Diamond Award 2022: God of War Ragnarök

Jeremy Peeples4 minute read

The DAGERSystem Diamond Award for 2022 goes to God of War: Ragnarök! An impressive game with accessible features and design throughout.

Large-scale action games can be a daunting task for any player – let alone one with a disability or perhaps several of them. When a player wants to experience a game, but can’t due to accessibility issues, it can be crushing. Especially for a story-heavy game that’s a part of a long-running series. Sony’s Santa Monica Studio has worked for years with both the 2018 God of War and the 2022 follow-up God of War: Ragnarök to craft action-filled narratives that can be fully enjoyed by players no matter what disability they have.

Accessibility upfront

The bar has been raised with the inclusion of accessibility being brought up right away. It isn’t hidden, it isn’t something that one has to search for, the game makes every player keenly aware that there are players with disabilities. By having so many options available it offers a window into what it’s like to play a game with one. Visual, fine-motor, and auditory disabilities are factored into every part of the game. Examples are available for most of the options, showing the player what their experience will be like.

A boot menu showing quick start or guided set up

Larger text sizes can be easy to imagine, but are far better-implemented because you can see exactly what it will look like. The same holds true for all of the colorblind options and high-contrast settings. Audio-related settings are relayed through the speakers, including screen reading, which actually starts the game off. Right away, screen reading is put into the mix and a few seconds later, you can do things like adjust button-mashing to be a single long press or get help with figuring out where to go with narrative aids and even puzzle help by having more time to solve them. 

A bullseye looking indicator is shown for a nearby pick up

As we brought up in our review, the little touches matter. Something as small as being able to automatically pick up health pickups or items can help cut down on finger and joint fatigue during long play sessions. Or even make a long play session possible to someone who normally can only play games in small bursts. Every control function can be remapped as well and that makes actions snappier if you want to. Instead of using bumpers and triggers for attacks, you can use face buttons or even remap them to back buttons if you have a controller that supports them.

Making players feel welcome

Giving a disabled player choice is something that can be easy to take for granted. But it isn’t taken for granted by players whose day-to-day lives can lack options due to a disability. Having a game that makes people feel welcomed and able to complete the adventure laid before them can be empowering. Santa Monica Studio’s standard of excellence for accessibility is something that others should look to and aspire to reach. Being able to minimize needless button presses for health and XP boosts helps keep the gameplay flow faster. This has benefits across the board.

Large subtitles are shown with speaker label and background.

Ragnarok has an impressive suite of visual and cognitive assists available. Text and UI scaling help with the visual side of things, as do high contrast and colorblind modes. Those who struggle with getting around the world can be aided by the camera guiding the player where to go. The execution of this is fantastic. It is something that a lot of games would benefit from because the environments here are fairly small but richly-detailed. This makes the world stunning to look at, but also very easy to be distracted by. Having this feature ensures that the player will always be able to find their way with great ease.

God of War Ragnarok high contrast showing Atreus in yellow with Kratos and others in blue.

The sheer amount of ways in which the development team have worked accessibility into the core game design without sacrificing the experience is remarkable. It makes God of War: Ragnarok an easy pick for the Diamond Award. Santa Monica Studio has truly shown how to craft gripping, action-heavy stories while still providing satisfying experiences for disabled players.

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