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God of War Valhalla won’t hit same without playing 2008 PSP hit first

The new God of War Ragnarok Valhalla DLC expansion is fantastic, but it's full of references so many new PS5 players won't understand.

God of War Ragnarok Valhalla Greek Mythology references: an image of Kratos, a PSP, and the PlayStation logo

Santa Monica Studios’ new God of War Ragnarok Valhalla DLC is truly a triumph and something everyone with God of War Ragnarok on PS5 should endeavor to play as soon as they have the time. However, if you really want to make the most of your time playing through this epilogue, you might need to do a little bit of homework. This expansion makes several references and numerous direct callbacks to the God of War franchise’s first era – the one that tackles Greek mythology – and even features a familiar face from a PSP spin-off in the first hour of playing.

If you’re yet to experience these older games first-hand, you’re just not going to feel the same emotional connection to these characters and thus not experience the same emotional impact of the events that take place; a Codex entry really can only do so much. We know this goes somewhat without saying if you’ve played God of War Ragnarok, but it really is one of the best PS5 exclusives available right now and the newly-released God of War Ragnarok Valhalla DLC expansion only cements this game’s place on our list of the best RPG games out there at the moment.

Sure, it’s a roguelite mode and those are slowly becoming a dime a dozen when it comes to expansions dropping for new PS5 games, but Valhalla sees both new and returning enemies ready to fight, a polished upgrade system that punishes your failures but rewards your successes, and – importantly – a fantastic story. If you’re yet to play God of War Ragnarok, there will be some slightly specific spoilers ahead – so, you might want to skip down a bit.

Acting as an epilogue to the main narrative, Kratos and Mimir arrive at the shores of Valhalla (importantly, without Atreus) at the behest of a mystery invitation. ‘Master Valhalla, master thyself’ is the task at hand in the Valhalla DLC and Kratos, avoiding Freya after her request that he sign on to become God of War for the Nine Realms in Tyr’s absence, is eager to tackle it. While you’re working your way through Valhalla, you learn that the place itself is drawing on Kratos’ memories – be those familiar locations or familiar faces – to expose him to his shame, his doubts, and his weakness.

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Not to put too fine a point on the whole experience, but it’s essentially a test – an experience Kratos must go through to find out if he is truly ready to leave his violent past behind and ascend to once-more to the godhood he is destined for. To do that, and force Kratos into direct confrontation with one of his weaker moments, Santa Monica Studios calls on the decapitated head of Helios – a victim of Kratos’ wrath in the 2008 PlayStation Portable title God of War Chains of Olympus – in the early stages of the story being told.

While a truly wonderful surprise and something that immediately draws an emotive reaction from the Leviathan Axe-wielding protagonist, it’s difficult to feel the same level of emotional connection to the situation and the character as Kratos if you haven’t actually played through this game. There is a Codex update you can check out which – very, very briefly – explains who Helios is and his relation to Kratos, but it’s a far cry from what would be needed to fully experience the emotional connection Santa Monica Studios is trying so hard to foster.

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So, unless you have access to a PSP console and God of War Chains of Olympus, you’re going to have to do quite a bit of research and watch quite a few hours of old gameplay footage if you want to make sure you’re experiencing this expansion to it’s fullest – and that’s only something we’ve noted from our first few hours of playing. Throughout, there are references to Kratos’ past, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see even more ‘familiar’ faces like Helios pop up as Kratos continues in his testing quest.

If you’re looking to play God of War Ragnarok’s new DLC, but you need to reinstall the game itself, you should look into picking up one of the best PS5 SSD options out there if you haven’t already. The Valhalla expansion alone is around 18 GB and God of War Ragnarok itself is pushing 90 GB nowadays. Picking up one of these will also mean you have enough storage space to download and play all the other best PS5 games over the holidays – it’s really a win-win, if you ask us.