Non-spoiler impressions on survival in Hel
Folks who selected ‘Give Me God of War’ difficulty in Santa Monica Studios’ 2018 masterpiece will tell you straight—possibly through a thousand-yard stare. It’s a nightmare blind run. ‘Give Me God of War’ does not suffer fools lightly. Hel, it doesn’t suffer capable, perfectly intelligent victims, either.
God of War, cranked to the zenith, meat grinds just about everybody. I’m therefore delighted to tell my fellow “‘Give Me God of War’ survivors” that 2022’s God of War Ragnarok paves that path of pain even further.
Why is it tougher?
Mostly, I think, because Santa Monica studios has been perving on their player data. God of War (bizarrely) offered no post-launch DLC. Desperate for crap to do, fans threw themselves, en masse—like lemmings at machine gun nests—into the brutal side-content that was on the disc.
I am, of course, talking about the Valkyrie challenges. And I probably should have put a trigger warning back there. The mere mention of them will undo expensive therapy sessions for some of you.
Into The Breach…
As a bloody idiot who’s hours into this self-inflicted purgatory, I can confirm that all the expected brutality returns. Your foes deal increased status damage, the duration time of which rivals herpes. Wonderfully, these so-called grunts will sometimes infect you with extra, two-for-one statuses not present in their lower-difficulty attacks.
To increase the fun factor, these buggers take far less damage and are incredibly difficult to attack-disrupt or outright stun. They’ll happily shrug through some of your light hits and ask for more. This prevents all but the savviest player from corralling them with incredibly well-timed crowd-control tactics.
The hits keep on coming with the evolutionary mechanics. Much like in 2018, if you flirt with an enemy for too long—getting them below 75% of health seems to do the trick—they’ll enter a glowy blue state. You now have maybe(?) three seconds to put a hit onto them before something awful transpires.
Essentially, they go super Saiyan with big health recovery, plus a longer health bar, more resistance, speed and aggression boosts—and—they completely ignore all but your heaviest special attacks. If you’re foolish enough to give birth to a few of these, well, you’ve punched yourself an early ticket to Valhalla.
It gets worse, of course. Ragnarok is quick to introduce special Frosted enemies who are completely impervious to your axe. They’re also hyper-mobile with leaping slashes that close safe, buffer distances in moments. Only several flame-imbued attacks will strip them of this invincibility. So save yourself some checkpoint restarts by pre-practising your D-pad quick draws to the Blades of Chaos.
Your Krato-est Challenge Tackled
As for your own power levels, Kratos isn’t the sheer God of Phwoarrr you get in other difficulties. Obviously, he deals way less damage than you’d expect. Moreover, your parries have a smaller window and are less likely to disrupt your attacker in any meaningful, exploitable way.
Essentially, they just delay your curb-stomping-to-come by half a second.
Next, there’s the matter of Kratos’ iconic Rage state. It’s more like a Hissy Fit meter now. Damn thing engorges slower than the penis of a whisky drinker with narcolepsy. And when you have got it up, so to speak, the mythical damage boost you were promised is an utter phallusy. Those impressive on-screen fireworks and roars are nowhere near proportional to the damage numbers dispensed
In conclusion, some of you are gonna get mauled harder than Qui-Gon Jinn.
A Non-Spoiler Tale of My Continued Survival
If you plan to walk the same road as I come launch, I have some non-spoiler first impressions of combat that I wish I’d known earlier.
Firstly, know that Ragnarok has a Doom 2016 take on personal advancement – basically, the more you use certain techniques, the more you level them up through bronze/silver/gold tiers. Max out a technique, and you earn the option to imbue it with extra damage, extra elemental sting or some other beneficial perk.
Knowing this, I prioritized Kratos’ sprinting Heavy Attack Smash on R2. It’s slow, but if you learn how much “runway” you need to bring it out, you can put serious splash hurt on mobs. Better yet, if said group have their backs to a wall or cliff, you get juggling opportunities or even insta-kills, respectively.
Next up, I maxed out my Ranged techniques, including light axe throws on R1 and heavier R2 hurls. The reasoning here is: initially, CQC duelling equals death. You’ll be on the ropes a lot, needing a strong distance game to hopefully stun from afar before moving in. Wicked ranged attacks are also invaluable when probing the abilities of new bosses from half a postcode away.
Lastly, as soon as it opens up, invest heavily in the “hold R2 to grab and throw grunts” technique. This thing has kept Kratos’ beautiful bald bonce on his shoulders more times than I count. If you position yourself butt first to a cliff (and your timing is impeccable) you can effectively chain-lure in baddies, grab them, and then use momentary invulnerability to do-si-do them with a 180-degree camera pan. Nobody comes back from base jumping without a parachute.
In conclusion, God of War Ragnarok definitely offers a more complex and challenging apex difficulty. Easily the toughest I’ve ever seen in my 17 years with this series. Mark me impressed… and also cut (to shreds, I say, by far too many enemy hits).
I’ll leave you ‘Give Me God of War’ hopefuls now with one small sliver of hope. It’s perhaps the only thing ‘easier’ about this go around. In a key difference from the 2018 version, you now have the option to dial down this difficulty, mid-save file. You cannot, however, kick it back up again for that save file.
That may not sound like it, but the ability to escape your torment is an absolute blessing from the Gods. Those spiteful, sadistic Gods at Santa Monica Studios. Thanks a bunch.
God of War Ragnarok is being reviewed using a digital code provided by PlayStation.