God of War Ragnarok Review: God of More

God of War: Ragnarok is like a 1990’s David Copperfield magic special for TV. It’s suspenseful, tells an interesting story, has incredible production value, and is a consistently satisfying experience. But like a magic show on stage, if the performer spends too much time on the glamor and not enough on the payoff, eyes begin to wander. The illusion is shattered when the threads that hold it all together become all too clear.

Ragnarok is an outstanding game. It’s masterfully produced, with a satisfying story and excellent gameplay. It’s also positive proof that editors matter and more art doesn’t necessarily better Art.

Ragnarok picks up with a slightly older Atreus and Kratos using the frame God of War 2018 as a stepping stone to inventing a larger story. Their previous conflicts with the Æsir, the gods of the Norse religion, have caught up with them and they find themselves at odds with Thor, Odin and the others. Old friends and foes emerge and the stakes are raised to include the fate of all realms.

It’s the kind of next step you’d expect from a high-budget sequel. Driving the narrative is important, but equally important is the way the game understands and advances the themes of its predecessor. God of War 2018 focuses on Kratos learning to be a father to Atreus. Ragnarok explores the next inevitable phase of parenting: letting go.

Atreus develops into a young adult to make his own decisions and trust him even when he makes mistakes is an inevitable part of growing up. Ragnarok gives him more engaged screen time with great impact, and it’s easy to be proud of his accomplishments while empathizing with his losses. At the same time, Kratos is struggling with a child who no longer needs him and in many ways needs room to grow. It’s painful, nerve-wracking at times, and so damn human. It’s a triumph of writing and character development.

A lot of what makes this work is the excellent production quality of the game. God of War: Ragnarok clearly had a huge budget. It looks fantastic on the PS5 And PlayStation 4, with a scale and scope that few games can match, let alone reach. The sound design is excellent, with intelligent use of echo and reverb to bring more immersive qualities to the varied and diverse locals.

Christopher Judge and Sunny Suljic, Kratos and Atreus take full advantage of the visual detail and audio fidelity, delivering two of the best acting performances of the generation. Judge in particular gives a character so much weight, thought and emotion from just a few words, masterfully manipulating pauses and subtleties in timbre in place of lengthy monologues.

But the broader story, which involves the end of the world, the eponymous Ragnarok, is where things unravel a bit. There are fun characters throughout the journey and a few twists and turns that add a few surprises, but the overall storyline is okay, if a bit boring. At worst, it’s bloated. There is nothing wrong with long adventures, as long as the time is used something. Filler can be positive, giving characters breathing space, enhancing their personalities and enriching the world around them. But God of War: Ragnarok Treads and retreads to the point of nausea.

There’s an interesting sequence where Atreus and Kratos are separated and Atreus travels through a beautiful, diverse location with another character. There’s important story information here, but the section is hours too long, with repetitive slow-moving slogs escorting an ox and subplots that are tangential to the core story at best. This keeps happening. New barriers for the characters are introduced and then disappear without any lasting effect on the story. Whole chapters could have been eliminated for a tighter, more cohesive experience.

The levels themselves are very similar to the story. Many are excellent but have an unfortunate tendency to do more for more. Six of the nine realms are revisited God of War 2018but they are drastically altered by Fimbulwinter, the grand prelude to the end of the world.

The realms are diverse, with different biomes, enemies, and themes. The volcanic Muspelheim stands in stark contrast to the freezing Lake of Nine. Visiting each one for the first time is interesting as they each have their own unique gameplay creases. Alfheim, for example, is filled with physics puzzles manipulating bridges and doors, while Vanaheim’s lush forests and deltas are teeming with noxious, poisonous plants that must be handled with care.

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However, the novelty of each area begins to fade as you spend hours revisiting the same corridors and pathways. You can expect to return to Realms often, even if you only focus on the main missions. To understand all this backtracking, God of War: Ragnarok uses the classic Metroid Formula: Access to sub-areas through items won later in the game. But God of War: Ragnarok is not Metroid.

As a sci-fi series where you play a human in a space suit, MetroidThe cordoned off areas of make sense and present reasonable challenges that logically require larger solutions than are initially possible. In Ragnarokwhere you’re a literal god who can rip pillars out of the ground and swing them like baseball bats, progression and puzzles are too often blocked because Kratos doesn’t bother stepping over knee-high spiky rocks or pushing some wood over an opening lay.

Furthermore, most of the devices that open up these additional pathways are insignificant or unobtrusive outside of performing that specific task. Link acquiring the hookshot in a zelda Game feels groundbreaking. Atreus gains a new arrow type just in time to take down a blocked path when the story requires it to feel contrived and inorganic.

The action in God of War: Ragnarok is excellent. It is largely unchanged from God of War 2018, and that’s just as well. Kratos wields his Leviathan ax with panache, and the responsive controls do a great job of accommodating different playstyles. Do you want to be a tank behind your shield and pull enemies in with your Blades of Chaos? Completed. rather be quicker parry and roles when setting up special rune attacks? Just as doable. The variety of options is evidence of great design that is not stale even after 40 hours.

There is a wider variety of weapons, armor, and mods that can be applied to your weapons as well. Your approach to combat keeps changing throughout the game, and creating different builds becomes extremely viable. I fell in love with a setup designed to build up staggers quickly, which allowed me to frequently use powerful Grapple attacks. I paired that with armor that increased my strength while also regenerating my health and rage after each fight. It’s a perfect example of complementary loadout crafting and a very satisfying system to tap into.

While overall gameplay is excellent, it can also feel dated. The fact that we’re still running quick-time events in 2022 is surprising enough, but the proliferation of invisible barriers is an antiquated relic of level design. Whether it’s a story-driven scene where you move in a tight, invisible box, or you move through levels lined with walls you can’t see, God of War: Ragnarok feels like an excellent game held back by elements stuck in the past. It’s disappointing, especially when its contemporaries are generation-defining action RPGs and have largely left that behind.

God of War: Ragnarok Review – The Bottom Line


  • Deep character development.
  • Amazing acting performances.
  • Detailed and varied levels.
  • Exquisite combat that builds on the previous game.


  • Bloated story with frequent backtracking.
  • Tired of using outdated gameplay gimmicks.

God of War: Ragnarok is the definition of a great game. Its scope is great, with a polished presentation that looks and sounds spectacular. While the overall storyline is mediocre, the characters, anchored by some of the best acting of the generation, stand out for their depth, development, and empathy. The action is exquisite, refining a winning combat formula while adding some refreshing variety.

Still, there are some notable issues that separate a great game from something transcendent. Too much time is spent wandering aimlessly or renovating the same floor. Tired gameplay mechanics, like quick-time events, feel out of place, and reliance on outdated systems like invisible barriers for corral players is regressive.

None of this changes one simple fact: God of War: Ragnarok is excellent and worth playing. It’s a satisfying conclusion to modernism God of War Saga, but it’s hard to walk away and not feel like this could have been something bigger.

[Note: Sony provided the copy of God of War: Ragnarok used for this review.]

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