2. heroic or grand in scale or character
I felt it would be a nice self-reference to talk to my previous review. And in a lot of ways it also talks to God of War Ragnarök itself, as the game is just as self-referential. With the success of 2018’s God of War, Kratos (Christopher Judge) has found a new lease on life as the father of Atreus (Sunny Suljic). Hoping to avoid the responsibilities of godhood and the seemingly destined path of killing all gods, they become a tool of the Jötnar, ancient giants with the ability to foretell a future path. And they see one where Kratos will kill all gods once more.
Concluding with the revelation that his wife was a giant and the Jötunn had named Atreus as ‘Loki’, it seems set in stone that the pair are the coming of Ragnarök. And as a shadowy figure lands at their home in Midgard, surrounded by lightning and bolstered by thunder, it appears the Aesir are thinking the same way too.
Fimbulwinter has covered the Nine Realms.
The Lake of Nine is now a frozen tundra while the Wildwoods are blanketed in snow. We reconnect with father and son during a hunt, echoing the opening of the previous game. And a lot of the first 10 hours for me felt like this; An echo. Or the self-referencing I was talking about. A healthy way of re-establishing our ways to play for fans of the series or for newcomers to jump in. Avoiding typical Metroidvania fare, we pick up with the majority of tools needed to adventure, including the Blades of Chaos. Fimbulwinter is then used as a fantastic way of resetting Kratos skills and abilities, and off we go.
New means of traversal are introduced almost immediately.
While our good friend the rowboat remains, along with mystic gateways, we now have sleds. Yes! Sleds! Because if you know anything about the myth of Loki, that makes sense. As for Kratos, I feel he can just about do anything he sets his mind to (a fact he touches on around ‘discipline’). And you know it’s fun! And it’s a great way of showing the enormity of some of the realms we’ll visit.
Yes, they appear to be the same realms we’ve been to! But they’re also a bit different. While Svartalfheim and others stand out as new locales, we’ll also tread ground in realms we’ve already visited. We’ll return to Alfheim and see the effects of the choices we made in the war between the Light and Dark elves. We’ll revisit points of interest around Midgard, feeling the wonder of sledding across the lake instead of rowing through it. And a certain crucible of challenges will be awaiting you should you find the key. All of them grown in size, reflecting that they have grown as much as our duo.
Combat remains much the same. So if you’ve played GoW (2018) then you’ll find the controls just as crisp in Ragnarök. The sheer euphoria of calling back Leviathan is just as satisfying, with every hit you make feeling just as brutal. Whether it be with fists, shields, axe, blades or more. Yet I found issue with a few obvious things.
Parry windows seemed a bit hit or miss, and I felt confident in these after almost 100 hours in Elden Ring. Some of the harder fights only became hard, due to the size of the arena you fight in. Barely providing any space to watch your movement, it’s a frustrating affair to experience in a comprehensive combat system. Add to this fights which quickly lose balance due to extra opponents joining in, along with ones you might not even see, ‘frustrating’ may be the word I use here but it was a bit more cursive while playing.
30 hours later though…
And the abilities and way you can link different modifiers together can end up paying off. Armor still plays a big part in this, but talismans have made way for the amulet. The amulet can be loaded with 9 different runes, which provides buffs to your stats and may also provide passive abilities to help in the long run. Combine this with runic powers on your weapons, and it’s definitely a more fun affair in the later stages of your journey.
And what a journey it is.
I think the story is one for the player to experience themselves. The Norse lore has been further filled out as Ragnarök bares down on the Nine realms. Your favorite ragtag crew of misfits returns, with our favourite Dwarven brothers Sindri and Brok providing the gear, Mimir the knowledge, and others ready to follow in stead. Ultimately the only issue I have with everyone is they’re too damn chatty.
A lot of the moments where you can breathe in the game feel like the previous game. But the open world can see a lot more banter happening, and it is frequently to do with loot. While it’s not the worst thing and can help with navigating toward it, sometimes you’ll be looking at a chest trying to figure out your “how” and suddenly Atreus or Mimir will sass you for it. Again. And again. And then they’ll tell you to do something else. But then treasure is behind you. It feels similar to early feedback on Horizon Forbidden West, which saw this quickly patched out.
Visually, the game is stunning. Improving upon the work from 2018, the missing photo mode isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I found timing to be crucial in capturing some of the stunning things you’ll see on your journey just as easy as Photo mode. Like these following examples!
Load times are even better on the PlayStation 5, and you soon find out the moments travelling via Yggdrasil aren’t actually necessary if no one is talking and you simply go from door to door in an instant.
Much like my 45 hours with the game.
An epic final battle takes place and the only thing I can compare it to is the conclusion of Avengers: Endgame. Epic in scope and presentation, with the Bear McCreary soundtrack still going unnecessarily hard during, it was a monumental end to it all. And I’m happy with this runtime. I feel I’ll be reaching 60 all up, as I chase down the Platinum trophy for a game and series I’ve loved. That 45 hours was from primarily following the mainline quests, with brief moments in side missions and the want of the bigger battles (yes, the endgame bosses are back).
Avengers: Endgame is an apt final reference, as the endgame still has plenty to do. Favours are ready to start and finish, gateways are left to find, and those last pieces of lore you may have missed are all awaiting you. Just what this crew looks like is up to you to find out.
God of War Ragnarök is a fine addition to the franchise, and matches the scale of its predecessor. While I have some gripes, it doesn’t take away from the overall enjoyment of the game. It also made me cry within the first 30 minutes, which means Santa Monica Studio have absolutely done it again.
"We must be better."
God of War Ragnarök is a damn fitting follow up to the 2018 game, and further refines the journey of Kratos. From his days of anger and rage in Ancient Greece, his time in the Nine realms is spent on letting it all go and "being better".
And much like the axe he regularly lets go of, come the conclusion of Ragnarök you too will be ready to let go and be better.
XENOJAY.COM was supplied with a digital code for review by PlayStation NZ, and this was played on the PlayStation 5 console running through a TV in 4K on Performance Mode.