This fall, I powered up my PlayStation 5, after not touching it for a while. I finally finished up Sackboy: A Big Adventure, the second game I’ve played in the Little Big Planet Franchise. Afterwards, I immediately jumped straight into God of War Ragnarök, an absolutely stunning sequel to the 2018 God of War for the PlayStation 4. This month’s reviews are from a seasons of sequels on a current generation console.
Sackboy: A Big Adventure
Sackboy: A Big Adventure is the second game I’ve played in the Little Big Planet series, the first being Little Big Planet for the PS Vita. A Big Adventure takes the classic franchise and adds 3D platforming elements, beautiful artwork, a fairly basic kid friendly story, and incredible music. It starts off fun and upbeat, pulling players in with stunning graphics. However, the gameplay can get fairly difficult, the 3D perspective makes some jumps frustrating and game progression requires finding a certain number of secrets in each level. It’s a really entertaining game that falls short in just a few key areas.
When I first started playing A Big Adventure, everything about the game immediately pulled me in. The level designs were carefully timed and themed to a lot of classic hit songs. I immediately identified music and remixes by Earth Wind and Fire, Alt J, Madonna and Beats Antique. There are tons of amazing artists and songs, and it felt amazing to jump and jam along to levels perfectly in-sync with the rhythm. The graphics and colors were all vibrant and really made every level and cut sequence pop.
One of my criticisms for Little Big Plant PS Vita was the lack of real challenge. Very few levels felt difficult, with the focus of the game geared more towards creativity with stickers and creating custom art with the Vita’s touchscreen. This title starts off with a much more reasonable level of difficulty. Levels felt challenging. However, as the game progresses, the normal difficulty can get pretty gnarly. The 3D perspective of the game doesn’t follow Sackboy, nor is it adjustable. It’s a fixed camera. On some of the later levels, this really makes depth based jumps more challenging than they need to be.
Each level contains a certain number of dreamer orbs in secret locations. These would be fun, except they later become necessary to advance to new areas of the game. I’m not a fan of secrets needed to move through the core game, and didn’t find repeating levels just to advance all that fun. The game also feels pretty long, even though my playthrough only clocked in around 20 hours. There are a few “just kidding” moments throughout the game that just seem like filler.
Overall, I really wish I liked this game more. The graphics are gorgeous, the music poppy and the initial few worlds of level design was the perfect balance of challenge and playfulness. Decking out your character in collectible outfits is fun and cute. However, the story is incredibly basic, kid friendly, and forgettable. The frustrating mechanics and dreamer orb progression made me put down this game for several months before finally picking it up again and finishing it. I’m still glad I finished it, and most of the game is really enjoyable.
God of War Ragnarök
God of War Ragnarök picks off where players left off in the 2018 PlayStation 4 title, God of War. Atreus has grown from a young boy into a teenager. The realms have succumbed to Thimblewinter. Kratos trains his son, to prepare him for a prophecy he wishes to run from. Together, our two main characters journey through the realms, challenge fate and destiny, make new enemies, and discover new allies. God of War Ragnarök is an intense and addictive brawling adventure, filled with incredible story telling, dynamic character growth, unlikely alliances and unleashed war. It’s a challenging, yet wonderful game, that balances battles, storytelling, artwork and war in a truly spectacular epic.
Running from your Destiny
Before Sigmund Freud ruined it, the story of Oedipus Rex was a classic tail of a man’s fate being predicted by an oracle. His attempt to run from his destiny, lead him directly into that fate. Ragnarök is a retelling of the Oedipus tale. The previous game ended with dramatic revelations about the future of Kratos and his son, as predicted by the ancestors of his late wife. In the sequel, the characters are quickly thrown into the classic dilemma of the gods: can a god escape one’s fate?
This game attempts to challenge the idea of fate and destiny. The characters must each come to their own conclusions about prophecy and their belief in their own decisions. There are some absolutely amazing story elements that can throw the player to question everything about the story they are journeying through. The fate versus free will dynamic is a difficult one to transverse in game story telling. However, I think this game does a decent job of portraying that topic. The story addresses the notions of choice versus destiny in a gripping and heartwarming way.
The game engine itself is very similar to its predecessor. Kratos starts off with his two primary weapons: an ice axe and his blades of chaos. Glowing rings of yellow, red and blue have been added to indicate attacks that can be blocked, unblockable attacks, and moments where a shield deflection can lead to a stun. Atreus is given two different types of arrows, as well as his own rage mode.
There are a lot more characters compared to the previous game. I really like that the towns are filled with people, where the previous game felt cold, dead and empty of life outside of the main characters and battles. There are a lot more possible interactions. Primary and secondary characters shift from time to time, allowing for vastly different dynamics in certain missions. There are several moments where you play as Atreus, which causes a substantial shift in strategy and methods of attacks. Side character change throughout the journey as well, with some missions missing them entirely. All of this variety provides for challenging missions where the player must adjust and adapt strategies based on what’s ahead of them.
Overall, I really enjoyed the gameplay. Some missions were frustrating, but nothing ever went beyond what was capable with the default difficulty and enough persistence. Harder battles felt immensely satisfying upon winning.
The artwork in Ragnarök is absolutely stunning. Each realm and world is beautifully designed. The advanced haptics of the PS5 controller are used in everything from footsteps through a cave, to funerals, to intense boss battles. The combinations of colors, music and storytelling really brings the lore of the world to life.
There is a lot to keep up with. This game is a true sequel, meaning it would be difficult to understand what is going on without fulling playing through the previous title. This game builds a lot on the previous adventure, and there are even a couple of throwbacks to the classic God of War games for the PlayStation 2.
The action moves very quickly throughout the game, with a lot of the lore told to the player during the journeys between realms, or while traveling via boat. Depending on if side quests are completed with Freya or Atreus, the characters reveal slightly different dialog for the same backstory. Some of the side quests are battle laden filler, but others provide interesting story and character development between Kratos and his son.
There were a lot of concerns with fans when early gameplay artwork was released. The deception of Thor and Loki’s supposed love interest made many gamers weary of God of War turning into a woke franchise. However, just like the theme of the game, I think a lot of these concerns did not fulfill the prophecies people were predicting. Thor is made into an incredibly interesting character, far more complex than his Marvel movie namesake. The individual roles of every character do culminate into a truly endearing world.
There are few games which captivate my mind like God of War Ragnarök. I’m not normally a fan of games that are nothing but endless brawling battles. Many times, I thought of Dorothea from Fire Emblem Three Kingdoms when she says the words “more fighting” in battle sequences. Yet in this game, the endless battles lead the way to interesting characters, dangerous missions, hidden agendas, wars of trust and, ultimately, an incredible bond between a father and son.
The story was absolutely incredible. Even many of the side missions (and I only completed a couple) had some amazing animations and heartfelt moments. In only two weeks, I put over 40 hours into this game. I will admit that God of War Ragnarök is incredibly addictive. Yet, it’s totally worth it for anyone who wants a truly captivating game with amazing battles, a good difficulty curve, great cinematics and a satisfying ending to an amazing story.
I don’t buy a lot of console games. I prefer using my PC and try to stick to games that are console exclusives. I haven’t played a lot of games over the fall, but I’m glad I picked up my PS5 controller again. I finished a game I had lost interest in, as well as playing through a new really amazing adventure.