There has been a lot of talk about God of War Ragnarök since its release almost two weeks ago. This ranged from whether or not a PETA friend mode should be included in the game to Kratos’ atonement for his past behavior.
One thing that really struck a chord is the amount of help Ragnarok’s companions give when players try to solve puzzles. Many fans feel that it really would be better if the companions just stuck to their advice little a little longer than you would like.
For example, like many others, I like to leave the main game path every once in a while to see if there are any hidden gems I might miss if I leave the area too early. (This is all just standard exploration, no sign that I have no idea what I’m doing. Honestly, it is.) Early in the game I took a step away from Atreus and was quickly told to leave would Wrong way. “I think that wheel over here must be turning,” he called after my retreating footsteps.
Yes, thanks Atreus. I had already collected this myself, but there was also a chest over there that might just contain some goodies that will help us improve our weapons. I’ll check – is that ok with you?
I’m now many (many) hours further into Ragnarok, and yet these ‘clues’ just keep coming, with varying degrees of abruptness from those who provide them.
There were of course times when I was really stumped and needed a little hint as to what to do next. In those moments, as with every game I play, I was grateful for the additional input from my companions.
I just wish characters would only give me those nudges when the game was absolutely certain that I wouldn’t be able to get from A to B on my own. When characters jump in too early to help, even with the best of intentions in the world, I feel like it interrupts my overall immersion in the game.
I appreciate that this is a single player game and generally enjoy interacting with those who keep me company as we progress through Ragnarok’s Nine Realms. The camaraderie is nice, and much of the back-and-forth banter helps build the world around me when the gameplay is a little quieter.
There’s a moment later in the game (don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything) between two characters that is really lovely, and I felt quite emotional listening to them tell their stories to each other. I really love a good conversation that adds to the story.
But that doesn’t mean that outside of these conversations, my companions have to help out all the time, especially when there’s really no reason to push the narrative forward. That lovely conversation I just mentioned – the emotions I felt following this exchange were quickly dispelled when my companion methodically and almost robotically began pointing out the angle of a statue I needed to adjust, pretending to If only they had revealed their souls to me moments earlier.
Horizon Forbidden West also fell into this trap earlier this year. There, Aloy was constantly providing feedback on her surroundings before players even had a chance to move the camera to capture the scenery themselves. It broke the immersion in the moment when I heard Aloy describe something the players had no control over. In hindsight, this was perhaps even more harrowing for players, as Aloy was talking to herself, which is related to the lack of severed heads or juvenile offspring following her every move.
Ironically, the constant need to support Ragnarok’s side kicks also made it a bit more difficult for me at times. Sometimes my “helpful” companions have caused a problem where none actually existed.
Let me take you back to the moment I was stuck for an inordinately long time because Atreus was gazing across a crevasse at a contraption in the distance, constantly commenting on its levers or something along those lines.
Given his near-obsessive obsession with the mechanics on the other side of that chasm, I figured I was destined to do something that would allow us to get there.
I’ve searched the area forever, but nothing springs to mind as the solution to another mystery that I assumed was. I threw my ax at every overhang. I lit my blades to burn all the foliage. I tried to climb every vertical surface. But nothing worked. Up until this point, the whole area was pretty straight forward, and yet this is where I was suddenly completely at a loss as my son in game made me feel like I was missing the wood for the trees.
Eventually, in my frustration, I walked away from the canyon (I don’t know why, but that word always makes me chuckle). And, what do you know, a little way back down another path there was a cart we had to slip past that I missed the first time. This turned out to be the route we were supposed to be taking, and after I removed the cart from the path, Kratos drove on, pretending that Atreaus hadn’t just tried to throw him over the edge of a ravine just seconds earlier send .
Many hours have passed since that moment and I still have no idea what the contraption on the other side of this gorge was. Did I accidentally trigger a dialog meant for later in the game? Does that mean Atreus solved mysteries I wasn’t ready to solve? Who can tell? Whatever it was, it certainly took up a lot of my playing time.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally on board with making a game more accessible to as many players as possible. The industry in general has made great strides in this regard, and God of War Ragnarök has a gloriously full catalog of options for curating a gaming experience that suits a variety of individual needs. Maybe I’m being a little too hard on Ragnarök now.
But I only wish that alongside all the other accessibility options included in this game (and there’s even a “puzzle timing” option that gives you more time to solve the game’s timed puzzles), there was one slider that allows you to adjust the number of clues the companions give and how quickly they choose to give them.