God of War Ragnarok players can expect an emotional wallop that's harder than a blow from Kratos' fist. Sony is letting outlets give their impressions of this God of War sequel's first few hours ahead of its Nov. 9 release on PS5. If there's one thing I can say about Ragnarok for sure, it's that it gets to the point quickly.
The game picks up three years after the end of 2018's God of War, giving you a stark reminder of the consequences of Kratos' killing Baldur, a son of Odin. Odin, the Allfather of the Norse gods, has a heavy presence in the game's opening hours. Without revealing too much about the story, I'll say that the first hour is incisive, and developer Sony Santa Monica wants to get you up to speed with minimum fluff. It's also emotional, and I couldn't help thinking about the Pixar movie Up in how so many feelings are experienced so early on.
There's no awkward tutorial attempting to give the impression that Kratos, who was once the actual Greek god of war, had somehow forgotten how to swing his ax, thus requiring some tedious segments establishing what are light and strong attacks. Instead, an on-screen message will remind players which buttons to press for certain attacks as Kratos fights some of the weak enemies not long into the game's story. The early boss battles are just as thrilling as they were in the early parts of God of War, but these fights have greater storyline implications than those in the previous game.
Combat in Ragnarok feels just the same, with a few additions. Kratos can use his Blades of Chaos early in Ragnarok, which is in contrast to receiving them later in the first game. The blades work in tandem with his Leviathan Axe. The ax uses ice magic to deal damage to enemies while the Blades make use of fire, which can remove an enemy's ice protection allowing them to take damage. Outside of battle, both can be used to manipulate the environment and overcome obstacles. Kratos also has a few new moves -- the most impressive I saw involved the use of trees and pillars as giant clubs to beat down enemies.
However, the closed-off areas are a bit tiresome. Like in the previous game, the spaces Kratos travels through are completely linear, with the exception of side areas where chests and other resources can be found with a bit of exploring. It seems a bit off to talk about a major release in 2022 that doesn't have a more open space to play around in. It's not the worst thing, but it does set off feelings of being restrained -- at least this early in the game.
The early hours of God of War Ragnarok draw players back into the world as seamlessly as possible while teasing them with enough new narrative details. Fans of previous God of War will be thrilled to jump into battle but should be prepared to have their emotions pummeled.
God of War Ragnarok goes live on Nov. 9 for $70 on the PS5 and $60 on the PS4.