In hindsight, God of War Ragnarok should have been much better

Avec le recul, God of War Ragnarok aurait dû être bien meilleur

As more and more PlayStation exclusives become available on PC and other consoles, God of War Ragnarok remains one of the last bastions of Sony's gaming quality this generation. This long-awaited sequel delivers the thrills, violence, and story intensity that fans have come to expect from this new chapter in the God of War saga. Or is this the case?

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I don't want to give the impression that God of War Ragnarok didn't live up to the hype it generated – and I can't even pretend that Kratos' latest Asgardian escapade qualifies as a “ bad game”. What I mean is that the game was released almost a year ago now, which means the recency bias is starting to fade.

If we look in depth and objectively at what made the reboot of the God of War software such a unique gaming experience, we see that most of the things that Santa Monica Studio achieved in this game are more or less absent from God of War Ragnarok. There's a reason why most gamers remember the PlayStation 4 title better than the last one, and it has nothing to do with the PlayStation 5's infamous rarity.

man of peace

One of the complaints that fans of the original God of War trilogy frequently level with the direction of the new saga concerns the narrower focus of the story. While Kratos was used to fighting literal deities and colossal foes in big-budget settings, the new God of War and Ragnarok have made things much more personal.

It's a divisive view, but it seems Ragnarök took this approach a little too far. Although the game looks bigger and has a more nuanced plot than its predecessor, the story feels too rushed at times. The whole “Ragnarok” portion of the game feels like a natural conclusion to this storyline that should have happened at the end of a new trilogy – not something that should have happened in the second game.

The result is a story that sets high stakes for everyone involved, but never lives up to what's expected of it. Sure, players can see – and sometimes mutilate – the rest of the Asgardian pantheon, but it lacks the narrative development we've come to expect from the series.

Kratos has changed, it's true. Today, he is a more serene man than he has ever been. There's barely any trace of the Ghost of Sparta, which means the story would have to more or less redeem him – which isn't easy, given that most of Kratos' past is so blood-soaked that no one could ever read it.

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Better fights, worse fights

The adoption of a more Souls-like combat scheme in 2018's God of War made the game feel like a more modern, decidedly cinematic take on the series' formula. Gone are the days of Kratos furiously pressing buttons to perform a variety of dazzling combos and the distant camera angles that made games look like a diorama rather than a movie.

God of War was now more visceral and more personal in every encounter, even if it came at the expense of spectacle. As this was the first time the series implemented this new approach to combat, some details had to be ironed out before the game felt right.

God of War Ragnarok has improved virtually every aspect of God of War's combat. The variety of weapons and combos themselves are now much more varied, allowing players to benefit from even greater power. However, what good is enhanced combat if there's nothing good to beat in the game?

Most players agree that the Thor fight is the best part of the game. Even the developers seem to think the same thing, given that this particular fight has been the focus of the game's publicity. There is however one problem with this epic fight: it takes place way too early in the story.

While the fact that the first confrontation with Thor takes place so early in the game can be a good thing to keep you hooked for what comes next, it can certainly be a double-edged sword when you realize that the game is reaching its climax at the around the first hour of play.

This has the same implications as what happened with the game's plot: God of War Ragnarok sets up the elements of an epic adventure, but never delivers on its promises.

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A confusing rhythm

God of War Ragnarok should have been much better

Once again, God of War Ragnarok improves on the basics of its predecessor, but fails to understand what those basics mean in the first place. At the time of its release, critics loved the storytelling of the new God of War: the game follows Kratos in what appears to be one long, continuous shot, making the player feel even more invested in the plot and characters.

God of War Ragnarok maintains the same camera technique, but the gameplay isn't really in sync with the narrative. While in the first game Kratos moved from one scene to the next at a relatively brisk pace, God of War Ragnarok introduces even more puzzles and tasks for the player, which detracts from the sense of urgency that the The plot seems to want to arouse.

Of course, having Mimir, Atreus, and sometimes Ratatoskr help you solve each puzzle can alleviate these problems somewhat, but at this point one can't help but wonder what the point was in having puzzles if the game was going to give players the answers right away?

When you combine these poorly designed puzzles with the lack of enemy variety introduced in 2018's God of War, the result is a disappointing and forgettable experience that never reaches the heights its predecessor set for the future of the franchise .

Now that the Norse chapter of the God of War saga seems to be over, we can't help but wonder if God of War Ragnarök wasn't too greedy. Such a disappointing ending for one of gaming's most memorable characters seems borderline criminal, but it appears to be Kratos' fate at the end of the game.

God of War Ragnarok may never be as influential as its predecessor, but that doesn't mean the series is over. If Santa Monica Studio was able to rebuild the franchise and revitalize it after God of War Judgment, then there is still hope after Ragnarök.

Considering the game still looks great – and remains one of the last true exclusives on the PlayStation 5 – any fan of the series owes it to themselves to play this game. But don't expect the same adrenaline rush you felt playing God of War in 2018.

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