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God of War Ragnarok: Nothing New on the Menu

Jack is the author of Pixels Samples Lumens Illusion: Foundations of Arts and Entertainment Technologies (2019 Kendall Hunt)

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DINNER

In the Dinner Table scene in God of War Ragnarok, Brok quips, “Mmm. That elf light is some gooood shit.” What follows is the most confusingly awful 10 seconds of silence I have ever experienced in any game, film or life experience.

The Ragnarok dinner scene stands as a pivot point between chapters of the highly anticipated follow-up to Santa Monica Studio’s 2018 title, God of War. It also presents a comprehensive summary of the many problems that plague the title’s gameplay. Issues with tone, pacing, humor, predictability, character development and much more are all on menu and in ample portions.

Tyr asks Brok, “Is this sausage?” It’s a valid question. With the varying shifts of tone and delivery that rock the gameplay, they could be eating anything. Having logged multiple plays of the game’s brilliant and near-perfect 2018 predecessor, Ragnarok plays like a hastily prepared Big Mouth Burger from Chili’s served in the dust settling around the 5-star sushi of Elden Ring.

Just look at their faces.

In the awkward 10 seconds at the dinner table, each of the central figures of Ragnarok take a moment to ponder their own take on the gameplay:

Kratos is thinking: “…so many containers and yet such a long road ahead…It’s a good thing we have a compass with all of these virtually-identical cracks in rocks that boy and I must shimmy through…so many cracks in rocks…so much shimmying…”

Atreus is thinking: “I get to change characters when I am away from my father and talk like a modern 8th grader…so may containers and yet such a long road ahead…It’s a good thing we have a compass with all of these virtually identical cracks in rocks that father and I must shimmy through…so many cracks in rocks…so much shimmying…

Brok is thinking: “As a communication tool, humor can create universal bonds with gamers. It first has to be relevant.”

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Tyr is thinking: "How on earth did I ever manage to find myself imprisoned in the center of the Mines of Svartalfheim? The paths were so predictable and spacing and placement of enemies even more so.”

Mimir wonders if it is so bad to not be able to hold controllers.

DESSERT

Dinner is over. Time to get back on the trail but astonishingly, the very next scene is also incredibly bad. In it, we are treated to a painfully comical introduction to Ratatoskr, the ubiquitous magical squirrel of Norse mythology. Evoking the delight and family-friendly cheer of Disney in the 60’s and 70s, Ragnarok’s Ratatoskr throws at the player yet another shift in tone and delivery.

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DIGESTION

Maybe this is less a review of Ragnarok and more of a commentary on the general state of affairs in the gaming marketing and criticism communities. The two are increasingly becoming one in the same, making it really difficult to set aside hype and adulation to just really see a game for what it is. And, of course, conflict of interest much?

Straight up, Ragnarok bears no resemblance to the Ragnarok the gaming criticism community blindly decreed a masterpiece worthy of a game-of-the-year in the weeks before and hours after its release. It doesn’t play or feel like anything other than a giant DLC that took 4 years to deliver.

Straight up, my $70 digital copy of Ragnarok, played on a PS4 Plus, crashed 7 times within the first 3 hours of gameplay—a CE-34878-0 crash that at some point stopped happening. I could not find any mention of this crash in the blogs.

To be clear, Ragnarok is not an awful game but it is no better than Horizon Forbidden West. The two are remarkably similar. Both are well-made, very safe franchise follow-ups and neither breaks new ground or advances the gaming experience whatsoever. And, 4 years in gaming—the time since Ragnarok’s predecessor—development is a lifetime and Ragnarok is just plain boring to play.

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© 2022 Jack W Stamps

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