God Of War Ragnarok - God Tier
It’s rare that game’s come with the level of anticipation, and both internal and external pressure that God Of War Ragnarok has. Being a sequel to a game that masterfully rebooted one of PlayStation’s already most renowned franchises, that somehow, enhanced the standing of the IP with the fans even more, many have struggled to pinpoint the ways with which PlayStation’s house of God of War, Santa Monica Studio, can elevate the franchise, or reboot it beyond what the 2018 masterpiece, and multi-Game Of The Year winning title had already done. While the jump between God Of War (2018), and God Of War Ragnarok is certainly more akin to the jump between God Of War (2005), and God Of War II, than the jump between God Of War III and God Of War (2018), Kratos and Atreus’ newest journey is still going to be looked upon fondly as the epic concluding chapter to one of the most iconic narrative arcs we’ve ever seen in games.
Three years have passed since Kratos and Atreus’ actions kickstarted Fimbulwinter, and the dark and weary march towards an impending Ragnarok. Stories on all sides of the conflict have sprung up, from the gods in Asgard, to those dwelling on Midgard, all putting their spin on how Ragnarok will purportedly begin. In the meantime prophecies have already been written, some of which we saw as God Of War (2018) concluded, but those prophecies continue to taunt the father, son pairing. With each sunrise, a new fight for survival begins as both are being pursued by an mourning and bloodthirsty Freya, Queen of the Valkyrie, and so for the majority of the last three year period, Kratos and Atreus have tried to maintain a low profile, not alerting Freya, nor the Asgardian gods to their presence. Both Kratos and Atreus have been tortured by what they saw as their ascent up the tallest mountain in Jotunheim came to an end however, the fate of Kratos a constant cause for concern. For someone with so much power and potential, at such a young age, the weight of the burden Atreus carries is immense, and weighs upon him heavily, add circumstances that mean he needs to keep secrets from his father, and the dynamic becomes incredible tense at various moments. God Of War Ragnarok, just like the game before it, is wonderfully introspective at times, as Kratos in particular searches deep inside himself, trying to make decisions that are good for Atreus, and good for the world, but simultaneously aren’t forcing him to uncage the beast we know lies within him. Decisions carry consequence, and when prophecies are entangled, it becomes an emotionally charged mess at times, making for unpredictability at every turn. Few can agree on any of the big decisions, and Odin’s presence, and constant carrot dangling in front of Atreus as he seeks to win the growing Giant’s interested in Asgard.
Rarely does the narrative transpire as you’d expect it to, but the numerous twist and turns don’t create a bloated experience. While the core God Of War Ragnarok plot is several hours longer than what it’s 2018 predecessor was, clocking in at a bit over 20 hours to complete the main journey, plus a robust number of extraordinarily deep side-quest and additional challenges, God Of War Ragnarok never over-reaches. Everything has been meticulously designed, and everything is inserted into the experience in such a way that it carries meaning. A couple boss encounters have traditional “and here’s my new form”, second, or third stages to them that were perhaps a bit unnecessary, but are no less enjoyable for it.
While God Of War Ragnarok revisits some of the locatiosn seen in the 2018 release, fimbulwinter has changed the face of the faces of many of the nine realms immensely. The beautiful greens and blues of realms such as Alfheim are no more, while the conflicts transpiring in many of those realms means that each beautifully rendered location in the original game, now repesent beautifully rendered wastelands littered with the carcasses of fallen elves, monsters, and other assorted dangers that Odin tosses in the duo’s paths from the Einherjar armies to larger, more renowned threats. To counter those threats Kratos’ trick-bag needed to be grown significantly, and the combat team at Santa Monica have delivered, with Kratos possessing more tools than ever before, but also new skills to further inflict pain upon those who get in his path. Kratos’ iconic death dealing devices, the Leviathan Axe, and his Blades Of Chaos have both been empowered more than ever, with ice and fire elemental buffs imbued respectively. Parrying is of even greater importance in this sequel, enemies creating semi-regular exploitable opportunities that demand to be taken advantage of. Kratos’ incredibly retractable shield becomes an imperative tool in his quest, taking hits, providing parrying opportunities, serving as an effective blunt tool in case of emergency as well. As is the way in God Of War games, new tools of destruction will emerge, only bolstering an incredibly versatile arsenal further. Of course, as in 2018’s chapter, Kratos won’t be fighting alone, with side-kick characters returning to provide some additional support as well.
Beyond the simple act of gameplay, Santa Monica Studio have brought to reality a truly phenomenal world, one filled with moments of adrenaline inducing, pulsating action, and moments of true emotional shield-piercing brilliance. The world is a treat to explore, littered with dozens of deep, meaningful and world-building side quests, while there are all sorts of wonderful details concealed in all corners. Like with God Of War 2018, there are few things more enjoyable than sitting back in your boat or sled and listening as Mimir regails the team with a story, or Kratos shares some insights into his journey through Greece and how it shaped his behaviour today. Everything has a purpose, everything from gameplay, to exploration, to the dialogue exchanged along the way, feeds into one bucket, the bucket that is the world of God Of War.
God Of War Ragnarok, being the closing chapter in this Nordic arc of the franchise, and one that leaves the franchise’s future well-and-truly up in the air, throws the kitchen sink at us in terms of the audio/visual production side. Locations that we’re revisiting for the first time since 2018 look better than ever before, meanwhile new locations shine brightly. The existing cast’s character models are unbelievably detailed, while new faces like Odin, Thor, and Týr are also quite strikingly detailed. There are a small number of characters who look like a little less love was given to them, while particular facial features show signs of the game being restrained a bit by the specifications of the PS4. Bear McCreary’s soundtrack is extraordinary, elevating the action to even greater heights, but for as brilliant as it is, it’s the moments of subtlety that reverberate just as strongly as the moments of the greatest sensory stimulation. There are a small number of collision issues present in the launch day built but none that impair your ability to enjoy the game.
Kratos’ newest adventure had godly boots to fill, but he’s does so with aplomb. The stakes have been elevated for this new adventure in ways that the franchise hasn’t seen before, through a combination of events happening and the emotionally charged relationships between, Kratos, Atreus, and the assembled team. The God Of War experience has never felt better, it’s more satisfying to play through than ever before, and possesses more heartstring-twisting moments than you’ll likely be able to bare. God Of War Ragnarok is proof positive just how exceptional this medium can be, and a game that, especially when paired with its predecessor will rock you to your very core once you’re through with it
God of War Ragnarok was reviewed on the PS5 with code kindly supplied by Playstation Australia.