After nearly a year of hard-earned patience, fans were rewarded recently as Sony Santa Monica dropped a gameplay trailer worthy of the mighty Mjolnir, energizing the PlayStation faithful with haptic levels of excitement. As well as a deeper-voiced Atreus, the new trailer also teased new Chains of Chaos combat and gigantic character reveals, both literally and figuratively. It’s not all glorious, however. After such a long wait, it’s fair to say that some of the current hype-infused euphoria may temporarily blind some fans from the less stellar facets of the long-awaited trailer. For a thorough examination, let’s list some exciting and some worrisome aspects of Ragnarok’s three-minute-long gameplay reveal. (Don’t worry…it’s mostly good things!)
*Spoilers for God of War 2018 to follow*
Let’s get started with the bad, which, we’ll acknowledge, may turn out to be invalid assumptions and unfair critiques when new trailers and the title itself is ultimately released. At the same time, it’s important to look at things from various perspectives to get a clearer picture, and probably smarter in the long run to keep our hype in check. Here goes:
It Looks Like a 2018 Game.
Since God of War was first released there has been a whole new generation of consoles introduced, which brings with it an expected step up in graphical capabilities. Visually, the recent Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart is dimensions away from God of War, showcasing a huge step forward in graphical prowess. In short, we are in a new era of performance and graphics, but Ragnarok still looks like a PlayStation 4 game. Looking past static visuals, this is also apparent at this stage in some of the animations. For instance, Kratos is shown thrusting his hips back and forth repeatedly while riding a sled. This repeated animation looks amateurish and outdated, whereas digital characters these days react and animate more naturally and less robotically.
To add insult to injury, the showcase trailer played at 30 frames per second, meaning the resolution should have been at peak quality settings. Perhaps the PS5 is holding back for the sake of the PS4? This visual disappointment is not altogether bad since it won’t greatly affect gameplay, and it still looks good… just not up to par with current games.
A Lack of Evolution
Take this with a grain of salt because it’s based on one trailer, but we hope that Sony Santa Monica will build upon the sequel’s more iterative features. While it can be a thin line to tread when it comes to marketing strategy, most gamers want to see evolutionary gameplay mechanics in their sequels – not simply more of the same. Overall, Ragnarok at this point looks to provide moments surprisingly similar to its predecessor, from riding a canoe across clear blue waters to Atreus attacking with ghostly manifestations.
Hopefully, Ragnarok doesn’t shy away from massive – maybe even controversial – new choices in both story and gameplay. This could come in the form of a new protagonist, never before seen weapons, or a different take on the gear system. The trailer didn’t tease anything to that effect – just a new wolf-drawn sled. Don’t get me wrong; I’m confident that Sony Santa Monica will throw some curveballs our way. It just would have been nice to see a hint of gameplay innovation to stir up the excitement even more.
Okay, that’s the bad. Now we can escape the unknown negatives and explore the more exciting parts of this action-packed trailer:
Atreus hunts for an elk in a snow-filled forest and emerges out of the chilling fog with antlers silhouetting his head. This tangled fixture resembles the God of mischief’s horned helmet, foreshadowing major plot points to come. Later, Atreus is arguing with his father about emerging from their wooded hiding spot and finding out who exactly Loki is. Kratos refuses this notion because of the conflict it could cause with Asgard. The reality is, though, that the seeds of conflict are already planted amidst this father-son relationship, watered by the prophecy and legacy of the Norse trickster.
The concept of Atreus being Loki is the biggest, most interesting plot point that Ragnarok could invoke, and it’s diving into it at full speed. As we’ve seen before, this revelation is sure to split the two protagonists apart, and it will be fascinating to see the animosity slowly build between the two gods. We’ve already seen Kratos boom an earth-shattering “no” at Atreus after his son’s request that he act less like a father and more like a general.
A New but Accurate Take on Thor
We can’t talk about Loki without his mighty brother, Thor. The god of thunder is most traditionally seen as a stoic man with massive biceps and luxurious, blond braids – handsome, manly and intimidating to his foes. We all expected this version of Thor to appear whenever Ragnarok decided to introduce him.
Instead, the vision we receive in Ragnarok asking Kratos if he is a ‘calm and reasonable person’ is decidedly not Chris Hemsworth but a more accurate portrayal of the Norse God who loves to drink, eat, and party. Thor has put on some pounds over the years, and has seemingly been through the alcohol-induced ringer. It’s beyond exciting to know that we are not going to get the same old Thor we’ve seen in superhero media for years on end.
A Large Array of Enemies
Alongside Thor, Freya will also pose an intimidating threat to our protagonists. But outside of the big bads, the grunts of Ragnarok seem to be quite diverse as well. Some of the first game’s few criticisms involved a lack of variety when it came to enemies, and it was well-founded. After progressing halfway through the first release, it’s difficult to find anyone who enjoyed facing the trolls and their slabs of rock. The new gameplay trailer looks to mitigate this issue by revealing various new enemy types.
Let’s get the rundown: One enemy looks to be a humanoid, barfing frog, while another one wears a horned helmet like someone straight out of Skyrim. Some of the most interesting was an oversized (or should I say ‘Thor-sized’) Komodo Dragon and a centaur reminiscent God of War’s early days. Hopefully, this unique set of foes will continue to diversify as the game goes on. That way, nobody has to frantically swing the Levitation Ax at another oversized troll ever again.
It’s going all out
The 2018 God of War title was conservative in its use of Norse mythology and characters. At the time, this was a but of a nuisance (Just let us fight Odin, already!), as some hoped-for characters were held back. Ragnarok, however, is the last game of the Norse era, meaning that Sony Santa Monica can and should now dive into the more well-known characters of Norse mythos if they are to appear at all. There is no need to be conservative now.
Everything is on the table because it’s likely Kratos won’t return to the realm of Midgard anytime soon. Hopefully Sony Santa Monica hears the plea from their fans: give us Asgard, Fenrir, Odin, and all of them before it’s too late! Of course, the trailer doesn’t show all of its cards, but we did see Tyr, the Norse God of War, and get teased by a Thor fight.
At this point, that fated battle is like a piece of magic bacon that’s just out of arms reach, constantly floating away from us towards 2022. Eventually, though, the day will come when we feast, and we’ll finally watch the God of War and God of Thunder bash heads!