God of War has been ingrained into the legacy of PlayStation since 2005. For over three console generations, Santa Monica Studio has provided gory, over-the-top, and action-packed titles with this franchise.
Last year, the developer continued this trend with God of War Ragnarok, delving deeper into a more narrative-focused approach for the IP. Praised for its story-telling, this entry sold 5.1 million units in a week, and it is still a joy to play one year later.
However, with recent rumblings of a DLC/expansion for the IP, many had begun to wonder where Santa Monica Studio would take the series next. The answer? God of War Ragnarok Valhalla.
Shockingly, the studio has released this DLC as a free add-on. Having spent about six hours with the game, I can confidently say the developer’s latest work puts most DLCs to shame.
Why it matters: Going into the DLC, I had next to no expectations. However, I returned with more anticipation for the future of this IP.
Justice To The Roguelike Genre
Building upon the classic formula of roguelikes, Valhalla offers God of War Ragnarok fans an opportunity to really delve into the combat system established in 2018 and expanded upon in 2022.
Where I spent most of the base game with the Blades of Chaos, this roguelike DLC invited me to switch between Kratos’ arsenal, even encouraging experimentation with the various special abilities unique to each weapon.
Each run brings Kratos to locations from the Norse saga, but in traditional roguelike fashion, these locations are mixed and matched each time. Additionally, Valhalla introduces a currency that players can collect throughout the DLC.
This currency ties into the overall progression. Perks and Runic Attacks also add to the sense of progression, making each death meaningful as Kratos progresses toward the end goal of facing his past demons, but more on that later.
Enemy variety is plentiful in Vahalla, bringing these systems together in a chaotic and often fun series of gauntlets that fill the void between the different story beats. Ultimately, this story was the main highlight of the DLC for me.
Nostalgia Trip & Concluding Kratos’ Character Arc
One of my gripes with the latest God of War games was that Santa Monica Studio never explored Kratos’ character between the end of God of War 3 and the beginning of the Norse saga.
I always found this to be the most fascinating part of his character arc, making each conversation about the Greek trilogy memorable in these games. Five years after introducing us to a reformed Kratos, Santa Monica Studio has finally brought him face-to-face with his demons.
To my surprise, Valhalla is much more than just a new gauntlet or roguelike mode for those seeking to spend a few hours in the satisfying combat of God of War. Instead, this DLC is about Kratos accepting and forgiving himself, moving on from his past life in the process.
The next few paragraphs contain spoilers for the narrative, so I recommend avoiding them if you have yet to finish the DLC. To keep things spoiler-free, I have also avoided using any of the images from the DLC.
For those who have completed it, however, God of War Ragnarok Valhalla is a nostalgia trip that respects the legacy of Kratos and who he was. In the past, this character was often dismissed as a mindless protagonist, nothing more than a machine of violence with little thought behind his actions.
However, Valhalla provides a different perspective, arguing that Kratos always had depth.
For example, at one point, Tyr reflects on the moment that set Kratos on the path of vengeance, his call upon Ares to forego the shame of defeat.
While Kratos was convinced that he was driven toward Ares by his selfish desire for power and victory, Tyr argued that somewhere, he also wanted to guarantee victory for the thousands who would have suffered had the Barbarians succeeded.
Helios returns in the DLC, quite fittingly, as another talking head companion for Kratos. His snarky remarks serve to remind the audience of our protagonist’s atrocities, but they also help drive home the fact that the former God of War is no longer the same person.
The DLC continues to cater to nostalgic fans through returning enemies like harpies, cyclops, and the legionnaires. I was also quick to recognize landmarks like the statues of the three judges, the chamber of sacrifice, and most importantly, the Throne of Ares, or Kratos, as it would become in the second game.
What makes these remnants from the Greek trilogy so impactful is the fact that they don’t feel forced in for shock value. Since the journey is wholly focused on Kratos’ reflection on the past, cameos from characters like Pandora feel natural.
I was also ecstatic to be reunited with an old favorite, the Blade of Olympus, and this rage-fueled weapon was just as devastating as I last remembered it from the Greek trilogy.
Free Content In This Day & Age?
God of War Ragnarok Valhalla is an impressive DLC based on its merits. While the first run should last around 5-6 hours, those who derive satisfaction from the addictive loop of roguelikes can spend over twice or thrice as long plowing through waves of enemies.
However, the fact that PlayStation has charged nothing for such an incredible journey makes it a cut above the rest, in my opinion.
Toward the end, I felt this DLC beautifully wrapped up the character arc of Kratos, addressing the many elephants in the room since 2018. This closure was something I had craved since the beginning of the Norse saga, making this add-on very special.
Following the conclusion, I unlocked the classic Kratos skin, making another playthrough of the game as the iconic Ghost of Sparta in all his glory almost obligatory.
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Bawal is an MBBS student by day and a gaming journalist by night. He has been gaming since childhood, growing fond of the creativity and innovation of the industry. His career as a gaming journalist started one year ago, and his journey has allowed him to write reviews, previews, and features for various sites. Bawal has also been cited in reputed websites such as Screenrant, PCGamesN, WCCFTech, GamesRadar, and more.