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God Of War Valhalla DLC makes up for Ragnarök’s underwhelming finale-Adam Starkey-Entertainment – Metro

God Of War meets Hades in this roguelite DLC which manages to fix some of Ragnarök’s shortcomings.

God Of War Valhalla DLC makes up for Ragnarök’s underwhelming finale-Adam Starkey-Entertainment – Metro

Kratos faces his flaws in Valhalla (Picture: Sony)

God Of War Ragnarök’s DLC uses the roguelite formula to venture into Kratos’ past. After the bloated main campaign, it’s a focused and cathartic experience for longtime fans. 

There was a moment halfway through God Of War Ragnarök where the path forward for Kratos felt rife with chaotic, exciting possibilities. The encounter with the Norns, the deities supposedly responsible for shaping human destinies, sees Kratos discover the prophecies he feared aren’t actually written in stone, but are instead based on how predictable his choices are. In the words of Norn goddess Verdandi, Kratos is a ‘pitious archetype seeking freedom from his script’ who, in a side-eye encapsulation of the reboot, ‘still slays gods but now he’s sad about it’. 

It’s the best scene in the sequel. A chilling and pivotal turning point which doubles as meta commentary on God Of War itself. Kratos discovers it’s on him to not to make the obvious choices, upending the whole narrative – although not in quite as satisfying a fashion as you might hope. After so many hours contemplating what might happen, after this wink from behind the curtain, Ragnarök’s overly clean resolution felt disappointingly predictable and safe. 

This is where Valhalla comes in, a free slice of DLC where you fight waves of enemies in a roguelite loop. The expansion’s surprise announcement led many to believe it would be focused solely on combat and something perhaps akin to Resident Evil 4’s beloved The Mercenaries mode. In reality, however, this is an epilogue which features some of the best story moments in the franchise. 

Fighting through the trauma (Picture: Sony)

If you imagine God Of War crossed with Hades, you’ll have a good idea of how Valhalla works. You venture out on runs of sequenced battle encounters, with some branching paths you select dependent on the rewards you want to receive – from Runic Attacks, upgrade perks, and boosts to Kratos’ general stats like Strength and Luck.

Like Hades, you’re incentivised through currency bonuses on specific items to vary your builds before each run, which grant permanent upgrades you can buy between attempts. 

With various difficulty options and generous upgrades, Valhalla, unlike its inspirations, is rarely all that difficult. This is a condensed replication of a roguelite, where the loop mechanic feels like a design choice to service the story. Hardcore players can approach it as a tough combat challenge, but it rarely demands it if you just want to enjoy the narrative beats. 

It works because the roguelite concept matches Kratos’ internal struggle. Here, he’s wrestling with a proposition from Freya, to join her council to help maintain peace across the nine realms. After his bloody history as god of war in Olympus, Kratos questions whether he should take the throne and title once again, after spending years trying to escape his past.

By journeying through Valhalla, as encouraged by a mysterious invite, Kratos works through the hang-ups that are mentally preventing him from taking the throne. Valhalla, as depicted here, is a place that draws on memories, so the concept allows for a direct bridge between the Norse and Greek mythologies, with plenty of callbacks to the original trilogy. 

Both 2019’s God Of War and Ragnarök made references to Kratos’ past through dialogue exchanges, and key weapons, but never as explicitly as in Valhalla. It’s billed as an epilogue to Ragnarök, but it feels like a wrap-up of this incarnation of Kratos – with past events, enemies, and tools all reappearing as part of a grand atonement for the character. 

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Crucially, there’s an element of surprise that Ragnarök, for the most part, failed to sustain. Each door has the potential to throw you into an unexpected boss encounter, or a surprise route with minor puzzles, to access Kratos’ memories from Ancient Greece.

As a roguelite, there’s an element of repetition but there’s enough variation in its tight six-hour running time that you rarely feel like you’re cycling through the same motions. By being DLC, it’s forced to be compact, punchy and trim – a blockbuster epic stripped of the laborious corridor meandering that inhibited the main story campaign.

By the end of Valhalla, Kratos’ story feels like a completed loop. The unaddressed threads from Ragnarök suggest the next logical step would be a renewed focus on Atreus, as he searches for the giants beyond the nine realms. The DLC doesn’t hint at where the next game might be set, even though many fans seem convinced it’ll be Egypt, but whatever comes next Valhalla proves the franchise hasn’t run out of steam yet.

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