The axe-bearer is back and this time the god-killing adventure is an emotional fight rather than a physical one. God of War (2018) redefined its gameplay and presentation in a way that was amazing and ambitious and after four years of waiting, God of War Ragnarök is finally in our hands. Does it live up to the expectations? Does it beat all expectations? Simply put, yes. Absolutely. God of War Ragnarök is the most exciting adventure game you’ll play this year. It’s also a tear-jerker for fans who have been with the series since 2005 and the storytelling even beats The Last of Us Part II.
God of War Ragnarök review
A godly sequel
Essentially story and lore take precedence in everything you do in the game. Kratos is more of a father than a God-killer; in every sense of the word, it was intentional. You should play the first God of War to understand that this time Kratos will be more dad than ever. The story is actually quite simple but when you mash it with intriguing Norse mythology, complex character development, fantastic scripts and that one-shot camera take. You can’t help but see God of War Ragnarök as a shining example of this peak video gaming era.
God of War Ragnarök is no longer a story about Kratos and Atreus only. It’s also about the friends and enemies they make along the way. Ragnarök is coming and the things that set it in motion are bound by fate and prophecies, a topic Kratos has fought, rivalled and fully experienced in his lifetime. However, Atreus is now in junior college age which means he wants to chase young adult curiosity and be more in control of his life and not be dependent on his daddy for allowance (Hacksilver or otherwise). This conflict of emotional turbulence between the two sets the stage for God of War Ragnarök.
The plot only gets more engaging and believable as you see new actors joining the stage and personally, the nuanced character personalities really sold the plot of God of War Ragnarök. It really shows how a good script and acting can really make the most basic emotions feel so powerful. In God of War Ragnarök, Gods are not powerful, their emotions are.
*Danielle Bisutti (Freya), Christopher Judge (Kratos), Richard Schiff (Oden) and Ryan Hurst (Thor) have done a tremendous job of voicing their characters.
If you’re looking for a more maniacal hack-and-slash that was present in the games before the 2018 game then God of War Ragnarök may be a bit slow-paced for you. The combat stays the same as in the 2018 reboot but there are some new and interesting changes to the combat arena itself. Firstly, Kratos can now whip onto higher ledges easily with his Blades of Chaos giving you more room to run around and kill things. Buddies also have abilities to help you with environment puzzles. However, this time during combat, the buddy's abilities don’t feel entirely useful. Previously when it was only Atreus by your side and the skill tree had specific abilities to activate which made Atreus’ abilities an extension of your own in combat. Here it just feels a little less important. You do get more variety in combat and buddies which take story precedence.
You also get three to four types of shields that each have a specific ability activation based on the guard counter. It really allows you to have more fun with your game style. Love to counter enemies by parrying at the right time? There’s something that increases the risk and reward for parrying. Aged and dulled your senses in the 15 years since the first God of War game? There’s a shield that absorbs all and returns some.
Even the Rage meter has variation. You can either choose to get some health back or use the weapon in hand to execute a very angry yet contained attack, or go just go full rage mode and punch everything. It’s a nod to Kratos’ changing nature from a Hulk-smash attitude to an eloquent God-killer.
Santa Monica Studio has put a lot of attention to the way the story, missions and combat intertwine. Everything feels purposeful in a way that is unlike any other action-adventure game. Snippets of Norse mythology are fed to you while you navigate the semi-open world with the characters. Like God of War (2018) this time too you’ll just want to move around the open spaces to listen to the conversations between the characters. Santa Monica Studio has also taken a page out of The Last of Us and The Uncharted series’ mission structure in a few instances.
You also experience what it’s like to play with Atreus separately but eventually get reminded that the father-son duo (and Mimir) is one heck of a combo — in and out of combat. Playing with Atreus is very different because he feels more nimble and agile compared to Kratos who handles like a wrecking ball. The bow-and-arrow gameplay of Atreus can sometimes feel disconnected from Kratos’ more aggressive move set. However, the pacing is bang on. You will never feel like you’re doing the same thing over and again. Ever!
That continues with the side missions as well. Explorable regions are bigger and better and side missions are more than just fetch quests. Each realm has some unique side missions that could’ve easily served as the main story quest for some other not-so-polished games.
Graphics and audio
This is a no-brainer but just like its predecessor, God of War Ragnarök is a console seller. This game right here is the reason why enthusiast gamers pick the PlayStation 5. It was hard to top the 2018 game in terms of visual fidelity but Ragnarök is jaw-dropping. Part of what makes it more special is the facial animations, voice acting and cinematic set pieces. All of these things are pretty much like sugar, spice and everything nice. The chemical X is the graphic quality that binds this fascinating story together. We played in Favor Quality mode + HFR (High Frame Rate) which targets 1800 to 2160p (native 4K) at 40FPS unlocked if you have a variable refresh rate display. If you want to know more about the resolution and frame rate, the studio’s official page has tweeted a proper chart which you can see here.
We were also lucky enough to review the game on one of the best gaming OLED TVs in the market — the LG G2 OLED Gallery Edition. If you have a fancy OLED then be prepared to be mesmerized by the inky blacks in cutscenes, and bright and beautiful environments in the gameplay from across the Nordic realms.
The game also supports PlayStation Tempest 3D audio which is good for tracking down collectables and important chests. The surround isn’t as accurate as Ghost of Tsushima and the audio levels also need a wee-bit fixing. However, the DualSense controller’s haptic feedback is in a league of its own and the game makes you feel every thump and whack from the Leviathan Axe.
It’s no easy task to make a game that intertwines gameplay, cinematics, and creative camera work to tell an epic adventure but God of War Ragnarök manages to set an example for everyone yet again. Single-player games have tremendous potential and create value. Whether you’re a God of War loyalist or simply started after the 2018 reboot, Ragnarök continues the story of Kratos and Atreus in the most meaningful way. It stays true to its characters and the fan base. Even though we truly miss the raging murderous rage of Kratos, this here is worthy of my time, especially when I have aged and dulled my senses in the 15 years since the first God of War game.
A thunderous return for one of PlayStation’s best ever. God of War Ragnarök builds over the reboot in more meaningful ways than one.