God of War Ragnarok was the most-anticipated game this year, perhaps second only to Elden Ring. As both a journalist and a gamer who has been burned by the hype train before, I try not to let my excitement get the best of me. I’ll admit I’ve jumped all aboard for Need For Speed Unbound, but apart from that, I keep my expectations low. Despite this, I’m disappointed by Ragnarok.
It has a lot to live up to. The Norse saga started off strong with both emotional contemplation and a bombastic fight with Baldur. I didn’t love the new gameplay as much as others did, but by the end of the game I had come to enjoy it. The axe has a cumbersome weight that only someone as strong as Kratos could handle, and seeing him don the Blades of Chaos again was a poignant moment, so good it made the wait worthwhile. I still missed the frenetic combos of the earlier games, but I accepted that the agile Ghost of Sparta was gone, I had to get to grips with an older, more measured god.
So far, Ragnarok isn’t stacking up. The brawl with Thor didn’t live up to Baldur’s mysterious entrance, and it’s more of a walking and talking sim than an action puzzle game. My first few hours with it have been made up of meandering or rowing somewhere, encountering an obstacle, having Atreus and Mimir tell me how to solve a puzzle, fighting some dull enemies, and then continuing on my way. In the beats between skirmishes and brain teasers, during the long walks, the characters chat.
It’s clear these long boat rides are long precisely so that there’s time for the character development God of War 2018 was so highly praised for, but when everything in between feels like filler, I’d rather be watching the movie version. The only thing I’m playing for right now is these moments, but everything else isn’t doing it for me. It doesn’t help that Kratos’ idle animation is just plain weird, and I see it so often during the conversations that aren’t cutscenes but also don’t let you move about that much. He just stands there with his shoulders rising and falling slowly while his arms rest ever so slightly too far away from his body. It makes me very aware I’m playing a game.
The whole unbroken shot gimmick is wearing thin on me too. There’s so much editing can creatively do for audio visual media and it’s being abandoned for the sake of what? Keeping me immersed? If this was a game possible to beat in one play session then it’d have its merits, but I break the shot every time I put down my controller. I’d much rather have some interesting cinematography than be right up against Kratos’ back all the time. Although his traps are very nice.
This issue is compounded by the Norse saga’s lack of spectacular boss battles. The Greek era opened with a Hydra fight, saw you dueling with a giant Ares outside of Athens, had Kratos ripping open Titans in Tartarus, and travelling through time. Climbing Mount Olympus and fending off Poseidon's attacks while riding Gaia was phenomenal, and nothing in the Norse saga has compared. I understand this is a more intimate story, but it’s coming at the cost of everything else.
To put it bluntly, I’m bored. I want to be excited for Ragnarok, but every time I play I’m just collecting crafting materials and money so I can upgrade my gear to make numbers bigger. The Greek games had an upgrade system but you earned the orbs needed to make weapons stronger by stringing together long combos. There’s nothing enticing me to make the fights more stylish, the camera is limited by its own self-imposed rules, and the moment-to-moment gameplay is mind-numbingly uninspired. We all know Tyr is in the game thanks to the trailers, so even the opening main quest missions lack any sort of tension. I’m hoping the game picks up soon, but if its predecessor is anything to go by, all I’ve got to look forward to are a couple of fights with Thor and far too many trolls.
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