God Of War Ragnarok: Valhalla Review – Epilogue Excellence

God Of War Ragnarok: Valhalla Review - Epilogue Excellence

We’re not sure if God Of War Ragnarok will be the final chapter of Kratos’ (or even the franchise’s) story, however if it is to be all over following the 2022 multi-GOTY winning title, then the newly launched Epilogue chapter, Valhalla is the perfect ending note. 

God Of War Ragnarok, and even it’s predecessor, 2018’s God Of War were exceptional titles, arguably both were the best games of their respective years, however one thing that neither title had done especially thoroughly was connect the Norse arc to Kratos’ previous exploits in Greece. God Of War Valhalla finally gives us what the overall story-arc of Kratos has been lacking, an opportunity to deeply reflect on what came in the Greek chapters with Kratos’ new head on his shoulders years removed. 

Kratos has been summoned to an island by a mysterious entity, challenging him to best what the island has in store for him. Kratos, never being one to shirk a challenge, takes it up and sails out with Mimir to see what challenges lay before him, but he soon learns, after his weapons are stripped of their power, after receiving a hammering by the Einherjars within, and paired with the sage advice of Freya and the Valkyrie, that he’s landed on Valhalla and an even larger threat lays before him. 

From here, Kratos must navigate several loops of events as he comes to terms with his previous actions, and grapples with Freya’s request for him to take up the mantle of the Norse God of War. Ghosts of the past haunt Kratos still and many of them are stirred up by his visit to Valhalla, the region bringing familiar faces (or heads) back from beyond the grave to taunt Kratos and to challenge what he has become. Across 5+ hours (dependent on your selected difficulty) of gameplay, players will relive many of Kratos’ most egregious moments, as he tries to overcome their influence over his life, before he can really decide whether the status of a God Of War is something he can become once again. It’s a fascinating plot that is both incredibly illuminating for those who have not played the Greek games before, and even more thought provoking for those who have. The scenario design is fantastic, with numerous twists and turns presenting (even at the game’s conclusion) that will keep players engaged both narratively and in gameplay. 

Valhalla is a rogue-like mode, accessible from the game’s main menu, and is detached from the main narrative, though you’d be foolish to play it without seeing how Ragnarok plays out first. Kratos is stripped of all of his powers and his weapons are relegated back to their base status, and you only regain a few select powers with each run. Those are dictated by the chests that you open and the decisions you make as you progress deeper into Valhalla. Once Kratos falls in combat, or you complete a successful run up to the defined narrative beat then you’re thrust back out of Valhalla and will need to start (almost) from square one once again. Players do find a few consumables that come with you outside of runs and these can be spent on boosts to Kratos’ stats, on cosmetics and more, but proficiency with Kratos’ parry as well as his weapons can do the job even if your stats aren’t explosively high. With the base combat mechanics being so strong, this rogue-like system presents a fascinating, and highly enjoyable, gameplay twist to the formula.

Of course, running on all of the same systems and engines that powered Ragnarok means that Valhalla looks exceptional. Character models look great, and the reinvigoration of Greek monsters like the Siren, Cyclops, and Centaur (amongst others), who all return in Valhalla, is superb. The eminent Christopher Judge is once again supreme in his role as Kratos, especially in moments where Kratos must get extremely introspective, and he must carry a monologue. The sound design is sensational, and the soundtrack, reworked a bit for Valhalla, is as soul-piercing as ever.

God Of War Ragnarok was already one of the great all-time games, but the addition of Valhalla elevates the experience even further. The rogue-like elements make sense narratively, and fit seamlessly into the gameplay puzzle. For some it can be hard to return to a game that they completed twelve months earlier, but God Of War Ragnarok: Valhalla must be an exception to the rule for those people. Santa Monica Studio continues to push it’s case to be the industries finest development studio.

God Of War Ragnarok: Valhalla was reviewed on PS5. God Of War Ragnarok was provided to Player2 for review in 2022 by PlayStation Australia.

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