We may have had some great releases this year, but there was still concern that due to pandemic-related delays, gamers would be left out when it came to blockbusters this holiday season. Praise Odin then for God of War Ragnarok.
Sony’s Santa Monica soft reboot sequel has been highly anticipated, but with little shown in the lead up to release, fans almost feared it would be destined to match. Forbidden Horizon West and move on to the following year. That he didn’t should be a relief, but better yet, he walked out the door without compromising quality or content.
For those who are already in love with the transformation of the most angry gaming protagonist into a father with a much deeper and more conflicted personality, as well as a radical overhaul of presentation and gameplay, Ragnarok simply repeats that. He is more God of War, while at the same time opening up the broader pantheon of Norse mythology and polishing everything he does to the nth degree.
Things are on their way to becoming apocalyptic early on, starting in the middle of Fimbulwinter: long, harsh, snowy winters that were predicted before the end of the world, Ragnarok. But Kratos hardly cares what plans the gods of these Norse kingdoms have; like any father, his priority is to protect his family.
how high god of war 2018 it was the surprisingly emotional narrative focused on the dynamic between father and son, both grieving and learning to communicate with each other. The relationship is further developed in Ragnarok, as Atreus, notably older and taller, has different ideas than his father about what to do about the threats they face once the Norse gods knock on his door. He could easily have gone the rebellious teen route (he occasionally veers in that direction), but instead of just being an extension of Kratos as an AI sidekick, we get to see Atreus become his own character, both narratively and mechanically.
This has also grown beyond just father and son, as Ragnarok brings a larger cast along for the ride. Returning characters like the bickering dwarf brothers the brok and Sindri help improve your gear, and Mimir’s severed head always has words of wisdom or banter to deliver as Kratos carries him on his waist.
New characters from the broader Norse pantheon are portrayed in a different, refreshing light. Thor here is a world away from Marvel’s comic superhero, while Richard Schiff (better known as The West Wing’s Toby Ziegler) as the all-father Odin is a nifty casting. Whether friend, foe, or something in between, each character is richly written with the same flaws and complexities as our heroes.
Like father Like Son
The latest game made a radical departure from previous installments, bringing the action to a more realistic level behind your shoulder and all presented in one uninterrupted shot. There’s little need for Ragnarok to reinvent the wheel, so he doesn’t. In many ways it plays the same way, which is not a bad thing.
Combat remains supremely satisfying, with Kratos’ weapons feeling heavy and punchy. As before, his Leviathan Ax swings with immense weight, but he can also be thrown from a distance before returning to his hand with the touch of a button. He also has his iconic Blades of Chaos to boot this time. Each weapon feels different but equally fun to use, and we encourage you to switch between them to take advantage of enemy weaknesses. The best way to dispatch enemies is still to hit them repeatedly to max out their stun meter, opening them up for an ultra-violent finisher. These visceral rewards are enhanced by a greater variety of enemies and what also appears to be more animations, so it feels like you’re not seeing the same canned attack all the time.
His move set can also be expanded with a strong skill tree, while special abilities can also be upgraded just like his gear. However, there’s so much that it can be intimidating when you open the menu to check what you can upgrade, even with helpful markers indicating when you have enough XP or materials to use. Many hours passed before we realized that there were certain skills that we could have improved.
Brawn is balanced with brains as you will also be using your weapons in puzzles or to traverse. Since there’s no jump button, the latter makes moving around feel more dynamic, whether Kratos is using his ax handle to slide down a zip line or his chained blades to grab onto ledges. There were only a few occasions where there was perhaps more of an emphasis on puzzles than we’d like, as we find ourselves nodding when a character says to Kratos, “Less talking, more killing stuff!”
ragnarok and roll
While there is a degree of linearity in the way quests and set pieces are designed, Ragnarok is packed with plenty of optional branches to explore. Other characters routinely encourage you to get off the critical path, and you’ll find entire quests and areas that are just as substantial and rewarding. They’re alongside the usual collectibles, optional puzzle-locked treasures, and extra-difficult mini-boss challenges that are also found throughout the nine Norse kingdoms.
Even though it feels like the developers have to go to great lengths to enforce their one-cut gimmick, it ultimately works to keep you constantly engaged in what’s going on. The camera is dynamically balanced during the most epic cinematic scenes, while you are surprised that this is also done in the real-time engine.
On the other hand, there are times when the design feels conspicuously constrained by being a cross-gen title, as you scurry between rocky walls or wade through celestial aether before you can open a door to another realm. These tricks to hide loading screens would surely have been unnecessary if Ragnarok had been a true PS5 exclusive title.
Still, these are mere complaints when the overall package is so solidly tuned. PS5 owners also have the option of an even more enhanced experience, like native 4K resolution. If your TV supports Variable Refresh Rate, our recommendation is to favor performance so you can have the smoothest experience up to 120 frames per second. Now that is a pious performance.
God of War Ragnarok Verdict
As a follow-up to one of the best games of the last generation that already overhauled the formula, Ragnarok doesn’t have to change things and just builds bigger and better, providing some of the most exciting combat and scenarios as they deal with us. to a rich, grounded and relatable representation of Norse mythology.
It may not necessarily break new ground, then, but as a AAA title it offers an astonishingly high bar that no other studio has seen this year. It has satisfying, expansive and challenging gameplay, as well as deep storytelling and fascinating characters who face their mistakes, confront or defy prophecy, and seek a future beyond the end of the world. It’s very much the blockbuster game we need for this holiday.