HomeDigital TrendsVideo Game Review: God of War: Ragnarök

Video Game Review: God of War: Ragnarök

Photo Credit: Playstation/SONY

Sony and Santa Monica Studios breathed new life into the God of War franchise, an iconic staple in PlayStation’s first-party lineup, with their 2018 reboot/sequel. It brought the franchise’s iconic angry god-killer into a new setting and light delivering one of the best PlayStation games of all time. With its sequel, Ragnarök, the bar for storytelling, gameplay, design, and every other quality of excellence gets somehow raised to new heights. 

God of War: Ragnarök picks up shortly after Kratos (voiced by Christopher Judge) and his son Atreus’ (voiced by Sunny Suljic) first journey through the Nine Realms. Their discovery of Atreus’ connection to the giants and the name they gave him, Loki, as well as the havoc caused in fighting Baldur and other gods has attracted powerful new foes. Now, as Atreus still searches for answers about his fate as Loki, the father/son duo must deal with the looming shadow of Odin (voiced by Richard Schiff) as the cataclysmic event known as Ragnarök is set in motion. 

With any sequel, fans would expect to see radically new mechanics introduced that change up the experience from the first game. That mostly isn’t the case with Ragnarök though and it’s one of the smartest decisions made by Santa Monica. Truthfully, the major shift in gameplay in God of War (2018) was already pretty significant as it introduced a more refined combat system that required good timing and skill rather than chaotic slashing. Santa Monica not only took inspiration from FromSoftware’s style of combat and design but found great ways to make their own innovations through Kratos’ distinct style of brutality and a small, but powerful arsenal of weapons. Honestly, it was already a pretty perfect combat experience, so why reinvent the wheel, right?

Santa Monica clearly had that in mind as Ragnarök’s combat experience is largely the same aside from some added elements that enhance, evolve, and freshen up the combat. While Kratos only manages to find one new weapon late in his journey, his old arsenal gets revamped excellently through new combat skills players can earn from leveling. These new skills allow Kratos to have more combo options in the heat of battle and even bring in more elemental attacks that help with damage dealing and crowd control. Plus, when you add in the fact that there are also some interactive tether points embedded into the environment that can give players the high ground, you really get to see the depth of Ragnarök’s combat experience.

Ragnarök’s combat goes even deeper than expected as Kratos isn’t the only character players can play as. Atreus is fully playable in specific chapters and uses his bow skills to take down enemies. His faster mobility allows for a nice change of pace in combat and his small arsenal of arrows adds unique layers to his playstyle. It’s also great that he has his own skill tree to upgrade his abilities and weapons as it really solidifies him more as a lead. Also, with Kratos and Atreus going down different paths throughout Ragnarök, they have new partners in combat that bring their own skills and styles to fighting. The unique kinds of support allies that players will have throughout Ragnarök continually freshen up the gameplay and really show how elevated Ragnarök’s combat experience is. 

Even better is that Santa Monica has crafted a world that’s incredibly fun to explore, fight in, and immerse yourself into. The lore and landscape of the Nine Realms continues to expand in Ragnarök with players entering new areas, including the Dwarven mines of Svartalfheim, and getting new glimpses of old stomping grounds. There are plenty of excellent side missions, objectives, and collectibles for players to find that lead to great rewards, including fearsome secret bosses and story beats that expand the lore. Like God of War (2018), exploration is incredibly rewarding in Ragnarök as players can find game-changing armor and weapon upgrades as well as hidden bosses that test players’ might. With how much more open Ragnarök is, it always feels like there’s something new to explore and it makes for some great post-game content. 

The level design and polish of Ragnarök is also flawless. Not only does the environment variety allow for greater combat possibilities, but it also makes traversal so engaging. There’s nothing more fun than climbing to the top of towering mountains and walls, and every realm comes with a great atmosphere and distinct color palette. Visually, Ragnarök might be the best-looking game on the PS5. Plus, it uses the PS5’s capabilities well to create more immersive gameplay through the Dualsense’s haptic feedback and have expansive accessibility options making it playable for every kind of player.  

To no surprise though, Ragnarök’s story is its shiniest quality as it presents another emotional and epic chapter in Kratos and Atreus’ journey. It’s great how the story basically starts right where God of War (2018) left off with Atreus being introduced to this hidden legacy as Loki and Thor (voiced by Ryan Hurst) paying them a visit during Fimbulwinter. Given what happened in the previous game, tensions are boiling right from the start between Kratos and Thor and only become more roaring as Odin enters the picture. Although fans have seen other depictions of Thor and Odin before, Ragnarök’s are undoubtedly unique.

Odin has a less domineering approach, largely thanks to Schiff’s great performance, and acts more as a mental threat with a devastating plan forming in the background. From appearances alone, Odin would seem not as powerful, but he shouldn’t be underestimated. The moments where his power finally comes through result in an incredible fight for survival and his more calculated nature results in one wild twist. As for Thor, his raw anger and frustration towards Kratos can be felt within their first fight. His massive stature makes you fearful of him from the start, yet, like Odin, appearances can be deceiving. There’s a more broken part of Thor that’s excellently explored and plays a big role in Kratos and Atreus turning the tables on Odin. Both Odin and Thor are excellent characters on their own but are made even better with the roles they play in Kratos and Atreus’ personal journeys surrounding fate and legacy. 

As Kratos and Atreus come across more drawings from the giants depicting future events, it forces them to question if they can really make their own fate. This leads to their personal arc being about self-discovery and reflecting on who they really are. Atreus is forced to question what this supposed fate as Loki really means for him and what purpose he serves in Ragnarök. Kratos, on the other hand, continues to dig into his past, both as the Ghost of Sparta and with Atreus’ mother Freya (voiced by Deborah Ann Woll). Kratos continuing to bring up things from previous games will undoubtedly be a big treat for fans, but it’s these moments that allow for some genuinely emotional reflection from Kratos. 

Ragnarök sees Kratos at his most vulnerable and him trying to fight against him turning back into an angry god-killer is legitimately fascinating to watch. This is definitely the most human that Kratos has ever looked, and it makes you feel closer to him than ever before. Plus, both Judge and Suljic deliver incredible performances again that elevate all the emotion and heart of Kratos and Atreus’ personal stories. Yet again, Santa Monica has delivered a unique kind of coming-of-age father/son tale that now intertwines questions of fate and cathartic self-realizations. These personal arcs are weaved perfectly through a story with real momentum and stakes that’s endlessly thrilling to be a part of. 

There are plenty of jaw-dropping twists and turns that’ll leave you speechless with how they completely change the pathing of the story. Just when you think things are leading into one direction, there’s something that comes along that makes you completely rethink the direction of the story. In between all of Ragnarök’s incredible boss fights and stunning visual spectacles is this great rebellion that’s building filled with characters you grow to deeply care about and stakes that feel higher than ever. Thus, as the game lives up to its titular event, you feel totally invested in the fight and find yourself feeling misty-eyed by the game’s emotional end. Ragnarök is character-driven storytelling at its finest and creates a multi-layered narrative filled with rich moments of heartache and passion. 

With how strong God of War (2018) was, it was tough to see how Santa Monica would live up to that game’s legacy. However, they easily blow past it with a sequel that showcases some immense talent in combat and level design, but more importantly masterful storytelling that makes it enthralling from start to finish. Ragnarök is the best game of this generation, thus far, and is a pure masterpiece in nearly every aspect.  

God of War: Ragnarök is now available at all video game retailers and the Playstation store.

Tom Moore
Tom Moorehttps://mooreviews.com/
Tom is always ready to see and review everything horrifying and hilarious that hits theaters, television, and video games...sometimes. You can check out his other reviews and articles on his blog, Mooreviews.

Most Recent

Stay Connected