God Of War Ragnarok Beat 2018’s Bad Boss Battles

This article contains spoilers for some boss battles in the first half of God of War Ragnarok.

God of War was widely received as a masterpiece when it launched back in 2018. I liked it well enough, but it didn’t click for me in the same way it did for many of my colleagues. But, one thing even its staunchest defenders had to admit was that its boss battles lacked variety.

Over the course of 25 hours, Kratos and Atreus took down countless pillar-wielding trolls. There was one fight against a dragon in there, too. But, the game feinted in the direction of something much more interesting in its opening hour. The backyard bare knuckle brawl between Baldur and Kratos was an exciting introduction to a game that wouldn’t do anything remotely similar for another 20 hours. Instead, you spent those hours fighting a LOT of pillar-wielding trolls.

But, Ragnarok feels like a conscious course correction on God of War 2018’s faults in many ways. The game does a great job of expanding the scope of its narrative and character relationships beyond how big of a dick Kratos is to Atreus. The story, much more interestingly, pushes Kratos into a place where, despite being the powerful God of War, he has little control over the direction Atreus leads. Similarly, the game gives Freya more to do and builds out a cool hub where Kratos and Atreus frequently return throughout the game. But, the implementation of better boss fights keeps the game feeling fresh throughout more than any single other gameplay improvement.

One of the most notable is Nidhogg, the dragon that, in Norse mythology, gnaws at the roots of Yggdrasil, the world tree. The battle went through multiple stages, and included an impressively bizarre bit where the dragon opens a flap of skin on its neck, sucks up debris from the arena, and spits a rocky hairball at Kratos.

Or, earlier, when Kratos and Atreus team up against Dreki, a huge crocodile with massive area of effect attacks. Or, when Kratos has to square up against Freya, hidden behind Valkyrie armor. All of these fights feel very different from each other, in part, because of the enemy design. Despite mostly taking place in large arenas, the enemies have varied attacks that require Kratos to use different tactics.

But, they also feel different because you may be tackling them with a different companion at your side. Though they accomplish similar things, the support that Sindri, Brok, Atreus, Angrboda, Freya, and Tyr provide feels different enough in action, and the conversations that surround and populate battles flood each level with character.

Though God of War Ragnarok feels a bit overstuffed when compared to the first game — a common issue with recent Sony sequels — the variety on display makes it consistently exciting to play. About halfway through, it doesn’t seem like the game will reach Final Fantasy VII Remake levels of variety in boss design and implementation, but it’s a huge step up from God of War 2018. I can’t wait to murder Odin.

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