The 2018 reboot of Santa Monica Studios' mythology crushing series worked out better than even they could surely have imagined. An older and more emotionally mature Kratos found a whole new lease of life, both in reality and in-game, as God of War literally grew up with its audience. The change was absolutely key to this renewed success, and yet the game managed to retain its legendary identity.
Kratos and Atreus' journey was typically grandiose and shook the very foundations of the Norse Gods. It brought on the fury of the Aesir and set in motion a series of events that would lead to the fabled Fimbulwinter and even Ragnarök itself. With so much at stake then, it's hard to imagine that it can all be wrapped up in a single sequel rather than a full trilogy, but God of War Ragnarök does exactly that with a compelling story from beginning to end.
Better than its predecessor in almost every way. All that is missing is a photo mode!
Already deep into the 3-year winter, the game throws you straight into the action with a truly amazing first hour that is packed with epic combat, movingly tender moments, and brilliantly entertaining encounters with some of the main cast. The game sets itself up for a phenomenal journey and honestly doesn't disappoint!
It may not be quite the full generational leap that some were hoping for though and, as alluded to in my earlier Preview, this is really still a PS4 game at heart. Yes, PS5 owners may benefit from things like enhanced lighting & reflections, higher resolution, and haptic feedback, but the abundant crawl spaces and narrow gaps to allow loading are a constant reminder that this isn't fully exploring the potential of newer hardware.
- EX-SQUEEZE ME // KRATOS -
That does not detract from the experience though and, if this IS a PS4 game, then it is an exceptionally good one. The tight over-the-shoulder combat is a particular highlight, with the already iconic Leviathan Axe and Blades of Chaos supplemented with various new items and abilities that bring extra dimensions in both defensive and offensive ways. And that's without even considering some of the fascinating companion combinations that totally shake things up.
- GOW RAGNARÖK // BEAR ESSENTIALS -
Along with the refined combat, there are also more enemies to tackle, more realms to explore, and lots more secrets to uncover. This journey into prophecy with Kratos and Atreus – or should that be Loki now? – is better than its predecessor in almost every way. All that is missing is a photo mode!
Key Photo Mode Features:
Photo Mode Implementation:
God of War Ragnarök will not include a photo mode at launch. However, Santa Monica Studio have confirmed that the feature will be added in a post-launch update. No further details on the schedule of the update or the included feature set are available at this time.
The great undiscovered...
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Even without a photo mode, it is not hard to see the potential that Ragnarök has to offer. With a very similar art direction and even greater levels of detail to enjoy, much of what made the 2018 game popular for virtual photography will apply again here.
Just as before, the lovingly crafted environments are magnificent to behold, and even the realms returning from the previous game offer something new as familiar locations appear drastically differently thanks to the onset of Fimbulwinter. Water has turned to ice, and layers of impressively deformable snow cover the terrain to give an entirely different look.
- GOW RAGNARÖK // REALMS -
Not everywhere is a winter wonderland though, and the effects of the seasonal shift are actually reflected differently in each location. When you also consider that there are entirely new realms to discover, including the intricately industrial Svartalfheim, and beautiful depictions of both Vanaheim and Asgard, there is a truly varied and almost always stunning series of mythical environments to explore.
Of course, this is about way more than just environments, even if each one is replete with its own native monsters and wildlife. The fully voiced characters are naturally one of the main draws for any virtual camera, and every single one is full of engaging personality – albeit with a suspicious number of obviously American accents popping up across the Nine Realms.
- GOW RAGNARÖK // MERMAID -
Kratos and Atreus once again have several sets of armour to choose from, and it is great to see other characters turning up in different outfits depending on when and where you are in the game. In general, everyone is rendered with high quality character models, though given that the game does feature scalable resolution and level of detail, it will be interesting to see if we get the very best available when entering photo mode.
I have to say though, that Santa Monica have done an especially good job with the Aesir. While they could easily have been a series of cliché bosses that brought vengeful combat and aggression, Odin and his kin are much, much more than that.
- ODIN // KRATOS -
Even without using any impressive Godly powers to steal the show, you may well find yourself liking several of the supposed enemies. Whether that changes as things develop or not is of little consequence, because they will be already established as an ideal set of photographic subjects.
Check back for a full review and verdict on the God of War Ragnarök photo mode once it arrives.