God of War Ragnarok | Review

Note: A review copy of the game was provided for Sony to allow us to create this review. The game was played on a PS5 and we favored the performance mode for a higher frame rate.

Reviews are available as a podcast on Spotify.

The God of War!

In 2018 Santa Monica Studios released a reimaging of God of War. This new take on a much-loved series wowed players. The element of surprise is not a luxury that Ragnarok can rely on. As a direct sequel, they have to crank up every element that made the 2018 game great and then expand far beyond it.

Production, art design, sound design, game mechanics, product quality, voice acting, cut scenes, clever writing, and story delivery all work on every level. This is a day-one release, where I can’t remember a single bug (worth noting) in over 30 hours of often fast, frantic, screen-filled gameplay.

For a game that deals with complex emotions Ragnarok was much funnier than I expected, it pokes fun at itself at the right times. It has lines that speak to the player more directly than a subtle nod and wink.

Other quips lean into Kratos’ history of killing everything in the most brutal fashion possible. These are usually delivered as background exposition between characters which makes them unexpected and catches you off guard. So they land more often than not.  

I’m going to try to be as broad as possible, and give my best effort to not spoiling the experience for you.

Fimbulwinter is well underway. Kratos and Atreus journey to each of the Nine Realms in search of answers as Asgardian forces prepare for a prophesied battle that will end the world.

Atreus is a few years older now, and well on the way to becoming a man. He is stepping out from his father’s shadow and exploring his own destiny as Loki. Kratos is battling his own urges to protect his son by shielding him away.

The game direction handles the balance between telling a touching story of a difficult father-son relationship and making it work with the fast over the top brutal action.

Close moments of real emotion deal with big emotions around trauma, grief, anger, fear, helplessness, and mortality are often coming just moments after slicing an enemy clean in half with a giant axe.

The game takes its time to explore each of these emotions, and each of the characters experiencing them, even the enemies are given time to expand their backstories and motivations. It moves beyond simplistic ideas of good and evil. And delves into more complex areas of nuance while firmly reminding you that actions, no matter how well-meaning, have consequences.

Combat is still a major part of the game, thankfully you get to wield your trusty axe again alongside your blades. Both offer different approaches to combat, with different attacks, and routes to upgrade. Unlocking new parts, new skills, and even more brutal ways to take down enemies.

The difficulty progression is tightly coupled with the timeline, just as you feel like you are getting too powerful the game steps it up with smarter and harder enemies.

Level design has much more verticality now which opens up more ways to travel (the blades let you grapple up walls and across gaps) and new ways to deliver death from above as well as a lot of exploring and puzzle-solving.

Overall: The areas you get to visit and explore are all wonderfully realized. The artwork had me stopping and looking at random plants and houses. Areas that you simply sprint through in seconds are dripping with detail.

Production quality is incredibly high, and no team fell short in their delivery.

This is an easy game to recommend as a must-buy for anyone that likes video games.

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