God of War Ragnarok packs more drama and emotion into its first 10 minutes than some games do in their entirety.
We can’t exactly say why, because spoilers. But just let it be known that it opens with one hell of a dramatic action scene, before quickly moving to pull on your heartstrings. After that, God of War Ragnarok wastes no time in developing its story and getting you into the thick of the action. Put it this way: we’ve only played for four or so hours so far, but it’s been utterly enthralling and exciting every step of the way.
Picking up some time after the last game left off, God of War Ragnarok doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. If you’ve played its predecessor – which you really should have, though there is a story recap accessible via the main menu if you’re jumping straight into this one – you’ll settle right into its gameplay without a hitch. Kratos controls just how you remember, and he comes equipped with his Leviathan Axe straight off the bat, before quickly gaining access to the Blades of Chaos, too.
There are a number of differences that make God of War Ragnarok already feel more enjoyable to play in its opening hours, however. For one, Kratos feels a little bit faster and more manoeuvrable, giving an increased pace to traversal and combat that’s exhilarating. New attacks have been added that make combat more seamless, too. Kratos can run off ledges and strike enemies as he lands, for example, or attack after swinging over a crevice. The fact that you can use the environment in this way makes combat encounters feel more dynamic.
Another change is that making use of elements is more important than ever. Kratos can momentarily imbue the Leviathan Axe and Blades of Chaos with their respective element – ice and fire – in order to perform special attacks that cause more damage, especially to enemies that are weak against them. In fact, you’re coerced to use your weapons more effectively in general. From solving puzzles to opening up enemies for attack, they both have a range of uses, and we’re excited to see what else God of War Ragnarok has in store for us later on.
Ultimately, this is God of War, but simply bigger and better. Despite playing for mere hours, we’ve already traipsed through a wide variety of environments, ranging from a dry, arid desert to an ornate dwarven town. We’ve also battled against an impressive range of enemies, had our brains taxed by devious puzzles, and been given plenty of opportunity to explore. God of War Ragnarok certainly gives you more freedom from the get-go, with environments full of chests to be plundered, side quests to be completed, and enemies to be pulverised.
One area in which God of War Ragnarok is dramatically improved is its miniboss variety. Believe it or not, despite fighting around a handful of minibosses so far, none of them have been giant trolls. We’ll not mention what we’ve fought because we don’t want to spoil the fun for you, but every major encounter has been an absolute blast, challenging our combat abilities before letting us be wowed with the inventive ways that Kratos and Atreus finish them off.
As you’d expect, playing the PS5 version of God of War Ragnarok for preview, we’ve been absolutely floored by its visuals. Somehow the brilliant character models of the first God of War have been made more lifelike, while the environments are dramatically improved, which is particularly impressive given their increased size. They’re busier and more atmospheric – the level of detail on offer is phenomenal. And it doesn’t come at the expense of performance.
Both Performance and Resolution graphics modes are on offer, with a separate toggle to unlock the framerate on certain displays. We’ve been playing in Resolution mode with the High Frame Rate option enabled. The result so far has been a flawless experience with crisp, stunning visuals as well as fluid movement and responsive controls. It’s fantastic.
If we had to use one word to describe our time with God of War Ragnarok so far, it would have to be this: incredible. We played through the preview portion of the game in one sitting, our eyes glued to the screen the whole time. We were completely oblivious to the hours passing us by. Needless to say, we’re very excited to jump back in and continue Kratos and Atreus’ adventure. Its story has very firmly got its hooks in us, and we can’t wait to engage in more dramatic boss fights. As sequels go, God of War Ragnarok is shaping up to be everything we hoped for.
God of War Ragnarok launches 9th November on PS4 and PS5. Come back for our full review on 3rd November at 9AM PDT / 4PM GMT.