You’re probably aware by now that God of War Ragnarok is an incredible game. It is an epic in the truest sense of the word, and improves upon its already-impressive predecessor in almost every way possible. One of the areas where it touts those key significant improvements is combat. Interestingly, God of War Ragnarok does this not with any radical reinventions, but rather with a number of iterative improvements and refinements. The net result is massive, of course, and here, we’re going to talk about a number of those smaller improvements that come together to improve Ragnarok’s combat in truly meaningful ways.
Enemy variety was an area where 2018’s God of War received plenty of criticism, and clearly, the developers at Santa Monica Studio took that criticism to heart. Right from the get go, God of War Ragnarok makes it abundantly clear that it has a far bigger and more varied roster of enemies to throw at you. As Kratos and Atreus visit different Realms and locations, they come across a great number of unique threats, which is something that doesn’t let up until very close to the end of the game. Given how long and dense God of War Ragnarok is, consistently keeping up that level of meaningful variety is no easy accomplishment.
Of course, those enemies all come at you with different attacks. Some are smaller and die in a single hit, but move really fast and come at you in far greater numbers, while some are slower and bigger targets, but can deal deadly damage with their attacks. Some can explode when they die, some can spew poisonous gasses at you, some are extremely fast and agile, some are much more dangerous from range. Some attacks can be parried, some are unblockable, and some require the usage of your shield. From their design to their movement and attack patters, enemies in God of War Ragnarok sport a great deal of variety, and you’re consistently encouraged to make full and proper use of all the tools and abilities at hour disposal.
This is another area where God of War Ragnarok significantly ramps things up as compared to its predecessor. While the 2018 title was a little low on set piece boss battles, Ragnarok is abundantly packed with them. Of course, we’re not going to go into detail on them, because they’re best enjoyed unspoiled, but suffice it to say that these battles do an excellent job of capturing the scale that this series has always been known for (especially when it comes to its boss fights).
Beyond its mainline story bosses, God of War Ragnarok has plenty of minibosses and optional bosses as well. There is some repetition here, as you might expect, but it’s far less blatant than the cavalcade of trolls and variations of trolls that God of War (2018) threw at you. There’s a decent amount of variety where these optional bosses and minibosses are concerned, and they’re also just much more fun to take on in combat. And of course, those looking for a meaty endgame to dive into aren’t going to be disappointed either- Ragnarok has plenty of grueling endgame bosses waiting to be uncovered once you’ve rolled the credits.
MUCH MORE VISCERAL
God of War’s combat has always been visceral, since the very first moment when we took control of Kratos on the deck of a ship in the Aegean Sea, on a PlayStation 2 back in 2005. Even when it completely reinvented itself with the 2018 title, the series retained the brutality and adrenaline-fueled nature of its combat, and sure enough, God of War Ragnarok improves upon that aspect as well. From Kratos’ expanded range of attacks and combos to the several different ways he executes enemies with his special finisher attacks, Ragnarok’s combat cranks things up to eleven where the sheer brutality and weight of is combat is concerned.
IMPROVED LOOT AND PROGRESSION
Loot and expanded progression mechanics were a big part of God of War (2018)’s top-to-bottom gameplay reinvention, and it’s fair to say that its implementation had plenty of room for improvement. Well, Ragnarok definitely makes those improvements. Upgrades and loot feel much more rewarding, and while that does, of course, make exploration more engaging, it has a direct impact on combat as well. Tinkering with your build is a great deal more satisfying, thanks in large part to a number of refinements and tweaks. Enchantments, for instance, are handled through a new piece of equipment called the Amulet of Yggdrasil, which streamlines and improves the process. Similarly, all armour pieces an now be level up to level 9, which means players are encouraged to properly invest in armour pieces of their choosing.
Elemental effects and damage were important elements of God of War (2018)’s combat, but they take on an expanded role in Ragnarok- though whether or not you agree with that might depend on how much you’re choosing to engage with that side of the combat. Given how much more challenging Ragnarok is even on the default difficulty, freezing enemies or setting them on fire using the Axe or the Blades respectively feels far more useful in combat. As such, skills and combos that dish out greater elemental damage feel far more valuable too. Like with a few other things we’ve discussed, this incentivizes players to engage with the combat mechanics in a much more practical sense.
WEAPON SIGNATURE MOVES
Weapon Signature Moves are another neat addition (and also tie in with elemental damage). Holding down triangle with the Axe equipped sees Kratos imbuing it with enhanced Frost, allowing you to dish more icy damage with your next attacks. Meanwhile, mashing triangle with the Blades equipped sees him rapidly spinning them around to stoke their flames, making your next attacks extra fiery (side note: it’s also a badass animation). Obviously, these signature moves aren’t a huge addition that completely changes the flow of combat, but chances are, you’ll find yourself using them more than just a little bit.
Shields also have an expanded role in God of War Ragnarok’s combat. The game lets you equip a number of different shields, all of which not only have their own upgrade paths and attachments (which, in turn, can also be upgraded), but also come with wildly varying attributed. One can’t be used for parries, but it absorbs all the damage you take when you’re blocking, which can then be unleashed in the form of a wave of kinetic energy released by smashing the shield into the ground to send nearby enemies up into the air. Another is a high-risk-high-reward affair, demanding perfectly timed parries, which leaves plenty of room for failure (and incurring damage in combat)- but if you time it right, you can unleash an attack that sends enemies flying.
Of course, there are more that you get access to later on in the case. Meanwhile, every so often, enemies will also use unique attacks that cannot be blocked, with a blue ring appearing around them as they’re readying themselves- interrupt these attacks in time with your shield’s special attack, because they do plenty of damage. It’s one of several ways that God of War Ragnarok makes your shield a much more active part of the combat loop.