In our God of War Ragnarök review, we show you how the game ended up being a wonderful surprise, despite its known quantities and the huge expectations attached to it.
If you were a gaming fan in the 2000s, God of War was everywhere, and it was huge, loud, brash, crass, repulsive. A perfect representation of the mainstream entertainment culture at the time, but with changing times, so did the power and relevance of the series slowly dissipate. Then, many years later, Kratos was suddenly back. And what a home run the comeback was. The developers at Santa Monica Studios pulled off the impossible, crafted a new story and identity for Kratos, now a Stoic father wrestling with his past and his rage, while raising his son Atreus to be a better man than him. God of War (2018) was a fantastic action game and a wonderfully told story of a father-son-adventure.
After such a success, the expectations for God of War Ragnarök were extremely high. Could the sequel build upon the qualities of the first game, expand the scope and deliver on the quality of writing and storytelling that was established with the first game, while lacking the surprising innovation of the initial reboot? The short answer is: yes.
God of War Ragnarök Review: The Bottom Line
Before I elaborate further (spoiler-free, of course), let me give you a short verdict. God of War Ragnarök is arguably one of the best games of Sony's era of prestige titles since the PS3. While it doesn't quite capture the originality of the 2018 reboot, as the gameplay is very similar to the previous game, it does everything you would want from a sequel to the game. It beautifully tells the complex story of Atreus, expanding the scope and scale of the action massively while becoming even more personable and relatable in the process.
And everything this game does, whether it's an expansion from the first game or something new, it does extremely well. Ragnarök is ridiculously well-produced, and is not just one of the best looking games of all time, but one that has been honed to near perfection. Some sections slightly drag, and the combat can feel a bit by-the-numbers in parts, but for the most part, Ragnarök is extremely well paced, gripping, exciting and moving.
Same Old Thing In Midgard? Not Quite
After the first trailers for Ragnarök came out, it was clear that the game would strongly resemble God of War (2018), using the same engine, animations and also mechanics. So the expectation was that we would basically get the same game with new content and a bigger story. And that is partially true: outside some minor changes, which do make the game feel smoother and quicker, Ragnarök does feel very similar to the previous game. You have the same weapons (different skills though) and gadgets, and the game basically looks the same.
Still, Ragnarök manages to keep introducing new elements into the mix and offers more diverse and engaging level design, thanks to new movement options which cause the levels to be much more vertical and elaborate. Without wanting to spoil anything, it has to be said that the gameplay still ends up offering its fair share of surprises and new elements. The original spark of something like the Leviathan Axe from the first game is not quite there though. The familiarity of the combat can feel grating in moments, where one fight follows after another. But, if you enjoyed the combat in the first game, you will like this improved and extended iteration of it.
The game is also doing a great job in expanding upon the world. While you have all the familiar realms, you will now go to all nine of them and the focus is much more on the new worlds and levels. This makes the game feel even more exciting and fresh than we expected. You rarely revisit old areas, and when you do, they are redesigned and re-contexualized. The semi open world approach of the game is also toned down a bit. While it's still there (and it's still a lot of fun), exploration feels even more like side-content than it did in the first game. The focus is much more on linear levels and areas, which funnel you through the fantastic story of the game.
Atreus Ain't No Boy No More
The biggest change in comparison to the first game is found in the story and structure of the game. God of War (2018) was a "fish out of water" story and was mainly focused on establishing the place of Kratos and Atreus. Now, the two are set characters in this universe, and this familiarity plays a big role in the story of the second game. With Ragnarök around the corner, the story, the stakes and the scope have become much bigger, and this allows the game to extend its narrative massively and it does so with the same level of grace as it did in the first game. I personally enjoyed the narrative in this one even more.
For one, it's due to the wonderful cast of characters surrounding Kratos and Atreus. It's now a proper ensemble, every new character has a bigger role and the new additions, like Tyr and Angrboda, are wonderfully characterized with writing that is even sharper and more enjoyable than in the previous game.
But the game also excels at elaborating on the father and his son. Especially Atreus, whose development surprised and moved me. He is not a child anymore, he is becoming a man and is now a focal point in the story. One of the main reasons why Atreus is such an amazing character in Ragnarök, is the performance of Sunny Suljic. In a game almost crowded with fantastic contributions, Sunny's own performance shines through, and it carries the narrative forward.
Ragnarök is an amazing video game and in every department an improvement on the previous game. It is doing exactly what I wanted it to do: take the fantastic foundation of the previous game, hone it and further build upon it. It is one of the most well-crafted video games I have possibly ever played, a wonderful story that I have loved every minute of while also being a kick-ass action game, a wild ride full of surprises and exciting turns and moments. While it is lacking the original innovation of the previous game, Ragnarök ends up being an even better experience.
- Rating: 9/10
- Release Date: November 9, 2022
- Developer: Santa Monica Studio
- Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
- Genre: Open World Action
- Playtime: 30-50 hours
- Players: Single Player
- Platforms: PS4, PS5
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