2018’s God of War was one of the most technical and narratively best games on the market, so when God of War Ragnarok was announced, it became one of the most hyped games in recent years. While fans of the franchise waited for God of War Ragnarok with bated breath, what’s the opinion of someone who didn’t play much of God of War heading into God of War Ragnarok? Well, that’s what we’re here to find out.
Name: God of War Ragnarok
Platform(s): PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
Developer: Santa Monica Studio
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Game Type: Action-adventure, hack and slash
Mode(s): Single Player
Release Date: Single-player
God of War Ragnarok Story Summary – SPOILERS
Click to read story summaryTaking place three years following the events of the previous game, Fimbulwinter, a great winter that spans three summers, is drawing to a close which will begin the prophesied Ragnarök. Kratos and his teenage son Atreus begin to traverse the nine realms to seek out a means to prevent Ragnarök while attempting to uncover answers behind Atreus’ identity as Loki. Their journey will lead them to Týr, the Norse God of War, who was previously believed to be dead. Their conflict will lie with Thor, the Norse God of Thunder, who seeks revenge following the deaths of his half-brother Baldur and two sons Modi and Magni; Odin, Thor’s father and King of the Norse Gods; and ally-turned-enemy Freya, who seeks revenge following the death of her son Baldur.
Story Review – Some Vague Spoilers
Given the way God of War ended and the first teaser for God of War Ragnarok presented things, you would think that Kratos had returned to his old god-killing ways and we’d be set up for some of the best grudge matches in mythical history… Nope… Kinda. While God of War Ragnarok does give you some REALLY good god fights, the story itself isn’t that straightforward. Leaning more into the Father/Son relationship that was established in God of War, God of War Ragnarok feels more like an extension of that particular section of the first story than anything brand new. We’re at the beginning of RAGNAROK for Odin’s sake! The world is at stake, and we get more division between Father and Son, something that is more important than the world ending for some reason, as in the main story of God of War: Ragnarok.
Don’t get me wrong, the whole Father/Son story in God of War Ragnarok is touching and really brings a lot of people closer to the main characters, but this is meant to be GOD OF FUCKING WAR, not some wholesome family drama movie.
When God of War Ragnarok gets into the whole thing about stopping Ragnarok and Kratos from taking down some gods, the game becomes extremely interesting to me. But then again, I’m a Dinosaur who grew up with God of War Ragnarok on PlayStation 2, where the only thing was the “Kratos wants revenge and will take down Olympus to get it” story, and it was a bloody good one at that. Today’s games like God of War Ragnarok wants to tell more touching and “connection” based stories about a by-gone Warrior who is bringing up the next generation… It’s the Star Wars sequel Trilogy all over again, except the next generation actually learns and earns their powers and position, not given to them by a bad writer.
Graphically, God of War Ragnarok is a beautiful game from start to finish, with each realm having its unique beauty to it. Starting out in Midgard where Fimbulwinter has taken over, is an amazing set piece, and mechanically interesting too, with how the movement of various bodies crushes the snow underfoot and leaves a lasting impression on screen for a while. Then you get the moments where you travel between realms, where you are met with shimmering colors and almost dream-like surroundings that you have to stop and take a moment to enjoy it. Other highlights are the water effects, where you can freeze geysers in place for puzzle solutions or walk upon them, all while the water around you looks so realistic that you’d be forgiven for wanting to grab your swimming trunks and jump right on it.
God of War Ragnarok comes right out with it and gives you a LOT of visual options to play with. Aside from the usual motion effect, brightness, and all those other normal toggles, God of War Ragnarok gives you a few different options like giving you a Presentation mode where graphics are top priority but can cost you framerate, or you can go the other way where you can keep a steady 60fps but the trade-off is that the quality of the graphics is reduced. I played around with both styles for a bit and found no real difference between them. There are more options available for PS5 owners over PS4 owners when it comes to these options, as God of War Ragnarok developers Santa Monica Studios tweeted recently.
However, there is something to be said about 2 small areas I took issue with. One of them was noticeable to me only because I’ve trained myself to see such things, this being Atreus’ eyes in cut scenes. I’m not sure why but when I watch Atreus I notice that his eyes are very glossy, almost glass-like in a way. I’m not sure if this ties into his revelation and background or its a limitation on graphics thing, but it becomes off-putting when I see it. The other thing I find is that some moments almost look cartoon-like in a way, where something doesn’t mesh together. A prime example of this is the execution moves Kratos can do. While they look violent and somewhat bloody, there are times when the axe would be embedded in someone’s head with no reaction or change in the character’s look, making the moves feel like they have been censored slightly to avoid higher ratings from the Rating Boards.
God of War Ragnarok also brings about something that I’ve been wanting to mention for a while now. God of War Ragnarok is a beautiful game from start to finish, but after decades of graphical improvement, I think we’re beginning to hit the ceiling when it comes to character detail and environmental details. Kratos looks spectacular, with every detail looking so good that the term “photo-realistic” is understating how good he looks. The worlds in God of War Ragnarok also look so realistic that you think they are real too. It’s this amazement that makes me think there is nowhere else to go with graphics, and saddens me because it makes God of War Ragnarok look like God of War when I know that is not true.
If you liked the gameplay in God of War, then God of War Ragnarok will hold nothing but familiar mechanics for you. Unlike many games where what you collect over a previous game suddenly disappears, God of War Ragnarok allows you to have most of what you got in God of War with you from the outset. This means you have the Leviathan Axe, Mimir’s Head, and The Chains of Chaos right away… Though they are somewhat underpowered. Oh! All those magic spells you got in God of War… useless! Mimir states early on in the game that Fimbulwinter has caused all your magic to become useless after it set in, so you’ll have to learn all new spells and abilities throughout God of War: Ragnarok. Also, your gear is gone too. So I hope you enjoyed the grind for XP and gear because you’ll have to do it all over again.
Combat itself hasn’t changed much, either. You have the usual light and heavy attacks, you can throw the Leviathan Axe at enemies for ranged damage, have Atreus shoot them with his arrows, or use the Chains of Chaos like a spear and draw enemies to you. Outside of that, there are some small additions where you can charge your two main weapons with Ice and Fire, respectively to do damage against enemies who will have a shield of the opposite element that must be broken before you can do damage. You also have your shield, where you can block or parry enemy attacks up to a specific point since enemies now have unblockable attacks where you will be required to dodge roll to avoid them rather than block. Then there are the boss fights, where you will have to use the environment to do damage, along with your regular attacks, before getting sucked into the realm of good old Quick Time Event button pressing or mashing to do damage or block attacks.
I know God of War Ragnarok doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to combat, as it’s not broken to begin with. But again, I find problems where others don’t see them. I think God of War Ragnarok could have done with some additional weapons or mechanics to change things up a bit since there really doesn’t feel like there is much difference between the Leviathan Axe and Chains of Chaos. While I enjoyed using the Axe more than the Chains, I would have liked to see something like a BroadSword, Polearm, or even the Nemean Cestus from God of War 3 back in the mix. Just something different to add to Kratos’ arsenal.
Also, I know this is against game development philosophy, but why do we need to underpower ourselves in a sequel? I know that if we kept everything we got from God of War in God of War: Ragnarok, then the challenge would take a hit, but why remove things from the protagonist just for him to get the same things back or gain something similar? We’re the GOD OF FUCKING WAR, we’re meant to be a GOD, so why can’t we experience the full power of a god from the beginning. Getting slapped around by Thor and others isn’t as fun as we should be their equals. Or is this the developer’s way of saying Norse Gods are superior to Greek Gods? Racists.
God of War Ragnarok will keep you on the main path throughout its playtime, but you do get some freedom along the way to find other things to do. From puzzles to taking down monsters and moving from kill box to kill box, God of War Ragnarok does have other things to do if you stray from the beaten path. This gives God of War Ragnarok some form of replayability since you might not stray from the path as often as you can, giving you more reason to play the game again, or keep going once the main campaign is finished.
However, much like God of War, once you have done the main story, you might think there is little reason to play through it again, and I’d agree with you. There is little incentive to start over from Midgard in God of War: Ragnarok, unlike games like Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, where there are a lot of side quests and additional content to do, and got released over time, God of War Ragnarok is a one-and-done type of game. This is a shame because adding some DLC to God of War Ragnarok would keep the game fresh and ongoing while we await God of War 3: Kratos Boogaloo.
I’m going to be honest here. I spent over a week with God of War Ragnarok before launch or even the reviewing embargo. I’ll admit I’m not a huge fan of these new God of War games. I also looked at the reviews of other places published before I was finished with mine, and all I saw were glowing suck-up reviews calling God of War Ragnarok a 100% golden god masterpiece of a game, and the fanbase will follow suit. But for me, as someone who played some of God of War and didn’t enjoy it, I felt the same here… But I also admit a few things: God of War Ragnarok is a BEAUTIFUL game and a testament to how far graphics have come over the decades, the story is a touching narrative that creates great moments that will warm the coldest of hearts, and the combat works extremely well to the point where it doesn’t need updating.
However, I feel that God of War Ragnarok brings to light some of the issues plaguing video games in general in terms of what stories are told, and when we begin to hit the limits of gameplay and graphics. I don’t blame God of War Ragnarok for this at all, but given how impressive God of War was only 4 years ago and a generation of consoles earlier, I think that God of War Ragnarok should be a lot more impressive than it turned out to be.
Review Disclosure Statement: God of War Ragnarok was provided to us by Sony Interactive Entertainment for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
God of War: Ragnarok is every bit as good as God of War: Ragnarok was 4 years ago. However, God of War: Ragnarok brings to light limitations that the industry seems to have hit in terms of graphical display and mechanics that shouldn’t be something that even exists at all, let alone in one of the biggest games of the year. Playing as a GOD shouldn’t feel underpowered, and playing in 4K on PS% shouldn’t feel like I’m playing on a PS4. God of War: Ragnarok is still a great game, but it should be greater.
- Great Story
- The realms look spectacular
- Brok is still the funniest fucker in the 9 realms
- Combat and graphics feel dated
- No effort in improving anything too much
- It’s meant to be “God of WAR” not “Dad of Boy”