Initial release date: November 9, 2022
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Santa Monica Studio
Composer: Bear McCreary
Series: God of War
Platforms: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4
Genres: Action-adventure game, Fighting game, Hack and slash
"Review Copy Provided by PlayStation"
2018 saw the return of God of War which had been a dormant franchise up since 2013’s God of War Ascencion and went on to be one of if not the main reason to own a PlayStation 4. With the ending of God of War 2018, fans wondered how the inevitable sequel could top the near masterpiece of an experience that they had just experienced. After a few years of trailers, here we are with the newest entry in God of War Ragnarök of which is set to be the defining experience on the PS4 and PS5. Does this new adventure of Kratos and his son Atreus live up to the hype or does it fall short of greatness? Let’s find out!
The end of God of War (2018) ended on a massive reveal that changes and recontextualizes the entire adventure and journey that Kratos and Atreus had been on as they reach Jotunheim to lay to rest the ashes of Faye. They discovered that Faye was one of the last remaining giants and that Atreus is Loki who is a prophesized warrior who is meant to lead an army to fight against Asgard and bring about Ragnarök. The prophecy also foresaw the inevitable death of Kratos of which Atreus is unaware of and over the course of three years; Atreus’ Jotunn magic has started to manifest itself leading to Atreus being pulled between being the son of Kratos and being the Jotunn champion Loki. With the death of Baldur, the Fimbulwinter has been brought to the Nine Realms which leads to a vengeful Freya as well as Thor and the All-Father Odin approaching Kratos and Atreus about a peace treaty, thus begins their journey of Atreus pursuing his destiny.
Because I don’t want to spoil any of the story, I’ll be stopping here as I think you should experience the rest for yourself. Ragnarök’s main campaign lasts about 25-30 hours roughly to complete if you don’t go after any side content of which you will find an endless amount of that to dive into and that’s not even including the post-game content which are substantially more fleshed out than before. The game constantly adds in a rabbit hole of customization that includes a bevy of new combat abilities and weaponry with the skill tree system returning and developing even all the way into 15-20 hours into the game including new weaponry.
When it comes to the gameplay, it feels like a refinement of what we experienced in the first game. It feels overall tighter than what we experienced in the 2018 original and what we also get is a bunch of new moves and abilities which makes fights feel substantially more dynamic and varied than before. The opening hour alone is just a spectacle to be witness to as it gets you not only up to speed as to what has gone on in universe but also refamiliarizes you with the gameplay all the while giving you several cinematic battles and boss fights.
You have access to both the Blades of Chaos and the Leviathan Axe from the start of the game and as before, its about building momentum by alternating your light and heavy attacks as well as calling in Atreus for the assist. In the previous game, you were fighting constant swarms of Draugrs whereas now you you’ll fight a variety of enemies unique to each realm that will challenge you to switch up your tactics and never allow you to feel comfortable. There are some repeated mini bosses within the first few hours which is jarring when you compare it to the variety of enemies that you normally face across the adventure and even more oddly is the fact that you will be able to use the same tactics over and over for these first few mini bosses. Where this game shocked me was when after several hours in, it shifted gears and put me in control of Atreus. This was not only a welcome change from a gameplay perspective but was also narratively brilliant as it gives the story an added layer of complexity and showcases the duality of the boy. Atreus is no Kratos and so his gameplay style is vastly different from that of his father and thus he relies on the usage of his bow and powers.
You’ll get new companions along the way that change up the flow of the gameplay as both Kratos and Atreus will eventually end up paired with returning characters and new characters which aside from how that changes the gameplay, also adds additional layers to the overall narrative being told.
When it comes to the graphics, the game honestly delivers in a substantial way over the previous game in just the scope of how it all looks. The 2018 entry was already a stunning looking game that was in many ways the best-looking game on the PS4 for several years and yet in Ragnarök manages to look even better with the not only the minute details in the characters and environments being much better but also the general scope of the entire game. Kratos’s model has been given a stunning number of additional details within in which you can see the minute details of his worn face, scars, the details of his beard and more. Atreus’s model is now older and shows etra detail in his hair and clothing as well as his scars and more. The way that the character models skin reacts to movement and creases and flows is stunning when compared to the static nature in the 2018 game. The environments are also amazing from frozen lakes to the snowy mountains and even the swampy areas all look near photo realistic especially if you’ve got a monitor or tv that can showcase all the details.
What I loved about this game is in how alive this world felt in comparison to previous God of War titles as you will see settlements within the dwarven real of Svartalfheim and meet numerous characters and their civilizations within Vanaheim and even Asgard.
The game offers up both a performance mode and a fidelity mode with each can give you framerates higher than 60fps if you have a monitor or TV that supports HDMI 2.1 getting you a variable refresh rate that goes between 70-90fps. While the game doesn’t look like a massive generational jump from the 2018 original to this one, it does still look incredible especially with a monitor supporting HDMI 2.1.
The soundtrack is glorious and just goes to show that Bear Mcreary knows how to make an OST that just hits on all levels with how it can pump you up for a fight and make you feel a spectrum of emotions when something somber happens. The voice cast really takes their performances to a new level with Cristopher Judge cementing himself as worthy of being the God of War and Sunny Suljic giving an absolute stunning performance as Atreus. What I love the most of this voice cast is the performance of Richard Schiff who brings to life Odin in a way that we’ve never seen before by making Odin come off in a way that is almost Game of Thrones like with his cunningness and derangement.
When it comes to downsides, there are a few of them with the primary ones being that the game can feel like it drags on at points and could've had several points cut out of it to make for a more cohesive story. There is also the fact that the game, while amazing on the PS5, is in many ways scaled back due to the fact that it is also on the PS5 and it brings up the question of if this will be the last title from PlayStation that will be a multi generational game from them as they still haven't given games a definitive reason to own a PS5 due to this constantly happening with their game releases.
God of War Ragnarök doesn’t live up to the overwhelming hype that it’s been hyped up to be by the mainstream gaming outlets and yet on the same hand it does deliver with a solid story and even more impressive gameplay. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it also never needed to as it just needed to follow up on the plot threads and gameplay of the 2018 original and needed to continue the story of Kratos and his development beyond being the exhausted God of War. While the game doesn’t really push the PS5 hardware as hard as it could due to being a cross platform title, it is still an amazing adventure and even more so an amazing send off for the PS4 and a welcome reason to own a PS5. If you have a PS4 or PS5 then God of War Ragnarök is a MUST OWN!