original opinion of George Yang from Digital Trends in English:
There’s a lot to praise about 2018’s God of War, but one of its best features came from its semi-open world design. Players could traverse Midgar by boat to discover hidden areas, complete side quests, and fight new enemies. The more players progressed, the more areas opened up for Kratos and Atreus to explore.
After playing about seven hours of God of War ragnareitherkthe sequel God of War, I can tell you that Santa Monica Studio has just doubled down on that look. In fact, I’ve done so much side-scrolling so far, that I’ve barely begun his story.
Although much of God of War Ragnarok might look familiar to returning players, exploration is where I’m noticing the most changes so far. It gives me more freedom to tackle secondary objectives closer to the start of the journey, which makes it easier to dive into Kratos’ world before getting into the meat of his adventure.
After some story scenes at the beginning of God of War Ragnarok (which I won’t spoil), we find Kratos and Atreus traveling through the realm of Svartalfheim. Using a boat similar to the ones our protagonists used in the first game to navigate Midgard, I began paddling through different parts of Svartalfheim, rummaging around for optional things to do.
And there is a lot.
One of the side quests I tackled was to close down three separate gates scattered around Svartalfheim, which would lessen the pollution around the realm. Each of the three gantries incorporated hydraulic lifts into their assortment of puzzles. Similar to the first game, Kratos would sometimes have to use his frozen Leviathan ax to hold equipment in place on him with ice while jumping across a large rock.
I also experienced a new puzzle flavor, which had me freeze geysers so that the pressure would cause water to spurt out of another geyser somewhere else. The resulting water would cause the turbine below to move, opening something like a door to the next area.
The puzzles I’ve come across so far are perfectly balanced: not too simple, not too challenging. Admittedly, there were a few times where I got stuck, as it wasn’t always entirely clear what I needed to do to progress through a certain puzzle. In one case, I didn’t realize that my Leviathan ax could also freeze water gushing from pipes. Once I figured that part out, the rest of that particular puzzle fell into place. Sometimes I had to try random things like throwing my weapon at an object to trigger Atreus’ dialogue hints, which gave me a bit of guidance on how to solve the puzzle.
Fortunately, moments like that are helped by the game’s suite of accessibility options. Building on the excellent work you started The Last of Us Part II Y Horizon Forbidden West, God of War Ragnarok has some great tools here. I love the option to have Kratos automatically pick up every item on the ground, including health stones, resources, and loot out of combat. Take something out of the game that I find tedious, and I can make that decision myself.
My favorite accessibility feature in recent Sony games is always the high contrast mode, and that comes back here. In God of War Ragnarok, you can adjust different aspects to which you want to apply contrast. For me, I set the interactive objects in the game to the color blue. So whenever I get stuck on a puzzle, I could more easily figure out what I can interact with to solve it.
In God of War, ship situations were an integral part of the game. Kratos and Atreus had casual conversations about events while sailing. If you had interrupted them by docking on a shore, they would make a mental note to pick up the subject again once you got to the boat again.
I loved hearing more talk between Kratos and Atreus, but Mimir is an early favorite. The God of Wisdom’s vast knowledge of Norse mythology led to some fascinating world-building conversations in the previous game as the crew sailed from location to location, and the same is true here. He is with you from the beginning this time, and the conversations this time are just as fun and entertaining as before.
One of my favorite interactions came when Mimir asked Kratos if he ever considered cooking food with his Blades of Chaos, given that they could be used for something like kitchen knives. Kratos says no as he would ruin the meat and Mimir asks why. Kratos replies with “because of the blood on the blades”, to which Mimir simply replies along the lines of, “Ah, okay, carry on then!”
It’s these little conversations during the downtime between combat and exploration that add so much personality to God of War Ragnarok. There were many points where I avoided docking my ship just so I could let the crew finish their current conversation.
As for the story itself so far, it’s too early to determine how the fateful destruction of the world will play out, RagnareitherK. Atreus has always been curious, and he is even more so this time. He wants to search how to prevent RagnareitherK.
Atreus has grown up a bit now, as evidenced by the fact that his voice is noticeably deeper. It reminds me of the transition between Square Enix’s Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II (Sora’s voice actor, Haley Joel Osment, went through puberty during those first two games.) Atreus also exhibits more maturity, as he doesn’t appear to be as reckless and impetuous as he was in his first outing. Even so, he still has times when he talks back to his father when they have a disagreement, but this time in a calmer tone, if a bit impatient.
Ragnar’s Prophecyeitherk states that a great battle will take place that will cause the death of many Norse gods, and Kratos and Atreus are at the center of it. There is no telling where the story will go God of War Ragnarok. I’ll have to stop my curious walk eventually if I want to find out.
I’m glad that God of War Ragnarok has broadened its horizons earlier than its predecessor, as I’m already finding its exploration to be a bright spot. There are many new puzzle elements, as well as familiar ones from the previous game, such as Nornir chests where Kratos has to ring bells with his ax within a time limit to unlock them. Similarly, the match also opens up early as Kratos has access to both the Leviathan ax and Blades of Chaos near the start this time. The variety of options the game offers at first already makes it feel like a different beast than its predecessor, one that I hope to conquer.
God of War Ragnarok launches November 9 for PS4 and PS5.