God of War Ragnarök Review – Forged in Valhalla

God of War Ragnarök Review

In 2018, Santa Monica Studios made the bold decision to transform the iconic Ghost of Sparta. Past entries in the franchise evolved around his vengeful motives to slaughter the Greek Gods. With anger previously at the forefront of his persona, it was remarkable to experience his metamorphosis into a somber father. The evolution of his character and the contemporary interpretation of its gameplay set a new standard for the medium. Ragnarök aims to continue the growth of Kratos but will it manage to capture the magic of its predecessor?

Repercussions of Kratos’ last adventure inflict his home. Due to the death of Baldur, Fimbulwinter has set upon the region, signaling the end of the world. With the hope of halting Ragnarök, father and son visit the nine realms in search of Asgardian forces to aid them in the war to end all wars. Due to the magnitude of the task, each step of the journey contains a looming sense of dread. Seeing the peace that the protagonists fought for at stake adds an intoxicating layer of tension that will keep you gripped throughout.

A Tale of Two

The duo’s relationship is front and center of this epic journey, however, it has evolved. Atreus is now a teenager with a sense of adventure. While clear respect is shown for his father, he is more expressive than previously and desires responsibility. Due to this, he questions Kratos and takes the lead on several occasions. Mimir adds an interesting dynamic to the group. As an advisor, he guides the Marked Warrior on fatherhood which broadens Kratos’ views on how his descendant should behave. The way he subtly wrestles with his conflicting emotions on parenting adds further humanity to his character and makes him more relatable.

Santa Monica Studio expertly merges the gameplay and narrative through its single-camera cinematography. You seamlessly transition in and out of story beats during your epic journey. Due to this, you quickly form a connection with the characters as you feel part of their quest. The weight of their worries rests on your shoulders too which aids engagement in the world and its lore.

As you have access to both the Leviathan Axe and the Blades of Chaos early in the game, God of War Ragnarök’s combat includes more variety than its predecessor. Each weapon has its benefits and can help you take down certain creatures more efficiently. The Leviathan Axe is a powerful, close-quarters melee weapon that you can also throw at enemies and recall in a slick MCU-esque manner. A new addition is the ability to freeze your axe which results in stronger attacks that you can use to break armor and much more. 

Of Ice and Fire

The Blades of Chaos have a large area of attack which is particularly useful when you need to hold off a horde. With a swing of your chain, you can engulf your weapon with fire which can inflict significant damage to specific foes. Once you fill your meter through the evisceration of a number of creatures, you can also initiate God’s Fury. This highlights Kratos’ unbridled strength as you unleash a relentless barrage of strikes. With the ability to instantly combine these attacks with the arrows of Atreus, Kratos can conduct a glorious symphony of brutality on the battlefield.

While the Ghost of Sparta is a large presence on screen with a hefty attack, he isn’t cumbersome. The visceral impact still remains with each satisfying swing of your weapon, however, he can also quickly evade oncoming attacks. You must read your opponent’s strike patterns and counter in order to emerge victorious. Roll out of the way of danger or use your shield’s strengths to get an advantage. The Stone Wall Shield allows you to absorb an onslaught and release a blast whereas the Dauntless Shield includes a risk/reward system that stuns enemies with a successful parry. This broadens the combat and allows you to further personalize your approach to conflict.

Death to All

Enemies are more varied this time around. You’ll instantly encounter creatures that will spit acid, bury themselves underground and much more. Because of this, you’ll have to use the full extent of your arsenal, especially if playing at the hardest difficulty. Bosses have always been a series highlight, and Ragnarök continues this trend. Each battle is an intense confrontation that perfectly captures the notion of Gods at war. Santa Monica’s signature cinematic flair shines in these segments to create some of the greatest moments in the franchise’s history.

As you progress, you can unlock abilities for both Atreus and Kratos. The skill tree allows you to select a path for your character to benefit your preferred approach to fights. You are also given the option to customize your gear to create a build that suits you. Armour and weapon upgrades alter your stats in notable ways, so you can construct a character with a specific focus. Ragnarök finds the perfect balance with this by not including too many options to overwhelm but still also allowing you to personalize your experience. So whether you prefer a powerhouse, a tank or something else, the choice is yours.

Choose Your Adventure 

God of War Ragnarök flawlessly blends linear and open-world segments which creates a wonderful pace for your adventure. You are given the option to explore the environment to tackle side missions and discover secrets or continue to your main objective. If you choose to wander, you’ll discover well-designed, bespoke areas often with small puzzles which reward you with a range of items. Opposing this is the more linear sequences which include incredible cinematic action that progresses the narrative. These possess larger and more complex puzzles which beautifully juxtapose the frantic fights. The amalgamation of these many elements makes this a truly special experience.

Missions are tracked on the Dwarven Compass so whether sailing, sledding or walking, you can easily veer toward whichever objective you please. With several realms to visit and a number of collectibles hidden within, it is easy to immerse yourself in this beautiful Norse world.

The overall presentation of God War Ragnarök is second to none. Each environment feels distinct with architecture and plant life that add personality to the realm. The attention to detail is remarkable. Characters emit their personality through the lifelike animation which draws you into their quest. This is further enhanced through the spectacular sound design. Whether subtle or expansive, the score successfully communicates the tone of the situation. Every character is brought to life through stellar voice acting which captures the nuances of their disposition. The immersion continues with its use of haptic feedback. While its implementation adds a delicious visceral nature to combat, it’s the minor usage that lures you in which is impressive.

A Knockout Blow

God of War Ragnarök is a masterpiece. Even though the game maintains many elements that were established in its predecessor, it refines them to create an unforgettable experience. The quintessential storytelling is a highlight of the medium and its impeccable combat will keep you enthralled throughout. Although Santa Monica Studios set a high bar with their previous outing, Ragnarök soars above it.

*** A PlayStation 5 key provided by the publisher ***

The Good

  • A Masterclass in Storytelling
  • Visceral Combat
  • Stunning Art Direction
  • Incredible Score
  • Varied and Well Paced Adventure

The Bad

  • Similiar to Its Predecessor