God of War Ragnarok is already showing signs of greatness | Hands-on preview

by on October 21, 2022

After almost six hours with God of War Ragnarok, it probably won’t be a huge surprise to say that already, the second part of Kratos and Atreus’ story is proving to be yet another masterpiece. It’s continuing what the 2018 God of War did so well by introducing small yet significant changes in combat and traversal, paired with a story that is already keeping me hooked as to where it’s going, and visuals that are making the most of the PlayStation 5’s technology in every way possible.

In God of War, Kratos and Atreus made decisions that angered the Gods. It was not their intention, yet doing what needed to be done, Odin, Freya, and Thor are displeased. Not only are they dealing with their wrath, Fimbulwinter has set in, and a great winter has engulfed the nine realms, paving a way to Ragnarok. As grand as the story is, this is and always has been a tale of parenthood and the struggles of raising a child in the wake of a parent’s death, albeit with significantly extreme circumstances surrounding it.

God of War Ragnarok

We watched Atreus grow from being just a boy, and so far, Kratos hasn’t even uttered the word, highlighting just how his son has grown and changed since the first game. Bare in mind this is a completely spoiler free preview, however, it’s very clear that something is going on in the body of the teenager. As always, Kratos is trying to balance protecting him and readying him for battle, doing his best as a father while knowing how to make sure he is prepared for the dangers that lie ahead.

Speaking of dangers, there are lots of enemies in God of War Ragnarok that litter the path to the great war. Soldiers that wield the power of the Bifrost, reptilian savages that rise from the swamps, huge dragon-like beasts that dwell in the water, raiders, draugrs, trolls, and more. I’ve dealt with the dangers of both Midgard and Svartalfheim, and both harbour tough foes that require complete focus to eradicate. Death is a given unless you make full use of your powers, favour your shield to block and parry, and dodge when an enemy launches a barrage of damage towards you.

Your Leviathan Axe is one of your primary weapons. It can be imbued with frost damage for devastating attacks, and once again, it can be launched towards enemies and recalled to deal with creatures in the distance. New abilities can be unlocked with XP, as well as additional permanent boosts to damage and defence, making it an incredible part of your arsenal. The Blades of Chaos are now with you from the beginning, and can also be used to dish out punishment, available for upgrading just like your axe. You can also use a shield for blocking attacks, as well as slamming it into the ground to knock back enemies.

God of War Ragnarok

Atreus uses his bow for additional support, becoming more of an ally to Kratos when in battle. With all the brutality you find yourself engaging in, your weapons play a pivotal role in getting around, solving puzzles, and generally progressing through the realms. The axe can freeze water and lock mechanisms in place like before, but the Blades of Chaos are also a massive part of solving environmental puzzles and getting around now. You can use them to swing from one place to another, yank obstacles out of place, as well as burn blockades of brambles and bushes that stand in your way.

Everything at your disposal serves a purpose, and there’s always something there for you to solve. Atreus can now use an ability to remove glowing teal objects which help both in puzzles and combat. One puzzle had me freezing water to change its flow so it could turn huge water wheels, but I also needed to use Atreus’ ability in tandem with my axe to bring a moving platform into my path so I could swing onto it using the Blades of Chaos, deep in the dwarven mines of Svartalfheim. Everywhere you go in God of War Ragnarok, there’s always a problem to overcome, whether it’s a blocked path or a bunch of enemies to destroy.

Outside of progressing through the story, there are lots of collectables to find, too. Odin’s ravens are flying around the world for you to strike with your axe again; artefacts are hidden everywhere and a brief story supports each one, told by Mimir; chests that can be opened by lighting runic fires nearby; and more. Crafting materials for upgrading your weapons and armour can be found in chests and from fallen foes, along with hacksilver to be spent on upgrading and buying new weapons and armour when visiting Brok and Sindri, and XP in gained when defeating enemies. You can get new abilities that help greatly in the fight, which can be made more powerful by spending hard-earned experience, too.

God of War Ragnarok bow

The writing in God of War Ragnarok so far is excellent. Returning and new characters are all fleshed out, and story beats are just as impactful as before thanks to a great voice cast that deliver their lines with aplomb. I’d already shed a tear within the first 15 minutes, but there’re still plenty of laughs to be had thanks to the wise talking head of Mimir, who does a stunning job of relating just how the player is feeling with intelligent and astute dialogue. It’s also worth pointing out that the environments look stunning, filled with incredible attention to detail. I’ve only seen two realms so far, but already, I’m left in awe of what I’ve seen.

The smooth transitions between cutscenes and gameplay is ever present, and I’ve been caught off guard by knowing what is a playable moment and what isn’t. The grand and bombastic nature of these cutscenes are not only on par with the original, but in certain places so far, they even excelled beyond it. God of War Ragnarok has already given me so much to enjoy through it’s excellent gameplay and engaging story. The writing and acting is brilliant, and the visuals are on another level. I’m still getting used to all the upgrades, rune placements, and abilities, but that’ll come with time. If there was a slither of doubt that this wouldn’t be as good as the original, I’d happily say at this point it would be safe to cast them aside.

God of War Ragnarok is coming to PS4 and PS5 on November 9th, 2022.