Sony’s God of War Ragnarok Set to Power a Slow Year for Hits

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(Bloomberg) — Sony Group Corp.’s God of War Ragnarok debuts Wednesday to positive initial reviews, suggesting it could be the catalyst the Japanese gaming giant needs to make it through the year without a big hit.

Critics love God of War Ragnarok. The game has a 94 on the review aggregation website Metacritic, making it the second highest-scoring original game of the year, just below the seminal Elden Ring. IGN’s reviewer called it “a complete work of art from top to bottom” and “an almighty achievement”.

After breaking records during the pandemic, the video game industry has slumped this year due to a lack of major titles, a shortage of consoles, and the economic downturn. So the stakes are high for God of War Ragnarok, one of the few blockbuster games of the fall and the latest entry in one of Sony’s biggest franchises.

God of War began in 2005 with a trilogy of lewd but fun games about the slaying of Greek gods like Zeus and Hades. In 2018, Sony rebooted the series with a new entry that ditched the crude sex scenes and reimagined the series’ protagonist, Kratos, as a gruff but loving father. That game won praise and was widely regarded as one of the best of the year. It went on to sell 23 million copies on PlayStation and PC. Four years later, a sequel has arrived, one that Sony hopes will meet or exceed the highs of the last version.

Playing God of War Ragnarok is beautiful and rhythmic, like playing an instrument, except at the end of the song you can decapitate a worm demon with a giant axe.

Set in Norse mythology, the game is set a few years after its predecessor during Fimbulwinter, the period of endless snow that is said to herald the end of the world. At the end of the last game, Kratos and his son Atreus discovered a prophecy with two key pieces of information. The first is that Atreus is actually Loki, the Norse god of mischief, and the second is that Kratos is destined to die. That sets high stakes for God of War Ragnarok, and as the game begins, Kratos and Atreus are already grappling with big questions about their relationship, their purpose, and what Ragnarok may bring.

I’ve played around 15 hours of God of War Ragnarok and while I’m not done yet, I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. The combat is bright and deep, full of interesting options and combos that allow you to tear apart demons and monsters with abandon. Fans criticized the latter game for the monotony of its enemies, which were mostly zombie variations, and the developers responded by filling God of War Ragnarok with drastically different creatures to kill.

Battles are satisfying, highlighted once again by Kratos’ Leviathan Axe, which you can throw and retrieve in your hand with the press of a button. You can customize equipment and play around with different special abilities, for example using your icy weapon to freeze an enemy and then switching to your firearm to deal extra damage. I’ve never tried meditation, but I imagine the flow of combat in a game like this puts you in a similar state.

The designers at Sony Santa Monica, the studio behind the game, use all sorts of tricks to keep things cool. There are meaningful side quests and many more great stories brought to you by the talking head Mimir, the wisest of the Norse gods, and a returning character from the previous game. There are several new twists to the game that I won’t spoil, but make it clear after a few hours that God of War Ragnarok is trying to turn things around.

The story is also a highlight. God of War Ragnarok introduces villains previously only mocked, like the god of thunder Thor, whose bitter demeanor is miles apart from his Marvel Cinematic Universe counterpart, and the malevolent sage Odin, played to perfection by Richard Schiff, better known as The West Wing’s. Toby Ziegler. Odin is the best part of this game. When he’s not on screen, I find myself wishing he’d come back. An early section, in which he takes one of the main characters on a West Wing-style walk and talk around Asgard, is a special treat.

Fans are concerned that God of War Ragnarok will look too much like its predecessor. Somehow, it does. You keep traveling to realms like Midgard and Alfheim, you keep throwing your ax to solve chain puzzles, you keep seeing Kratos struggle to overcome his stoicism and connect with his son. But Ragnarok is bigger, better, and in a way even more special than the 2018 game that won so much praise. It’s a triumphant experience worth anyone’s time. The game is available on PlayStation 5, which has been in short supply this year, and the old PlayStation 4. In its recent earnings results, Sony cut the forecast for its gaming segment, saying gamers are reducing the number of titles they buy. due to “global macroeconomic conditions”. But the company also called out God of War Ragnarok as a driver to bring players back.

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