” And now ? »young Atreus asks his father, Kratos, in the opening minutes of God of War: Ragnarok, available on November 9 on PlayStation 4 and 5. When it snowed, they took refuge in a cave near their cabin. The bearded warrior holds in his hand the empty leather bag containing his wife’s ashes, which were scattered on top of a mountain at the end of the previous episode.
To our delight, this new episode brings the Greek god back to Midgard, one of the nine realms of Norse mythology, where he was exiled and started a family. It is in this Scandinavian setting, which serves as the setting for the “reboot” god of war in 2018, the series has matured even as it seems to collapse on itself from the weight of one-upmanship in the early 2010s.
The first hours of this exclusive on Sony consoles therefore blows an obvious answer to the trivial question of the child: ” And now ? We take the same and start again. » At first, there was no question of questioning the formula that received many “game of the year” awards and sold almost 20 million copies, making it a biggest hit on the PlayStation 4.
An unexpected turn
God of War: Ragnarok so it seems like an extension of the previous one. A similar duet between the young archer and his monolithic father; identical weapons that alternately emit fire and ice; the same virtuoso who conducts successive shots; both exploration sequences and puzzles without distraction. Beginners will easily adapt to this action game with a well-established formula, where you have to face successive hordes of monsters and bosses whose weak points must be identified. The most experienced will reconnect with a familiar experience, except that the enemies, the scenery and the secondary characters are more diverse.
The scenario, on the other hand, gained scope and ambition: the Spartan and his son faced, this time, the most powerful of the Nordic gods (Odin, Thor or Heimdall) and the threat of the end of the world. , Ragnarok. The playing time has been extended, the main scenario is now close to thirty hours, against twenty for the previous episode. The optional missions are also more detailed, offering more free exploration or sometimes more difficult combat, intended for thrill seekers.
But there was no doubt, when the joy of discovery had passed. God of War: Ragnarok anything new to offer? The combat system as well as the skill tree and weapons respond to the same principles as four years ago. The same mistakes continue: the linear levels, the path guided by rewards placed like pebbles sown by Tom Thumb or the compass that literally tells us where to go… Within five hours, the specter of repetition hovers over Kratos’ imprinted skull. We must wait for Act II of God of War: Ragnarok so that the foundations are finally shaken.
The existential crisis
The separation between the father and the teenage son – who discovered his divine power – opens up other horizons within the nine realms. Without revealing the stakes, let’s just say that this breakout succeeds in changing the formula without betraying it.
The Santa Monica studio, like its muscular hero, seems to have sunk here into a depression that has become a caricature of itself. “There is no destiny, but you are so predictable that yours is pre-written”, taunts the Norns, three Nordic gods, mistresses of the future, consulted by Kratos. This very beautiful scene, in which fights and dream-like cinematic sequences follow each other, echoes the many questions about predestination that cross the dialogues of the protagonists, threatening the barbarians, even philosophers in their spare time.
From a weak being to protect, Atreus, aka Loki, has become a being with mysterious motives. As we guessed, the father-son relationship he has with Kratos will soon become a coming-of-age story. Because, like his father, the child seeks to flow with the animal that lies within him – and sometimes fails. A curse for the characters, this anger that lives in them remains a blessing for the player, who on these occasions controls almost invincible characters. Before finding himself, at the end of the fight, alone, a little sheep, facing the feeling of happiness and power felt while his heroes lose control of their emotions .
A unifying blockbuster
Like a series for the small screen, the secondary characters also benefit from a deep treatment, further digging into the passage of the main theme of the game: the family. A side quest that lasts a few hours focuses on the fate of the goddess Freya, the former wife of Odin, with whom we must join in mourning her marriage.
Thor, the pot-bellied god of thunder (a far cry from his representation popularized in Marvel films), is a tragic figure there, devastated by the death of his children, killed by Kratos. A scene of a tavern brawl – if not pleasant to the player – reveals the counterpoint of the disorientation of the character of alcohol and the consequences that his wife and daughter have to suffer. Another story to close: the disturbing one of the grandmother of the giant Angrboda, who terrorized her grandson by stealing the souls of animals. This unusual boss is old, probably affected by Alzheimer’s disease. As with any mythological story, the gods ultimately tell us human stories.
Only the end of Hollywood takes us from the heights to which the game always takes us. Manichaean and super-heroic, the last straight line stacks fight with an air of deja vu. When the credits roll, we remember that a blockbuster with so many risks is rare. In the manner of a Ben Hur yes Gladiator, God of War: Ragnarok managed to reconcile mainstream entertainment and experimentation, mythological epic and introspection. The destroyer of Olympus who now attacks the Aesir (the main gods of Scandinavia) more than deserves his place in another pantheon: that of video games.
- the universe of god of war growing up;
- Atreus adds skills;
- the game in one shot sequence, is always amazing.
We don’t really like:
- the impression of always having a GPS in front of us to tell us where we are going;
- hear the word “Ragnarok” a hundred times without real fear of it;
- the Manichean finale where we felt like we were fighting on automatic pilot.
It’s better for you if:
- you are sensitive to the breath of Gladiator ;
- along the series vikings ;
- and in the flame of the previous episode of the series God of War.
This is not for you if:
- you want a small gourmet coffee and not a big cake;
- the sight of blood revolted you;
- you can no longer pronounce the name Svartalfheim correctly.
Eight kingdoms out of the nine that make up Yggdrasil, the world tree in Norse mythology.