God of War Ragnarök is a spectacular sequel, retaining the same ultra-satisfying combat as its predecessor, but with a more grandiose story to boot.
- Epic story with a deeper dive into Norse mythology
- Combat is just as brutally fun as before
- Atreus as a playable character is a welcome addition
- Looks phenomenal on the PS5
- Frustrating difficulty spikes
- Lots of backtracking in game’s latter half
- UKRRP: £69.99
- USARRP: $69.99
- Platforms:PS5 (reviewed) and PS4
- Release date:9th November 2022
- Genre:Action adventure
God of War Ragnarök is one of the most hotly anticipated games of the year, with the excellent 2018 reboot setting expectations sky high.
I’m pleased to say that the sequel doesn’t disappoint, continuing the adventure of Kratos and Atreus with an even more ambitious story and deeper delve into Norse mythology, while retaining the same ultra-satisfying combat.
You could argue that Santa Monica Studio has played it safe by making very few alterations to the core gameplay, but the ability to play as Atreus and a greater variety of enemies helps to keep players on their toes.
- Thor and Odin are fantastic villains
- Playing as Atreus provides fresh perspective
- Story is superb, with greater ambition and scale
Despite being set three years after the events of God of War (2018), the opening of God of War Ragnarök sees Kratos and Atreus still dealing with the consequences of their previous adventure.
Baldur’s death has not only plunged Midgard into a brutally long Winter, with the landscape coated in a big blanket of snow, but also turned Freya from an ally into an enemy with a thirst for vengeance. To make matters worse, legendary Nordic figures Thor and Odin come calling as concerns begin to rise regarding a world-ending event called Ragnarök.
Thor and Odin are arguably the best new characters for the sequel, with plenty of screen time showing them to be drastically different to their Marvel Cinematic Universe counterparts.
Thor is a hulking brute figure, who’s of few words but quick to temper. Odin is the exact opposite, as he’s surprisingly charismatic, and more obsessed with world knowledge than glamour and riches. He’s a fascinating villain, with far more nuance than the hot-headed Baldur.
The large cast of characters from the previous God of War entry rejoin the cast too, with the Dwarven siblings, Brok and Sindri, involved in far more complex and emotional storylines this time round rather than merely providing comic relief.
Even Atreus has been given a more prominent role, going shoulder to shoulder with Kratos as a joint main lead. Now a strong and mature teenager, he’s craving more independence from his overprotective father while also wanting to learn more about his newfound godly powers. Making him a playable character also allows us to view the relationship with his father from a fresh perspective, so we can sympathise with both Atreus and Kratos as they fall into yet another dispute. This emotional arc helps to keep the story grounded, despite the high fantasy backdrop.
There are some really memorable moments during your adventure, such as creeping around a giant’s kitchen and journeying into Asgard for the first time. These events are made all the better thanks to the one-shot camera that never breaks, doing an excellent job at improving immersion and making set pieces significantly more cinematic.
Does Ragnarök reach the same heights as God of War (2018) in terms of jaw-dropping spectacles? That’s a tough task, with the original’s meeting of the world serpent and the fight with a lightning-powered dragon probably leaving a greater impression than most set pieces in the sequel.
But Ragnarök makes up for this with a more ambitious story, with the looming threat of war sparking far more grandiose conflicts and gut-punching climaxes. This is one of the very best stories I’ve ever experienced in a video game, never mind in 2022.
- Combat as Kratos is still brutally fun
- There are a few frustrating difficulty spikes
- Atreus feels very different to control, in a good way
In terms of combat when controlling Kratos, not much has changed since the preceding entry. There are a few extra special abilities to unlock, and new enemies that require fresh tactics to overcome, but it’s very much a “don’t fix what isn’t broken” approach here.
Swinging and throwing your ice-powered Leviathan axe in God of War Ragnarök still feels super satisfying, while being able to use the Blades of Chaos right from the start also allows you to mix it up so you’re not repeating the same attack patterns too often. Things really step up a notch once you unlock another weapon (which I won’t spoil) roughly halfway through the game, which also feels great to use and differs greatly from your existing gear.
Being able to unlock new abilities also encourages you to experiment with different play styles throughout the course of the game – as do the various runic abilities which can help you freeze foes in place or unleash waves upon waves of fiery blasts.
The combat does have a few rough patches though, as I encountered various difficulty spikes that sometimes felt unfair rather than challenging. There was often the odd scenario where I would defeat an enthralling mini boss fairly comfortably, only to struggle to beat a pack of minor grunts a few minutes later since they were equipped with overpowered long-reaching attacks and disorientating teleport mechanics.
I also find it perplexing that Santa Monica Studio has mapped the health pickup action to the same button as grappling, making it difficult to command Kratos to pick up a health potion right next to a ledge. With enemy attacks being so punishing on the harder difficulty levels, one little mistake can easily cost you a win.
Combat isn’t so familiar whenever you assume control of Atreus. He’s only playable for select missions, so you can’t swap between him and Kratos whenever you please. But I think that was the right call, as each mission is tailor designed for each character, while also driving forward their individual story threads.
Atreus feels very different to control than Kratos. His melee attacks aren’t as powerful as his father’s, but he’s more agile and better skilled at striking foes from range. Hit an enemy enough times with your bow, and you’ll be able to daze them and pull off a slick finishing move. Atreus even has his own skill tree, allowing you to unlock additional moves as you amass experience points.
I don’t think Atreus is quite as fun to control as Kratos, with his father packing a more ferocious punch and the Leviathan axe proving to be one of the most satisfying weapons to use in video game history. But I did still enjoy his segments and appreciated the added variety.
Explorations and puzzles
- Able to visit all nine Norse realms
- Great variety of locations, but there is some backtracking
- Puzzles offer welcome respite from combat
You’ll be able to visit all nine realms in God of War Ragnarok, including both Asgard and Jötunheim. There’s a great range of locations, from Dwarven mines to a frozen hellscape, although you will retread the same paths multiple times in the latter half of the game which is a shame.
While you can stick to the path of the main story if you prefer, you’re also consistently given the option to take on side quests and explore new areas. You’ll be given excellent rewards for doing so too, including new runic powers and crafting items to unlock more powerful armour and weapon upgrades.
There’s an absurdly large amount of content here for a linear game, with the main campaign taking me 30 hours to finish, and reports suggesting it could take a total 70 hours to fully complete if you want to experience every single side quest.
A number of puzzles have been scattered through the campaign, acting as welcome respites between combat encounters. There’s a great variety of puzzles here, smartly making your weapons double up as tools, with your axe able to freeze gears in place and your chained blades capable of grappling and moving large objects.
Most of the mandatory puzzles in the main campaign are simple enough to solve, but brain teasers for optional chests and pathways see a notable difficulty hike for those seeking a challenge.
Graphics and performance
- Looks incredible on the PS5
- Various graphics and performance modes available
- Support for PS4 hinders the technical potential
God of War Ragnarök is one of the best looking games I’ve ever played. Images have an incredible amount of detail, with the individual hairs in Kratos’ beard and the grooves in a wooden bow clearly visible.
Santa Monica Studio provides an excellent range of graphics options too, allowing you to play in 4K at 30fps or 60fps, or even hike up the performance to a more fluid 120Hz if your TV or monitor supports such speeds.
But despite its impressive visuals, it’s still clear that support for the PS4 has hindered the technical potential of this game. There may not be any traditional loading screens (unless you die) but there are blatant tricks to hide them, with trips to empty pocket universes required whenever hopping between realms. I can’t help but wonder what Santa Monica Studio would have been able to accomplish with the full power of the PS5’s SSD – Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart is a great example of this with its universe-hopping mechanic.
But I do appreciate that Santa Monica Studio wants God of War Ragnarök to be accessible to as many PlayStation owners as possible, and it’s still very impressive what the studio has been able to accomplish with these limitations.
And despite using a pre-launch build, Ragnarök provided me with a delightfully polished experience. I can’t remember a single time when my game crashed or I noticed an unsightly artefact. There were a couple of occasions where enemies would stop attacking me, but would soon return to their aggressive ways after I had smacked them a few times with my axe.
Should you buy it?
You loved God of War (2018):
Ragnarök feels very similar to its predecessor, especially in terms of combat. If you enjoyed the previous entry, there’s no doubt you’ll love this game too.
You want a return to God of War of old:
Those hoping that Kratos would return to his hack-and-slash roots will be disappointed. Ragnarök carries on using the same combat system as God of War (2018).
God of War Ragnarök is a great example of how to make a world class sequel. It retains all the core components that made its predecessor so beloved, such as the brutal combat and immersive one-shot camera, while also introducing a couple of welcome new elements such as making Atreus a playable character.
You could make the argument that Santa Monica Studio has played it safe with combat when playing as Kratos, as it’s virtually the exact same experience as before. But swinging your axe and spinning your chained blades is so incredibly satisfying that I really don’t mind – even with a few annoying difficulty spikes along the way.
But Ragnarök surpasses its predecessor when it comes to storytelling, with an impending war upping the stakes and scale, and new characters such as Thor and Odin becoming some of my all-time favourite video game villains.
God of War Ragnarök is one of the very best games available on both the PS4 and PS5, and an essential buy if you enjoyed your time with Kratos and Atreus during the 2018 entry.
How we test
We play every game we review through to the end, outside of certain exceptions where getting 100% completion, like Skyrim, is close to impossible to do. When we don’t fully finish a game before reviewing it we will always alert the reader.
Played through the entire 30-hour story
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How long is God of War Ragnarök?
It took me 30 hours to complete the main story of Ragnarök. Reports suggest it could take a total of 70 hours to 100% complete all of the side quests and discover all of the collectables.
Is God of War Ragnarök the final game?
The studio has confirmed this is the last entry in the Nordic arc of the series, but that doesn’t mean God of War won’t return in another form.
Will Odin be in God of War Ragnarök?
Yes, Odin has a prominent role in God of War Ragnarök.