief.

But it’s the same with the set pieces, whether they’re amazingly large or intimate and gruesome. They come so thick and fast you’re almost spoiled. Delivering consistently on this front is unmistakably Ragnarok’s credit, though, and surely there are still some surprises lurking to take things to the next level as the stakes rise. God of War Ragnarok doesn’t dethrone the pantheon because it doesn’t have to be | preview

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