With Valhalla – the new free roguelike DLC of God of War Ragnarok, presented during the ceremony of The Game Awards (here’s all the winning games in each category at The Game Awards) and available as of December 12, 2023 – have we finally reached to the epilogue of Kratos’ long story and of his journey that began in Greece back in 2005? This you will also have to find out for yourself because the expansion is free, therefore, it will take you no time at all to download it, try it out and if you did not like the “fight, die and start over” combination, uninstall it (and watch the ending on Youtube).
What I can tell you with certainty, however, is that Santa Monica writes the end of its Norse epic – for that reason this DLC should be played once the main quest of Ragnarok is over – and does so in a big way, putting the player back in the center of the village: say goodbye to monologues to listen to during long walks and get ready to non-stop massacres, adrenaline-fueled but at the same time anxiety-provoking, because the fear of dying will be great as, moreover, the roguelike genre teaches.
Valhalla strikes the perfect balance between gameplay and storytelling, a goal previously achieved by the California-based studio with 2018’s God of War and partially missed, at least from my perspective, with the second installment of the saga (here the in-depth Podcast in which we discuss the problems with God of War Ragnarok.): this time, you will look forward to stopping in the break areas to take a rest, debating with Mimir about what is happening around you and the revelations that you will learn in the course of the adventure, and then log in, after the conversation, to the next arena to be faced.
Roguelike + Valhalla = God of War
It is the very nature of the roguelike that requires the player to fight uninterruptedly and at the same time to analyze, with a keen eye, not only the layout of the levels – each room, scenically speaking, draws on places well known to Kratos, from ancient Greece to the newer Nine Worlds – but also the enemies to be mauled (old and even very old acquaintances). The latter should never be underestimated and require a strategy thought out on a case-by-case basis depending on who we are facing.
The pitfalls follow one after another to test our skills – there will also be timed challenges in which the more minutes pass, the stronger and tougher the opponents, even the basic ones, will become – and thus gain after gallons and gallons of sweat spilled, the long-awaited confrontation with one of the many deadly boss fights we will encounter along the way. Upon reaching the boss’s presence, the tension threatened to devour me several times, because a blow delivered in place of raising the shield or a misreading of its moveset, could have meant Game Over (fortunately, I immediately unlocked the ability to use the resurrection stone to secure a second chance).
It is, in short, back to basics, with Kratos gutting one Helwalker after another, alternating his three weapons at his disposal (as well as a few old surprises), to make his way through a long and winding path where defeat is nothing more than a return to the Beach serving as the main Hub. Here we will be able to permanently upgrade the protagonist’s strength, health, defense, and all other statistics in the hope that, in the new attempt, the random powers that are lost with each mortality will prove effective to get the better of the strongest Dark Elf in the Nine Realms.
To sum up and close this non-review, in Valhalla, God of War Ragnarok’s phenomenal combat system is free of narrative shackles and can express its full potential to the point of becoming addictive: the six selectable difficulty levels to approach the expansion (an appreciable choice because it allows anyone to arrive at its conclusion) are an incentive to get better and better and to become, in conclusion, the true God of War.