I just now finished God of War Ragnarök and would like to discuss my impressions with everybody. ALL my impressions. So there are going to be spoilers in this threat. As indicated by the title. Have not found any threat where that is the topic. Please lock if redundant. Even in this OP here I will spoil the whole thing. So be aware and don't read any further if you don't want to be spoiled. And just to be clear: even though I liked the game, this is going to be a rant. A long rant.
And just for good measure: SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER
First big thing for me: I did not like it as much as the 2018 game (-my favourite God of War). I always felt engaged with the 2018 game. I always wanted to know how the story progressed, which turn it would take. Weirdly enough it was not a very complicated story. It was very much about father and son. How they handle their grief. And how Kratos tries to find peace with his past and how he can be a father (again!). The second game felt much more complicated. And with that many more pieces to juggle, it kind of fell apart for me. Don't get me wrong, I very much liked Ragnarök, but I certainly did not love it. And it being focused on more characters took away how personal and up close the first game felt.
But that is far from my only criticism: the story felt meandering and for a long time without any stakes. For example, when I was in Jotunheim with Atreus and Angreboda (or whatever her name is) I thought: yeah, that is cool and very pretty, but what am I actually doing here? What is the purpose of all that? Snake origin - it bought them nothing: Thor still attacked Kratos before he could accomplish anything with Odin. Angreboda introduction - yes, but what was the purpose of her whole character? What did she really do? She helped a bit in the final fight but I cannot shake the feeling it would have been the same without her. Setting up the sequel - there we go - that is all this insanely drawn out feeding animals Jotunheim scene did.
There are a lot of examples where the story felt meandering and the whole quest pointless: why would Kratos and Atreus chose to find Tyr? Because Odin said they should not? That is what they say in the game but it is definitely not a good reason. At the time they thought Ragnarök meant the end of much more than just Asgard. So not finding Tyr could have been a good start to not having Ragnarök (since Tyr is the one who leads the army according to prohecy). But let's pretend finding Tyr was important. There was no urgency to it. Everything felt boring in these Svartalfheim mines. Mimir and Kratos both suggested more than one time during the quest to just give up on it. That was the energy in the room: I don't want to be here. How can the developers expect high engagement from me, if there is no urgency and the main character just wants to go home?
Another example: the second time you visit Vanaheim, it is to.. to... ... to do what exactely? Help Frayer fight to good fight? We need to get to her and save her brother. But how did he get injured? We did not see. What are they fighting for? Vanaheim (FOR VANAHEIM!!!)? What does that even mean? What would Odin do there if he had free reign? Did they get ambushed and kidnapped? Perhaps they said but I cannot remember and that is in itself a problem. It was a conflict I don't get. This is also true in a bigger way but more on that later.
Another example of the main quest feeling pointless and the story meandering: prophecy is inevitable. That is the logic the game mostly operates on. And then in the end everyting is different than was foretoled. So the whole thing about the norns was for nothing too. Think about that for a second. Apart from the start the whole reason to be in Midgard was for the norns. But what they foretold was not what happend. What the giants foretold was also not what happend. So why spend 3 to 4 hours of the game to be in Midgard and another 2 in Jotunheim if the games conclusion is: no, actually nevermind, we write our own destiny? We don't know why, or we don't care to explain, but just know that everything ist fine. What? You are making a game much about prophecy and destiny. And all the giant and norn prophecys are always correct. But suddenly they are not and you don't explain why?
Something different: why in the world would you try to craft a cool action sequence with Kratos carrying Freyr on his back when the dialogue makes it laughable/ridiculous? It could have been epic but felt funny at best due to Freyrs comments: "Whoa, dude, maaan, I think imma hurl." (-paraphrase) There was actually no single action scene in the whole game I felt super engaged with. I did not care for Freyr whom we just met. While fighting a giant was cool, I did not care for Angreboda either and the fight itself was not that great anyways. Trying to capture/kill Garm comes close to greatness action-wise (from a storytelling perspective it felt like another sidequest). But nothing comes even close to the 2018 sequence of events with the fight at the top of the mountain, Atreus shooting Kratos and being kidnapped by Baldur, Kratos not skipping a beat and jumping down that mountian, the fight on the dragon, Kratos falling, rushing inside the temple, going to Helheim, fighting Baldur some more and finaly getting Atreus back before crashing into some tower. That was the bomb! The Thor fight in the beginning had different locations, yes. But everything was foggy and I did not really get a sence of place. Could have just been in Kratos' backyard for the same effect. Even when Ragnarök happens it felt underwhelming from an action stantpoint. Jörmongandur is only in the distance fighting Thor - we don't even really get to see that. Fenrir is next to unnecessary as is Angreboda. You cannot see much. Again, everything is very foggy. The only somewhat good action the Asgard attack had, was the Thor fight and the Odin fight. And they happend almost entirely in game. Can you remember in 2018 when Kratos killed that dragon in the mountain? Nothing that cool/actiony ever happend in the entirety of Ragnarök.
Now to Tyr. I guess the real one is dead (- another thing prophecy had wrong with Tyr leading an army to Asgard. So why spend a game to think about destiny?). The fake Tyr is Odin. And Odin, we are told, is very smart. Than why in the world would he kill Brok? Everything went fine. Not only fine, but perfect for Odin. The mask was complete. They wanted to bring it to Asgard. They wanted to USE THE MASK! "Tyr" could just have said: good luck, here is a secret way to Asgard, I abstain from violence and hang back. But no, he has to be suspicious and grab the mask and talk about taking up arms again. And when Brok confronts him, he blwos his cover and kills Brok! "Tyr" could just have paddled back, gave the mask to Atreus and be done. Does the game want me to beliefe that Odin lost his temper? What an unfathomable choice.
So Brok is dead and they made a huge deal out of it. Only problem is: I felt nothing. He was the comic relief. And his drawn out nonsensical spear sidequest felt like giving him screen time so that his death feels sadder. It is what shit tv shows do when they want to kill off a character: give them an episode focused on them beforehand. Now perhaps others felt more about this comic relief side character biting the dust, and I liked Brok fine, but to make that the end of the game? His funeral and than the credits? Nothing with a Kratos and Atreus focus perhaps? How? Why?
As already said, so much of the games story felt meandering and pointless to me. Weirdly the ending felt rushed. Suddenly things kick into high gear and than it is over. Surtr was such a small quest but felt super, mega significant. On the other hand making the spear felt like it took forever. (But I did not buy into the idea that Kratos needed the spear to kill Heimdall in the first place. And what is even that: He perceives Heimdall as such a big threat that he is ready to kill him, but not to face him immediately. He goes on what feels like a sidequest even though his son could at any moment be murdered by Heimdall. Does not feel like the Kratos that jumped from a mountaintop to get faster to his son.) How is this a narritive choice: making yet another weapon for "the god killer" should take many fights and locations and story sequences and introduce new characters like the lady in the water and concepts like this form and nature thing, even though all the while his son, the only thing said "god killer" really cares about, is in mortal danger. Let's have finding Tyr be many hours long - and let's have everybody except Atreus don't want to be there. But, BUT: Let's have finding Surtr, convincing him to join their cause, and Surtr becoming (-title of the game incoming) Ragnarök, let's have that be just 2 fights and not even half a page of text for the guy. How is that a narrative choice. We spend more time in Muspelheim searching for some wooden mask piece (that did not amount to anything at all) than doing what the game says in the title it is about.
To finish up: I don't get why Kratos said "no" to Odins offer for peace. Odin was a piece of shit. But he did not beheave terribly wrong in trying to prevent Ragnarök. Odin came to Kratos and wanted nothing but peace. Perhaps this was a lie but that was never shown. All we have is Kratos saying "no" to living in peace with his son. That is the inciting incident of the whole story. Kratos could have had no retribution come his way because of Magni, Modi and Baldur. And be on good terms with Asgard. And he said no, actually I don't want peace. Why? That is all he wants for the rest of the game.
So good game because of its gameplay, graphics, acting (except Freya whos performance was eye-rolling), design, sympathetic and/or interesting cast of characters, etc. But the story, sadly the main reason why I was interested in this game, felt often boring, sometimes tonally awkward and also sometimes even nonsensical.
Please let me know how my take is as insane as it is long. Let me know which one of the norse games you prefere. And let me know your take.