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God of War: Ragnarök

God of War: Ragnarök Valhalla is so amazing it should cost money

The fact that this DLC is free is insane, as it delivers a great story, new areas, new enemies and an addictive gameplay cycle.

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While the first rumours made it sound like God of War: Ragnarök was getting a story expansion, the official unveiling of the game's free Valhalla DLC left many thinking it was basically just replayable combat arenas with some roguelite elements mixed in. A real shame, as God of War: Ragnarök Valhalla is so big and fantastic that it could easily have been a premium DLC I'd be happy to pay for.

God of War: Ragnarök

That's because the developers at Santa Monica Studios have let the best parts of the base game stay the way they are (or even polished them at bit), while taking inspiration from the best roguelite game out there: Hades. A great example of this is the combat system. It feels just as fabulous as before, so the only noteworthy change Valhalla does is incentivise us to play around with different weapons, shields, runes and more. This by giving us more of the special resources used to upgrade Kratos permanently for using a specific shield and/or rage mode, having us choose between two different runic attacks, perks and such when opening the chest(s) given when finishing an encounter, completing all kinds of challenges or just set us up against different kinds of enemies. I quickly found my favourites in the base game, but have found some really effective combinations after trying new stuff in Valhalla.

Being forced to choose between different upgrades is most definitely not new in this genre, but many games fail to make it fun. Not Valhalla. The first runic attack you choose will define the rest of your attempt, as the future rewards will be themed around this, making Kratos gradually become the killing machine we know him to be after starting fairly "basic" with just his four weapons and the skills you've unlocked for them. You'll have to take chances and be lucky to get the best stuff, however, as completing one area leave you choosing between two or three doors with their potential rewards marked on them. Each will lead you to a random realm with different enemies that might be better suited for a new tactic.

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Speaking of the random realms brings me to the reason why it's kind of hard to write a detailed review of the Valhalla expansion: spoilers. PlayStation Studios has, as previously indicated, really undersold this free DLC, because it's far more than even the trailer above shows. In a good way. We're talking new areas completely different from those in the base game, new kinds of enemies and obviously the continuation of the story. Sure, you might not get a grandiose tale like the one we've already played through, but it most definitely explains some of the stuff that has happened since we last saw Kratos, Mimir and a few other familiar folks - while also giving us clear hints and teases of where the story is heading in the real sequel to God of War: Ragnarök. All while giving those who haven't played a God of War game before 2018's change of mythology a better understanding of what happened in Greece and making us hardcore fans go all out "Leonardo DiCaprio pointing in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" with a bunch of references and fun moments.

God of War: Ragnarök

So far, God of War: Ragnarök Valhalla is one of the best DLCs ever, but it's not perfect. While the sequence of realms might be random, their designs aren't as diverse. You'll quickly see and learn the design of each "arena", making it very tempting to follow the same plan of attack every time. Especially when each realm usually just puts you up against the enemies you know from that area in the base game with a limited pool of enemy combinations to choose from. The good news is that these handcrafted areas look absolutely jaw-dropping. The bad is that having them built procedurally would have made every single encounter different. Top that with some conversations and stories pausing in a weird way because they want tell the rest later as a sort of reward, and it takes Valhalla down from being a masterpiece of an expansion, to "just" first-class.

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That's me being harsh, however. God of War: Ragnarök Valhalla is without a doubt one of the best expansions of all time. Paid or otherwise. It builds upon the base game's memorable story and excellent combat system to please those who just want more, while spicing things up with a new addictive gameplay cycle filled with exhilarating encounters in gorgeous environments that has and will continue to make me say "just one more try" for hours on end.

09 Gamereactor UK
9 / 10
+
The same world-class combat system, An intriguing story, Beautiful environments, Cool enemies, Fantastic gameplay cycle
-
Could use a bit more variety, Its roguelite nature makes the progression feel a bit artificial and weird some times
overall score
is our network score. What's yours? The network score is the average of every country's score

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REVIEW. Written by Ben Lyons

Santa Monica Studios' follow-up to the 2018 soft reboot is almost here, but does it stack up to its excellent predecessor? Simply put... yes.



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