Since rolling credits (and platinum-ing) God of War Ragnarök shortly after its release last year, I have craved more of developer Santa Monica Studio’s take on Norse mythology. I was satisfied with how the story wrapped up, although admittedly, I would have liked a more bombastic finale worthy of the name “Ragnarök,” so I wasn’t necessarily looking for new story content just yet. I was fine to wait for a sequel years down the road, perhaps with Kratos and Atreus traversing through a new line of mythological lands and gods. But I wanted some reason to return to its beautiful world, adrenaline-inducing combat, and top-tier characters.
When PlayStation revealed Ragnarök’s Valhalla DLC, I was immediately excited. A free DLC dropping less than a week after its reveal featuring a new roguelite structure on top of the game’s already stellar combat? Sign me up! With just that trailer to go off of, I fully expected Valhalla to be just that – a roguelite mode to partake in more of Ragnarök’s combat. However, after three hours with the DLC, I am blown away. Not only is it a full-featured roguelite mode starring Kratos and trusty companion Mimir, with excellent arenas and tantalizing upgrades and strategic decision-making t, but it’s a story I didn’t know I wanted.
Spoilers Below For The First Few Hours of Ragnarök’s Valhalla DLC
Valhalla starts immediately – there’s no bridge between the ending of Ragnarök and this DLC. It’s just Kratos and Mimir on a small boat rowing toward Valhalla. Unlike other depictions of this mystical realm, like in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Santa Monica Studio doesn’t paint it with sunlight, rainbows, gold, ales-a-plenty, and celebration. Instead, it’s a spooky land, bathed in fog and mystery. And, as you soon find out after entering its doors, it transforms based on who has entered it. In this instance, it becomes what I can only imagine is a nightmare for Kratos. All nine Norse realms come together to create combat arena after combat arena, with pockets of exploration for Kratos to venture through on a journey against his mind.
It’s here where Valhalla’s purpose becomes clear. It’s not a new DLC to give players a chance to experience the game’s combat in roguelite fashion (although it certainly does that); it’s an opportunity to provide a glimpse into the mind of Kratos, after all he’s been through in the events of Ragnarök, 2018’s God of War, and even the Greek entries before them. In the modern games, we see Kratos come to terms with his new life, his son, and his role in this Norse world. Those adventures only touch on his history, mainly to compare how far he’s come, but in Valhalla, Kratos must come face to face with his past choices.
He encounters the Sun God, Helios, whom Kratos infamously decapitated shortly after receiving help from the deity in 2010’s God of War III.
It has tortured Kratos all these years, we learn, and Valhalla is pushing him to come to terms with that decision, Helios, and how he might tackle that type of conflict today. With Helios introduced, Valhalla also brings Kratos to Greek realms for combat, where he fights new enemies (for the Norse entries in the series, at least) like legionnaires, minotaurs, sirens, and more.
What’s most fascinating for me, as someone who still has not played any of the Greek God of War games, is that I’m getting a glimpse into what those stories did to Kratos. Having loved God of War and Ragnarök, I was satisfied with the parts of Kratos’ history that they touched on and didn’t feel I needed more. But now, a few hours into Valhalla, I’m thoroughly enjoying these touchstones to his past I’m receiving, and it’s coloring the Kratos I know in a new light.
That I’m getting all of this additional story content, which itself is an excellent epilogue to the events of Ragnarök in ways I haven’t mentioned here, plus a well-crafted roguelite spin on one of my favorite combat systems this generation, for free is almost bewildering. Don’t get me wrong – I’m happy it’s free and delivering so much “new” to a game I already love – but PlayStation could have easily charged for this.
If anything, it paints the publisher’s decision to charge $49.99 (or $9.99 to upgrade if you already own it on PlayStation 4) for the upcoming remaster of The Last of Us Part II, which includes the roguelite No Return mode, a bit more painful. As someone primarily interested in the remaster for the new roguelite mode, having beaten the campaign twice already, I’m questioning whether the $9.99 upgrade fee will be worth it when Valhalla delivers so much in the same vein for free.
But that’s a debate for another day.
What’s not a debate is that Ragnarök’s Valhalla is so much more than just roguelite DLC; it’s essential content for the God of War series and Kratos’ journey thus far.
Are you playing God of War Ragnarok’s Valhalla DLC? Let us know what you think of it in the comments below!