November 4, 2022

Let’s be honest, you are here to find out only one thing – is God of War: Ragnarök going to be Game of the Year for 2022?

Santa Monica Studios and Sony Interactive Entertainment blew the rest of the industry out of the water in 2018 with the multiple ‘Game of the Year’ award winning PlayStation 4 smash hit ‘God of War‘.

God of War: Ragnarök review logos

We first met the titular God of War – Kratos – on the Sony PlayStation 2 in 2005. We have followed the adventures of this very aggressive Spartan warrior over seven previous titles between the original 2005 game and 2013’s God of War: Ascension.

God of War: Ragnarök review series

The story so far… one God, many wars.

While we were able to experience both Kratos’ ongoing adventures in the original trilogy of titles, and learn to understand his motivations through the two PSP titles and Ascension – there was not much character progression beyond an angry, vengeful, man-become-God. That all changed when the genius team at Santa Monica Studios brought Kratos back in 2018.

God of War: Ragnarök review kratos comparison

Older and still angry… Now with more beard!

Following his original adventures through ancient Greek mythology, Kratos escaped to the Viking lands of Scandinavia, where a new breed of God awaited him. I will not go into detail about that adventure, because as the dozens of awards suggest – that game is worth experiencing for yourself (on PS4 or PC).

God of War: Ragnarök review kratos close up

Why won’t you play my game?

Ever since Ragnarök was announced to the gaming public – we have collectively held extremely high hopes for the sequel. But, is it really possible to successfully follow up a true video game classic? Can God of War: Ragnarok be what ‘The Empire Strikes Back‘ was to ‘Star Wars‘? Or will it be more like ‘Highlander II: The Quickening‘ was to ‘Highlander‘? Find out in our God of War: Ragnarök review.

Plot

When talking about Kratos’ modern adventures, I intentionally draw comparisons to movies rather than games. As anyone who played the previous title would know, 2018’s God of War (henceforth GoW) plays out like a top-shelf Hollywood blockbuster film. Not just some Michael Bay explosion-fest (which would be an apt description of the original games on the PS2 and PS3), GoW was an emotionally charged story of a man devastated with loss learning to truly be a father to his son.

God of War: Ragnarök review kratos and atreus touch foreheads

“I love you, Dad” “Oh, I was trying to teach you how to headbutt correctly”

It is hard to condense such a complex tale to one solitary theme, but I would say that it is a story above grief and love. Kratos coming to grips with his grief for his lost wife, and truly learning how to express his love for his son Atreus through the journey of carrying out his wife’s last wishes (and killing some Gods along the way). I cannot stress enough how essential it is to play GoW before even considering playing Ragnarök due to how intrinsically linked the two games are. Ragnarök does provide a brief video summary of the events of GoW, but seriously – just play it yourself.

God of War: Ragnarök review atreus with sword at throat

Backstory knowledge is essential.

Ragnarök picks up three years after GoW. Kratos and Atreus continue to live in Midgard where they are coming to grips with the biting coldness of Fimbulwinter – the final season before the fabled final war of Ragnarök is prophesized to occur. Kratos continues to train Atreus in preparation not only for the coming war, but also to ensure they are able to protect themselves from the anger of the Gods they wronged three years prior.

God of War: Ragnarök review kratos and thor at table

Kratos: “Can we settle this like adults?”

If you have been paying attention to the trailers for Ragnarök you will already know that Freya, the Vanir goddess that Kratos and Atreus once called friend, returns to take vengeance on them for their role in the death of her son Baldur. Furthermore, Baldur’s older and much, MUCH, bigger brother Thor is also out for revenge.

God of War: Ragnarök review kratos strangled by thor

Thor: “No”

Of course, Kratos and Atreus are drawn into adventures that take them across multiple worlds where the fate of all 9 realms may be in their hands. Thankfully, some old friends in Sindri and his foul-mouthed brother Brok are on hand to help and they may have a clue as to where the Norse God of war Tyr may be locked away. It has been said that only Tyr can bring together and lead an army strong enough to win the final war, but can they persuade him to do what must be done?

Can Kratos and Atreus overcome the impending Ragnarok?

As with the original title, the story here is so amazing that every gamer really needs to experience it for themselves. I will not go into any further detail here about where you travel, whom you meet and indeed what the outcome of Ragnarök is. Suffice to say that the story here is every bit as elaborate and engaging as GoW. One of the (many) strengths of Santa Monica Studios is their amazing team of writers. There are dozens of call backs to both GoW and occasionally some of the older titles in the series as well.

God of War: Ragnarök review atreus and wolf

Awoooooo!

What I can say is that the plot is just bloody excellent. There are abundant poignant moments that will take an emotional toll on even the hardest of souls. Yet, the story also takes some wild twists and turns that you will absolutely NOT see coming. Please avoid spoilers and take your time to enjoy the magical experience the story of this game provides. You won’t regret it.

God of War: Ragnarök review atreus and angrboda

You will have questions like ‘who is Angrboda’ – please find out the answers for yourself!

Gameplay

The gameplay in Ragnarök is more of an evolution rather than a complete revolution from the original game. And you know what? Gameplay in GoW was fantastic so I am delighted to be first in line for some more of that, thanks!

God of War: Ragnarök review leviathan axe

Did you say you wanted some axe? Happy to oblige.

Kratos and Atreus adventure through multiple realms in the same semi-open world setting from GoW. Main missions to progress the story are obviously the focus, but there are dozens and dozens of distractions, loot and side-quests available that provide tasty rewards for upgrading your skills and abilities.

God of War: Ragnarök review map

The developers here put great efforts into providing subtle (and occasionally not-so-subtle) visual cues on where you can go. Runes are present in the environment that will just catch your eye. If they are not leading you down your main quest pathway they will often lead to treasure or other sub-quest goodies. Pay attention and there is very little that you will miss as you move through this world.

Follow the runes.

But this is a God of War game… I know what you are here for – Brutality, and lots of it.

God of War: God of War: Ragnarök review combat gif

Kratos again brings the magical returning Leviathan Axe and his classic Blades of Chaos into battle. Both armaments have their own unique skill trees that unlock additional moves, combos and effects as you progress through the game.

God of War: Ragnarök review skill tree

Technique and Ranged and Melee… oh my!

Kratos can dodge roll and also brings a trusty shield into battle that is absolutely essential to master for both blocking and parrying if you want to succeed over the more challenging fights in this game. Atreus is happy to remind you to block if you are not doing it often enough (though the dying may also be a hint). Beating down enemies with combos and directing Atreus to attack with his bow and arrow will raise the stun meter of an enemy – get this high enough and you will be able to execute devastating finishing moves…and I mean EXECUTE:

Guess he won’t be making it to Ragnarok.

As usual, there are many absolutely glorious boss battles peppered through the game. Again, I’m not going to spoil those here, but they are challenging, in particular the ‘Berserker’ battles that are this game’s version of the Valkyrie fights from GoW.

Accessibility

I wanted to specifically call out the awesome work the team has done in relation to accessibility. Sony first party titles are now becoming known for the abundant options that are being made available to games with differing abilities. From relatively simple things such as increasing text size to full screen reading, the visual and audio choices here will definitely extend the reach of the game to a wider audience.

God of War: Ragnarök review accessibility

Ragnarök can of course be played through on a ‘story mode’ difficulty to minimize battles. But there are also a variety of combat adjustments that can be made such as ‘Auto lock-on’ or highlighting of enemies. Even the puzzles can be made easier by extending the time available to complete them. Kudos to Santa Monica Studies and the whole PlayStation family for their excellent work here.

Presentation

Sony’s first party titles are often derided for being ‘playable movies’. To me, moments in Ragnarök truly felt like I was watching a movie: again, and again, and again. Let me clarify – I most certainly do NOT mean that in a bad way. Throughout the game, Santa Monica Studios use a beautiful style of single shot cinematography that you literally don’t see elsewhere in gaming. Cinematography is useless if you don’t have top class voice talent, motion capture actors and of course the massive team of animators that would be involved in bringing this all together. The below clip is just a sample of what you will see, and it is all of this quality or better.

Christopher Judge delivers a flawless performance as the God of War.

Christopher Judge IS Kratos, and you can’t tell me otherwise. The rest of the main cast are also the cream of the crop and at the top of their game – the collective group deserve every accolade they get.

Wake up Kratos, you’ve got gods to kill.

In the same vein as GoW, interactions between the characters are interwoven into every moment of the game. What would otherwise be periods of ‘boring’ traversal are filled with tales of the old gods, or Kratos reminiscing about his past, or Mimir telling jokes. There is literally never a dull moment, and often you will stop and wait to hear the end of a story rather than actually progressing through the game.

God of War: Ragnarök review kratos and atreus

You do need to keep playing eventually though, because it is necessary to find out what happens to these amazing characters.

In a shock to absolutely nobody, the soundtrack here is cinema quality. I’m talking Lord of the Rings level stuff here. This is a soundtrack that I would consider purchasing to listen to separately, it is that good.

Overall, the audio of this game really helps tie the whole package together. There are a massive amount of audio cues that will assist your gameplay. From Atreus providing hints and tips (‘Hey, look over here’) to the PS5 3D audio cues that provide that full 360 degree battleground knowledge of where the next incoming attack is being directed from.

God of War: Ragnarök review kratos kills enemy

If this enemy had 3D audio, he’d have known I was coming up behind him.

The game ran smooth as a baby’s backside on PS5. Locked 60fps performance mode definitely felt like a locked 60 to me – I experienced no slow-down or stuttering whatsoever even with an insane amount of action on the screen. I’ll leave it to experts such as Digital Foundry to do the actual testing, but the ability for a game looking this good to get up to 120fps on consoles is just bonkers.

God of War: Ragnarök review visuals graphics

Stunning.

I did come across some minor issues on 3 or 4 occasions with characters not progressing their conversations or otherwise getting stuck which would prevent me from moving on to the next area or lock me in a battlefield unable to escape despite having defeated all of the enemies.

Thankfully, Ragnarök has a splendidly executed ‘autosave’ system that will keep up to 6 separate autosave files available for re-loading (in addition to any manual saves you might make). At worst I only ever lost 1 or 2 minutes of gameplay by needing to reload – which always resolved the bug causing me to be unable to progress. Obviously, I played the game in a complete but ‘pre-release’ form. It was patched a couple of times during the review window and I expect a further day one patch may be issued to resolve any lingering bugs.

Conclusion

I’ve gushed about this game for long enough. I’m a long time fan of Kratos’ adventures, and I thought nothing could possibly top the previous game God of War (2018) that is in the conversation for ‘best game of the last generation’. I was wrong (you might say off my head).

God of War: Ragnarök review combat gif

Ragnarök builds on God of War (2018) in every conceivable way. This is one of those games that simply every person who considers themselves a gamer should experience. This is Game of the Year for 2022 (sorry Elden Ring). After that emotional experience, I honestly need a hug.

God of War: Ragnarök review kratos atreus hug

Ah, that’s better.

So, why should you play it?

  • To experience the continuation of one of the best stories ever told in the medium of video games
  • Ride the emotional rollercoaster and experience all of the feels… ALL OF THEM
  • Quite simply: this is the best game of the year

But, why shouldn’t you play it?

  • Because you haven’t played God of War (2018) yet. Once you have played through that, please refer to the bullet points above.

A review code on PlayStation 5 was kindly provided by PlayStation Australia for the purpose of this review. Enjoyed our God of War: Ragnarök review? Check out more of our game reviews here!

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