It’s finally here — God of War Ragnarok, the sequel to 2018’s Game of the Year is upon us and with it comes along everything that God of War 4 had and builds upon it with masterful intent.
This isn’t just one of the most anticipated releases of 2022. If the previous title was a massive deconstruction of Kratos and the series as a whole, Ragnarok aims to take the player further down the rabbit hole.
This is a completely different Kratos that we’ve all come to know over the years. From a brutal god-killer to a reluctant father, and now, someone who’s trying to raise a teenager. His biggest challenge yet. Despite all the changes, the game manages to make it all earned. Everything about Ragnarok feels like a natural progression of the characters and the world around them.
God of War 4 ended with a bunch of questions for Kratos, Atreus, and by extension, the player itself. God of War Ragnarok is both a sequel and a conclusion to the Norse saga. There is a lot riding on this one to not only provide answers but give a satisfactory ending to one of the best stories in gaming.
Somehow, God of War Ragnarok continues to be impressive on both a technical and narrative level. Once you think the game has shown everything it has to offer, it pulls yet another surprise out of the corner. It’s by no means perfect, but it’s definitely close to being one.
Taking place three years after God of War 4, Ragnarok has Kratos and Atreus living through a never-ending winter in Midgard. After the life-changing events of the journey both of them had to go through, they’re now trying to live in peace while also having a target on their backs that multiple powerful figures are aiming to strike at.
That’s about the best I can do in order to save you from being spoiled about the events of the previous game and this one. If I were to talk about literally anything else about God of War Ragnarok, it will be considered a spoiler. Santa Monica studios kept every minute detail close to their chest throughout the years leading up to the grand release and trust me when I say this, the game is worth going through knowing as little as possible.
The game’s environments are gorgeous. The visual identity of each asset whether it be the different realms you travel through or the character models is some of the best of what the series has to offer. I often find myself stopping to take in what’s in front of me. This is a visually stunning game to look at and it all runs on a buttery smooth performance that never had a single dip in framerate.
God of War Ragnarok is also seeing a release on the PS4 console. It is undeniable that some compromises were made in order to make the game run on nearly a decade-old hardware. Everything from crawling through tight spaces, climbing walls, going up elevators, etc. are still here as an attempt to hide loading screens and in order to keep the one-shot illusion.
While I can only imagine what Santa Monica could’ve done if they only focused on the full power of the PS5, God of War Ragnarok still manages to be technically impressive. The fact that they managed to ship all of this on the PS4 is an achievement in it itself. I wouldn’t call it a true next-gen title, but it’s one that still manages to take my breath away.
Feel like a God
God of War 2018’s combat was visceral in all the right ways. The closed-in camera angle really emphasized how powerful Kratos’ attacks were and it gave a nice cinematic view of the action as well. Much like the rest of the game, it was a complete overhaul and a far cry from the hack-n-slash combo style of the original trilogy.
God of War Ragnarok carries on with the same principles that bring along a couple of welcome changes that refine what was already a widely praised combat system. Everything is a masterclass in visual execution and sound design. Every hit is accompanied by beefy audio and stunning animations.
I can just tell how the developers had fun with some of the executions on display here. Just when you thought we’ve seen everything Kratos can do with his weapons, God of War Ragnarok is here to show you otherwise.
The Leviathan Axe is as punchy and brutal as ever. I will never get tired of recalling the weapon back into Kratos’ hands especially now with the DualSense 5’s fantastic haptic feedback. You really just have to feel it for yourself. It’s amazing.
Now that Kratos has access to the Blades of Chaos from the very start of the game, Santa Monica has now included everything that they weren’t able to do back in God of War 4. New movesets and runic abilities make the blades more viable as an option. I used to just primarily use the Leviathan Axe as it was my favorite but now, I find myself switching between weapons on a regular basis. They not only look cool, but they’re also insanely powerful as well.
A wide variety of choices
The power fantasy that God of War Ragnarok offers to the player is realized in the revised progression system and different means of build crafting. Once a skill is unlocked, continued use will eventually level it up to the golden tier in which you can improve either the damage, stun, momentum, or elemental capabilities. This is a fantastic way to not only make it seem like the player is improving but also the character as well on a thematic sense.
There are more opportunities to build according to your preference in combat. Strength, defense, luck, cooldown, and runic stats make a return with a wide variety of gear and accessories to equip. There is a surprising amount of build variety to be had here depending on how you equip Kratos. While it may not be as in-depth as some of the systems in the top RPGs in the market, there is a lot to play around with in Ragnarok without it feeling too overwhelming.
And I can’t talk about combat without emphasizing the much-improved enemy variety. The first few hours of the game already have more enemy types compared to the entirety of God of War 4. It almost feels like Santa Monica is saying “you wanted more right? Here you go!” and just throws everything at the player.
For the most part, fighting each of them is fun with some rare exceptions. Similar to God of War 4, whenever Kratos uses abilities, he enters into a slow-mo state that is admittedly cool but mechanically problematic. There are enemies that move faster than you have any capability to react. Animation canceling is not as precise in combat and there are slight input delays. When you’re fighting a boss that moves are breakneck speed, those precious split-second reaction windows can easily be the difference between life and death. Combat is not a cakewalk this time around and it’s a challenge that I, for the most part, enjoyed but was a tad bit frustrated with as well.
Nevertheless, enemy designs are as fantastic as ever and I could tell just how much the combat team really put in an effort to keep it as fresh as they can. There is a lot of fighting that will happen in God of War Ragnarok. A brutal and extremely satisfying combat system helps elevate it to whole new levels of fun.
New world, the same old tricks
The exploration system remains largely the same. Side quests, light environmental puzzles, and a wide selection of collectibles and loot are all scattered around different nooks and crannies of the different realms you’ll be visiting in the story.
God of War Ragnarok is very similar to the previous title. Those who might be expecting a more substantial upgrade might be disappointed to see the same set of animations, puzzle design, and overall design structure to be carried over from 2018.
It still maintains a Metroidvania-like system wherein you obtain different types of gear in order to progress through sealed-off paths that you originally couldn’t go through before. It has a nice sense of progression but one that feels maybe a bit too outdated and played out.
There’s no denying it, God of War Ragnarok is mechanically identical to God of War 2018. The game focuses more on refining already existing systems rather than completely overhauling them.
The one that completely saves God of War Ragnarok from feeling like a glorified DLC is the world-class storytelling on display here. I spent most of my time with the game obsessively glued to the screen as I was desperate to find out what comes next.
A story for the ages
God of War Ragnarok’s narrative is filled with surprises at every turn. Fans who have been with the franchise since the beginning will have their commitment rewarded with flying colors as the game not only tries to tackle the events of God of War 4, but also every title that came before it. The downside is that Ragnarok may not exactly be friendly to newcomers but it’s not anything too jarring to alienate anyone.
The writing team deserves all the credit they can get given the number of characters that Ragnarok has compared to the previous title. Not only do they have to do returning faces justice, but give new ones their own spotlight as well to stand out. And they did. Oh boy, they all did.
Each actor completely loses themselves in the characters they’re playing and it’s all a marvel to witness. Not a single person gives a bland performance here and it completely elevates the experience.
I always tell myself that there couldn’t possibly be anything else the game can throw at me but Ragnarok consistently proves me wrong at almost every other hour.
This is an extremely long adventure. One that can easily take you 50 or more hours to complete and not once did I ever feel like I could predict what would happen next.
This is a story that I highly recommend anyone to experience. It hits every emotional beat at just the right moment and it knows when and where to ramp it all up or take it down a notch.
God of War Ragnarok’s campaign is one that deserves to be praised and talked about for years to come and it remains to be a crowning achievement in gaming as a medium to tell moving stories that stick with the viewer long after the credits roll.
Final Verdict – 9.5/10
As I’m writing this review, all I can think about is just how jealous I am of the rest of the world who will experience God of War Ragnarok for the first time. What the game achieves as a sequel and as a conclusion is truly something special.
I cannot overstate just how amazing the experience will be and all I can promise is that you will never expect any of it. Ragnarok is finally here and it’s one that I fully recommend without a second’s hesitation.