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Rating 5

God of War: Ragnarök - Review

Rangnarök is upon us
Score: 5/5
Reviewed by Joe Wilcock on PS5 - November 30, 2022   

If the 2018 God of War reboot was a return to form for a dwindling franchise, Ragnarök has restored the series to its former glory, even surpassing the quality of the original trilogy. Kratos’ reinvention has been nothing short of a revelation and the series continues to evolve and innovate on almost every front whilst paying homage to its roots. God of War has finally re-established itself as one of the most coveted and beloved games on the PlayStation roster. 

Ragnarök is a quintessential sequel, everything established in the first game has been improved upon and tinkered with here. One of the most notable improvements is the overall traversal in and across the nine realms. Kratos’ movement is more akin to God of War 3 this time around allowing for greater verticality which paves the way for climbing sections to be embedded within the exploration and puzzle segments. It also helps stitch together the varied locations in interesting ways that weren’t possible in its predecessor. A particular set piece showcases the benefits of this improved mechanic, making certain sections of the game more of a spectacle than it would otherwise be. Kratos can use his Chaos Blades as a grappling hook to whip him to vantage points and across canyons or to move rocks and pillars which blends environmental challenges and puzzles together in an interesting manner. 

Transport has also received a facelift and has had some variation added to it. Much less time is spent in your boat, although there are still some substantial boating sections. Instead, dog sledges have been introduced to break up the longer transport sections, making the larger areas of the game more accessible and less of a chore to get around. It also tries to completely mix up the formulae by giving you mounts in linear narrative segments and although it’s ultimately a means to an end, it’s still appreciated. Furthermore, fast travel is more streamlined, allowing players to zip around the realms on a whim, again adding to the improved flow of the traversal. 

The movement has certainly received an upgrade, but thankfully the combat has stayed the same. God of War (2018) blew all other hack and slashers out of the water with its neigh-on perfect combat system and it's just as good here. I was apprehensive about Santa Monica messing with it too much and trying to add multiple new mechanics to it. They were wise not to, all that was needed is a few new runic abilities and skills and that’s exactly what we got. All the additions are subtle, holding triangle will activate “Frost Awaken” for your Leviathan Axe which opens up a few new moves and doing the same for the Chaos Bladed will have Kratos whip it in a circle primed for a heavy attack. It’s not game-changing but it’s another layer to an already deep system. Something major does get introduced later in the game which mixes things up, but it won’t get mentioned here to avoid spoilers. What I will say about it, is that it’s a fantastic addition to the formula and one that I hope remains with Kratos for future sequels. 

For fans of the series, the only blight on the 2018 reboot was the omission of star power regarding the Norse pantheon. God of War has always prided itself on having duels against the biggest, baddest and most famous gods. There wasn’t a stone unturned throughout the first three games as Kratos wreaked havoc on the Greek roster, however, the last game lacked a little bit of that. Baldr was an awesome adversary and character, there’s no doubt about it, but when Odin, Thor, Heimdall and co are waiting in the wings, it detracts from the battle against Modin and Magni for example. This is not the case in Ragnarök. The abundance of star power and the conclusion to the Norse story makes God of War (2018) look like a prologue. The restraint that was shown in the last game only adds to the satisfaction of seeing it all be put to fruition in its sequel. The less said about the actual story the better, in fear of spoilers but it does offer many twists and turns as it flirts with prophecy, fate and destiny which again elicits memories of the first few God of War’s. The narrative is dripping with class, the pacing is great and the emotional beats it hits ground these high fantasy characters in a way that few pieces of non-fiction can even attempt. The relationships established in the first game are built upon here which is only helped by the stellar writing, every character is deep and layered with their own motivations, intentions and opinions.

The extra gubbins are all top quality here again. The music is fitting for the epic story and adds to the superhuman godlike themes that blanket everything in the game. The graphics are of course on point, especially in the vegetation and fauna this time around as well as some gorgeous environmental effects. What sets Ragnarök apart, graphically, is its vast variation and different inspired locations. Technically, it ran buttery smooth for me too, I only suffered one crash after a particularly long boss battle which was a bit frustrating but that was the only case I encountered. 

Ragnarök is genuinely hard to criticise, such is its quality. However, there are some niggling problems that are more baffling than bad. The most criminal sin it commits is completely giving away the solution to puzzles far too quickly. Whatever travelling companion you find yourself with will not hesitate to lend you a hand in figuring out puzzles, which sounds like a good idea. However, too often they will tell you the answer before you’ve even had a chance to identify the components of a puzzle which diminishes all the fun of solving said puzzle. It’s bizarre and what makes it even more annoying is that when you legitimately do get stuck, they turn into choir mice and don’t help at all. 

Moreover, the companions will now call out enemy positions on the battlefield with prompts. Again, this sounds like a good idea but when Mimir and Atreus are shouting “left, right, behind you” all game it becomes irritating. It’s especially bad when they call out the wrong direction and make things worse for you in battle. On the surface, it makes the battles more dynamic and bonds the team by creating chemistry and tactics, but its inaccuracy is frustrating. 

Another directional gripe I have is that the compass is twitchy and hard to read at times. The more you use it the more familiar you become with it, but it sends you around in circles sometimes as you try to decipher exactly which way it wants you to go, and how you get there.  It’s not too damning though, for certain side quests and errands it can be extremely helpful. 

The only other complaint I have is the time it takes to get powerful. When playing on harder difficulties, it can feel like an eternity until you get some portent runic abilities, especially having played the first game where you know how powerful Kratos will eventually become. For the longest time, Ragnarök will feed you scraps, then after a certain milestone, it gives you more runic abilities in five chests than it did in the last fifty. Although you have to have a deliberate and gradual increase in Kratos’ power level, it leaves you feeling restrained at times. 

God of War: Ragnarök is a once in a (console) generation game. Its combat is second to none and the quality of its storytelling is now good enough to rival any narrative-heavy game. For every new addition it introduces, it brings back or elicits mechanics of the original trilogy adding an extra layer of cohesion throughout the whole saga. The potential of the series is palpable, many fans are already fantasising about what pantheon Kratos will find himself in next and when he does it will no doubt be another enthralling adventure. No game is completely perfect, but Ranrarök is pretty darn close, and it receives the highest recommendation and score I can offer. 

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