God of War Ragnarok – Review

God of War Ragnarok is the follow-up to the successful reboot launched in 2018.  The story picks up after the first game’s events with Atreus having grown up a bit since we last saw him and being a little more involved than he was in the first game.  Your story in God of War Ragnarok starts out quickly by trying to avoid being killed by an enemy as you are rushing towards the protection your home has to offer.  Once you get there you will watch a bit of an emotional cinematic before your full journey begins.  Pay attention to this cinematic as it will play an important part in certain events later on in the game.

I really enjoyed the God of War reboot when it was released in 2018 and God of War Ragnarok is no different.  Santa Monica Studio has done it again delivering another very impressive adventure with Kratos, Atreus, and their crew.  If you have gone through the 2018 adventure many of the locales you visit in Ragnarok will look familiar to you.  You are still traveling through the Nine Realms but this time you are trying to find a way to either survive Ragnarok or prevent it altogether.  There will not be any story spoilers in this review but I would advise playing the first adventure before going through Ragnarok if you can.  There isn’t anything wrong with playing Ragnarok first, however, you won’t fully understand what is taking place and you will have a better appreciation for the events unfolding if you know the complete picture.

God of War Ragnarok is a big game.  There is a lot for you to experience both on the main path and with all of the different side quests that there are to complete.  Then of course there are the collectibles spread out through the realms   If you are a completionist that wants to try and do everything you can in this game, the development team has broken the statistics down by area, which I always appreciate.  So, for example, you can look at the Midgard map and see your completion might be at 10%.  It will show you how many legendary chests are in the area and how many you have found, how many of Odin’s Ravens you have found, how many artifacts you have found, and so on.  This type of detail is always appreciated when there are collectibles to be found, such as Odin’s Ravens in this game.  If you happen to be missing one but don’t know where it could possibly be, at least this narrows it down and you don’t have to search every realm for it.  The missions and various other things that you need to do in the game are labeled as “goals”.  This is where you will find the active mission you are on.  It is also where you will find various side quests that you have discovered (labeled “favors” and “labors”), the treasure maps that you have found, and all of the different artifacts that you have come across.  There is a lot going on here and will take you quite a while to do everything if you are a completionist.

The story of God of War Ragnarok mainly focuses on the continuing journey of Kratos and Atreus.  If you are someone who really enjoys the lore in games then there is also a codex that you can look through to learn about what you have come across.  For example, there is a “Friends & Foes” section where you can read about some of the different characters you have come across.  There is a section where you can read the scrolls that you have discovered in the world(s).  There are “Lore Markers” that you can find as you go through the game and once you do you can read them in this section.  If you are someone that really likes to immerse themselves in the story and world of the game they are playing, you are definitely going to want to take a look at all of this as you collect more material during your journey.

While you are going through your journey, you’ll immediately feel at home with the controls.  If you played the 2018 reboot then you know exactly what to expect in terms of how this game plays and controls.  The combat can be fast and fluid with the violent and visceral nature that you expect out of Kratos.  You will need to engage in a bit of strategy too, especially if you are dealing with large groups of enemies.  They will swarm you if you aren’t careful so simply charging into the middle of a fight without a plan isn’t always the best option.  Kratos has the weapons from the 2018 game, including a brand new one that you will find in the later stages of your adventure.  They are used in the same fashion and it is still immensely satisfying when you hit a finisher on an enemy and Kratos simply obliterates them.  Atreus is similar being able to take out enemies from long range with his bow but also having some new tricks that I won’t spoil.  With that being said, God of War Ragnarok has a number of different difficulty levels which will allow a greater number of people to enjoy the game.  There is an easy mode where you can focus more on the story and the combat is a lot easier all the way up to the most difficult setting where you truly have to be a god of war to survive.  You can change the difficulty at any point as well with the small caveat being that if you do that, you will restart at your last checkpoint.  So, for example, if you are in the middle of a big battle but can’t seem to get past it and want to turn the difficulty down, you can do that but you will have to start that checkpoint all over again.  It should be noted that there are no difficulty-related trophies, so you can play whatever difficulty you want and not have to worry about multiple run-throughs just to get a specific trophy.

That is just the beginning of the accessibility options available in God of War Ragnarok.  There has been a huge push for accessibility in big Sony first-party titles in the last few years and this one continues that trend.  There are options for vision, hearing, motion, and motor accessibility.  You have the option to turn audio cues on and off, as well as a screen reader.  For gameplay purposes, you can choose the level of aim assist you would like, what type of lock-on camera you will have, whether you want Miniboss checkpoints turned on, and more.  If you are someone who doesn’t really like quick-time events, you can simply have the option of holding the button down.  One setting I really liked was for auto pick-up.  Instead of running over to an item and pushing a button to pick up the item, it gets picked up for me automatically when I am on top of it.  There is also a traversal assist where you can determine the level of help you need with certain actions.  For example, if you turn auto on, then when you get to a gap Kratos will automatically jump it for you instead of pushing a button to do so.  If you are someone who likes to use subtitles you can change the color of the text, the size of the text, whether or not it has a background, and much more.  There is a lot to go through there and I’m not going to go through every one of them but the accessibility features here are great and should definitely allow more people to enjoy this adventure with Kratos and Atreus.

God of War Ragnarok is similar to its 2018 predecessor in that it is semi-open-world.  It isn’t an open world in the sense that games like GTA are, but the areas you are in do usually offer multiple routes to explore as you are making your way to your next objective.  You can travel to different realms whenever you come across a mystical gate (as long as you have the right stone) and in most instances, you should be able to return to areas to complete side quests or perhaps find a collectible you missed the first time you were there.  The mystical gates are how fast travel works in this game, similar to the 2018 title.  This, however, showcases one of the limitations the game has because Sony decided to put it on PlayStation 4 as well.  When you decide to fast-travel you go to this different realm and kind of walk in a circle talking with the members of your party.  This is a clever way of Sony hiding a loading screen while you wait for the system to load the next area.  When the area is ready, a white door appears and you can walk through it.  While this works perfectly fine, it would have been nice if the travel was more instantaneous and the game overall took more advantage of the capability of the PlayStation 5.

In terms of visual and audio fidelity though, Sony Santa Monica hit it out of the dark.  The animations and the cinematics are incredibly well done.  For Kratos specifically, being able to read the range of emotions on his face throughout the adventure is something to behold.  You can see the emotion in other characters as well but it seems to be more pronounced in Kratos simply because of his stoic nature.  Being able to witness the character progression from the beginning of the journey in 2018 until the end of the adventure in 2022 is astounding.  The voice acting is also very well done with Christopher Judge being the voice of Kratos and Sunny Suljic being the voice of Atreus.  There are of course other wonderful performances such as Robert Craighead and Adam J Harrington that are Brok and Sindri respectively, in addition to other characters I won’t mention for spoiler reasons.

For those who like to control the growth of the characters they play, God of War Ragnarok also allows you to do that as well.  There are a number of different skill trees for you to unlock as you go through the game.  Your axe, for example, has its own skill tree where you can unlock different moves or unleash new perks.  Each character and weapon has its own skill tree for you to work on.  There is a skill tree for the axe that Kratos uses, for example, as well as a skill tree for the bow that Atreus uses.  You unlock spots on these respective skill trees by using experience points that you can gain in combat, as well as by completing objectives in the game.  It should be pointed out that you can eventually unlock everything here but the route is somewhat decided by you.  With each new level that your weapon reaches, more potential skills are unlocked to purchase so you can choose the order in which you unlock everything.

You can somewhat customize your gear as well being able to use accessories that will give you different advantages in battle.  Using your Leviathan Axe as an example, you can choose the type of attachment you will use.  There is also a light runic and heavy runic attack for you to select.  For your shield, there is an attachment that will help with some of your stats.  The one that I was using when I finished the story had the possibility of temporarily slowing down enemies that were around me when I performed a successful parry.  Then there is your Spartan Rage and the Relics that you find.  In addition to all of that, I used materials that I found in the world(s) to upgrade my chest, wrist, and waist armor to give me an edge in battle.

As I was watching the credits roll, I was impressed with everything Santa Monica Studio had achieved both in the 2018 title and in this follow-up.  I’m curious to see what they do with the next game in the franchise but for now, I’m going to have a lot of fun continuing to run through this adventure and trying to do everything I possibly can.  If you really enjoyed going through the reboot, you should have just as much fun with God of War Ragnarok.  The story is masterfully told with action-packed moments, suspenseful moments, and, yes, some emotional moments as well.  The growth that you see from both Kratos and Atreus is extremely well done and definitely helps make God of War Ragnarok one of the best titles that will be released in 2022.

Score: 9.5/10

Originally posted on Gaming Target

Please Note: Sony provided us with a code for God of War Ragnarok for review purposes.


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