This year has been a rather slow one for games. After Elden Ring came out and shook the world, things more or less went quiet. Plenty of indie releases and a few triple-A duds, but nothing truly exceptional. It was starting to look like FromSoftware was going to sweep Game of the Year with little competition.
At least until this game came out. Now we have two major ground-breaking games this year!
God of War: Ragnarök had a ton to live up to. Ignoring the already prestigious legacy of the series, the 2018 game set the bar ridiculously high. Amazingly, it managed to live up to all those expectations and more! This is a fantastic example of how to make a sequel!
Fimbelwinter is growing worse and Ragnarök draws closer. Despite this, Kratos and Atreus have remained at home, focusing on their training while avoiding the vengeful Freya. When Odin and Thor pay their home a visit, they’re forced to go on the move. Their plan: find Tyr, the Norse God of War, in the hopes that he may have answers. With the end of the world drawing ever closer, will Kratos and his son manage to subvert fate and save their loved ones?
If the 2018 game was a family drama, then Ragnarök is a fantasy epic! World-hopping adventure, magic prophecies, tons of characters, it’s got it all! It even ends with a large-scale battle!
Whereas the last game focused primarily on Kratos, this game focuses more strongly on his son. Atreus has a fantastic character arc this time around. His search for identity and truth is remarkably fitting, given his age. Plus, it’s nice to see him become more independent.
That’s not to say Kratos sits on his ass all game. In fact, he faces his greatest challenge yet: raising a teenage boy. Honestly, I love his arc in this game. Seeing Kratos struggle with the demons of his past and become a genuinely good person is uplifting. Not to mention entertaining; seeing Kratos try to be normal will never not be funny.
The villains are just as interesting as our heroes. Odin is one of my new favorite video game antagonists; he’s basically an Italian mobster with godly knowledge and power. Then there’s Thor, my favorite character, who I wrote a whole character analysis about yesterday. Not to mention Heimdall; a bigger c***, I’ve never seen.
This thrilling adventure comes to an absolutely brilliant ending. No sequel bait, just a solid conclusion to the stories of both the father and the son. It’s satisfying, tragic, and absolutely gorgeous. The whole thing left me in tears by the time the credits roled.
With all that praise said, the story isn’t perfect. Most of the side characters are half-baked, making any moment connected to them feel a tad hollow. One character does nothing but sit still and speak all of two sentences before he ‘sacrificed’ himself. A good many of the twists, while effective, don’t make all that much sense if you actually think about them.
There’s also a noticeable drop in subtlety. In 2018, the characters rarely, if ever, explained what they were thinking or feeling. Instead, you’d pick it up through clever dialogue or their facial expressions. Ragnarök takes a much more straight-forward approach, with everyone voicing what they’re thinking or feeling almost all the time. It’s not bad persay, just something that I noticed that kinda bothered me.
Still, these issues are small drops in the bucket. As a whole, the story of Ragnarök is fantastic. If you loved what the last game was going for, then you’re going to love this one. It’s easily one of the best narratives in any triple-A game.
Graphically speaking, Ragnarök is very impressive. Like the last game, it manages to strike the perfect balance between photo-realism and style, creating an experience that will age far more gracefully than some of its contemporaries. It’s character models all look solid, the animations are smooth and gorgeous, and it all runs at a consistently smooth frame-rate.
At least, it does in Performance Mode. If you’re going for Visual Mode, things get a lot more rough. Sure, it looks pretty. But with how chunky it was to play, I don’t think it even reached 30FPS. If you’re gonna play it, stick to Performance Mode.
I adore how truly alive each environment feels. Dark caves are populated by small bio-illuminescent insects. The jungles of Vanaheim are populated with all manner of small animals that watch you as you pass. Fish of all kinds of shapes and sizes swim through the waters of Svartfelheim. Very few triple-A games have this much attention to detail anymore, so it’s rather refreshing to see it here.
As a next gen game, however, this game really didn’t blow me away. Sure, it looks amazing. But you can tell that it was limited by it also coming out for the PS4. The only real next gen feature in terms of the graphics is the particle effects on certain enemies and abilities. Aside from that, the PS5 version still feels like it could run on the PS4.
Prvoided you don’t mind the PS4 screaming and catching fire.
Oh, and of course, the music is phenomenal. Bear McCreary’s score is just as jaw-dropping as it was before. This time around, he delivers some of the most beautiful use of motiffs I’ve ever heard in a video game. If you want a great example, just listen to ‘Huldra Brothers’ and ‘Raeb’s Lament’. It’s masterfully done.
Now, onto the gameplay. In this regard, Ragnarök is an upgrade over the last game in every conceivable way. Combat, puzzles, traversal, everything has been refined, improved upon, or added too. Playing this one feels like playing Doom: Eternal after playing Doom (2016); you can just feel how much better it is.
Kratos has almost all of the same moves as he did in the last game and more. Now, he can charge up each weapon with the triangle button, adding a powerful elemental charge to the next blow. Each skill can be further upgraded after repeated use, allowing you to make the God of War even more powerful. He even gets a customizable shield and a brand-new weapon to play with later on in the game, and it’s every bit as cool as the Leviathan Axe or the Blades of Chaos.
Even if it isn’t Mjölnir. I wanted to use that hammer so god damn badly!
It’s not just Kratos, either. This time around, you also get to play as Atreus! He doesn’t have the same combat depth as his father, but he’s still got a ton of unique abilities that make him distinct and fun to play.
This time around, it isn’t just about your weapons and skills. You can also use the environment to help you in battle. Not only does Kratos have increased mobility options, he can also fling rocks and trees at his enemies or deliver devastating ground-slam attacks from above. Each encounter is like a miniature sandbox; you’ve got tons of options, but you only ever need to use the ones you want.
Of course, none of this would matter if the enemies weren’t fun. Luckily, Ragnarök has a massive range of enemies to fight. From the small and the fast to the massive and everything in-between, you’ll have no shortage of baddies to rip into pieces throughout your journey.
Even better is the bosses. This game has dozens of unique bosses, from gods to dragons to lizards and so many more. Many of them are repeated; gotta save costs somewhere. But you won’t be fighting the same three over and over like in the last game. More importantly, every single one of them is fun to fight!
Puzzles are greatly improved as well. No longer are you dragging crystals around. Now you’re using the Leviathan Axe to freeze and redirect water to work machines, pulling stuff about with the Blades of Chaos, navigating maze-like environments, on and on it goes. Some of them are easy, others are real mind-benders.
Unfortunately, this game can be a bit overbearing when it comes to giving the player information. Your party members will often get frustrated with you and start providing obvious hints mere seconds into starting a puzzle. If they’re not doing that, then they’re yelling at you to avoid certain hits if you take even the smallest bit of damage. Sometimes the game simply hits you with a text box explaining something obvious. It can all feel a bit condescending, like the game doesn’t believe you can do it.
You won’t quickly run out of things to do. Each realm has a massive amount of content, from collectibles to side quests, with some even having their own open-world sections to explore. If you decide to do the side content, you’ll likely double your time with this game. There’s even a ton of post-game content to do!
It’s genuinely stunning how massive God of War: Ragnarök truly is. The main story is already jam-packed with stuff. With all the side content, you’ll not run out of game to play for a good long while.
Speedrunners are gonna have a field day with this one.
God of War: Ragnarök is an amazing game. It improves on the last game in almost every conceivable way, delivering one of the most jaw-dropping games we’ve seen this year. This is a must-have for Playstation owners.
Question is: where’s this series gonna go next? This game left no room for a sequel. Are we gonna get another reboot? A remake? A complete reimagining of the series?
So long as it isn’t a PS5 remake of 2018, I’ll take it.