I won’t be discussing any God of War Ragnarok story elements here. I will also refrain from mentioning character names for companions that end up joining and fighting alongside Kratos in the game. I will simply detail some of the mechanics behind these elements but who they are will remain a mystery until you play the game yourself.
Watch the God of War Ragnarok review
To some degree, Santa Monica Studios had an impossible task at hand when creating the sequel for what was arguably one of the best games of the last generation. Not only did God of War 2018 deliver something entirely new in gaming but it was also a completely new direction and unlike anything the series had done in the past.
God of War Ragnarok tries very hard to make a bold statement. One which could live up to its predecessor. In some ways, it is a grander adventure with a more emotional story to tell, bigger realms to explore and so many new characters to grow with. In other ways, it feels overly padded with stuff that only gets in the way of the game’s pacing. So much so that the important story the game tries to tell is often thrown by the wayside.
It is a catch-22 in God of War Ragnarok’s case. You want a bigger game that takes longer to complete and offers exciting set pieces to experience. However, at the same time, bad pacing also pulls you away from digesting the most important aspects of the game. Just when I was engrossed by the world and its impending doom, I was pulled away to go and free trapped jellyfish in the desert for three hours while everything we were doing was conveniently put on hold while I was doing it.
Some major emotional plot points in the game are also thrown to the backseat while all the extra padded stuff takes preference. Sure, you don’t have to do all the side stuff but why would you leave a realm behind incomplete just because Kratos and Atreus came to blows and had a disagreement resulting in them parting ways for the game’s next chapter?
God of War 2018 didn’t have this problem. When the tension was rising between characters, you felt this the entire time. Even while doing the side content, the silence between Kratos and Atreus after an argument was deafening. Ragnarok often sweeps the drama under the carpet while Kratos heads off to another realm to do something else with someone else. Sadly, the dire need to be bigger has sacrificed some incredible storytelling elements for the sake of variety and it doesn’t help the game make the same impact as before.
Thankfully, the shoddy pacing aside, God of War Ragnarok is simply marvellous in every other aspect. Almost everything has been reworked and there’s a lot to see and do this time around. All these grander mechanics also play nicely into one another thanks to the improved combat system, parkour combat and the various new skill trees and gear options available for all the playable characters. The game has also leaned heavily on companions meaning Atreus isn’t the only character that you’ll be able to command in the game.
Of course, Kratos is the main man once again and he has grown a lot. He is older, wiser and if anything, more emotionally vulnerable than before. After being thrown into the middle of the forthcoming Ragnarok, Kratos finds himself searching the nine realms for possible ways to prevent a war. This leads him to find the Norse God of War, Tyr.
Fimbulwinter has set in across the nine realms too meaning the locations we visited in the previous game are now drastically different. Beautiful lakes are now barren deserts and every realm has been somewhat affected by Fimbulwinter. The deadly creatures of each realm have also transformed into angrier, more ferocious monsters.
For the most part, God of War Ragnarok doesn’t change the formula much when it comes to Kratos and his combat. Instead, there are subtle new additions that power him up. He still smacks things around with his Leviathan Axe and slices things apart with his Blade of Chaos. In fact, most of the skills Kratos performed in the 2018 game are back and unlockable once again. Mimir blames Fimbulwinter for sucking all of his power away making us earn XP to unlock each one again.
Kratos can also be kitted out with gear that is tailored to your specific playstyle. For the majority of the game, I simply followed the act of equipping what best levelled up my defence and overall power level. However, late-game content saw me really digging into the Luck spec by equipping items that gave me more Luck and wearing weapon attachments that buffed me after performing certain attacks. The chances for the buff relied on the Luck stats… You can see where I am going here.
You can also now equip Kratos with a shield made up of two parts. There’s the rond which is a piece of gear on its own and the outer part which is another piece of gear. it just adds some more variety into the mix. I especially enjoyed the new Amulet system that comes with empty slots where I could equip Runes into them. These runes grant instant stat increases to a variety of specs, cooldown decreases on skills and more. I can see this system being vital for the toughest challenges and difficulty modes in the game where you’ll have to track down Runes tailored to the exact build you’re going for.
Kratos’ companions can also be kitted out with gear and skills. During certain parts of the game, these companions come and go. Having their skills comes in handy and they’ll earn XP to unlock new ones just like Kratos. The companions are detailed enough to feel like separate party members and their attacks and how I specced their skill tree made a huge difference in the combat.
Each companion also offered some exciting new ways to approach encounters. For example, one of them would shoot arrows into enemies to build up a magic amplifier that would burst when I tossed the axe into it. Another would strangle enemies with vines rendering them incapacitated and open to attack.
Given the scale of God of War Ragnarok, the varied combat encounters helped keep the battles fresh. The same goes for boss fights that are also directly designed for these companions being around. They are bigger and more exciting than anything in the 2018 release.
These companions are also a key part of the game’s exploration and puzzle-solving. I could command them to perform certain actions on objects aiding in unlocking areas to explore and even boxes to loot. All of these moments have also been brilliantly designed to encourage completion. If it wasn’t using crystals to bounce Kratos’ axe around a room I was chaining rune magic together on a wall so Kratos could set the first one on fire resulting in a chain reaction which burnt vines blocking a chest. Everything felt intuitive and rewarding.
I spent a lot of time in God of War Ragnarok exploring all the various realms and yes, I didn’t enjoy how the game puts the story on the back burner to encourage this but the general exploration was a good time. It also helped expand on some of the characters in the game too thanks to the light chit-chat that takes place in between slicing Draugr in half. Kratos has a lot more to say this time around and it was nice to hear the stories of his Spartan days come up in the game.
While listening to the stories is one thing, you’ll also spend a lot of time collecting treasures, poems that are easter eggs to other PlayStation games and fighting enemies you’ll probably struggle to beat the first time around. Each realm is padded with a lot to do. There’s also a lot to go back for once you unlock new tools to get around. I wasn’t a huge fan of this. I found myself having to backtrack a couple of times back to the same realm just to use a new tool I had to reach a spot I couldn’t before. Going back once is okay but two or three times is just annoying.
Again, this all happens amid dramatic moments in the story. So the tension is ruined by a short trip back to a realm for the second time. I mean “short” as in three or four hours. I then got back to the main story and I was expected to pick up and carry on as if nothing happened. It definitely creates a feeling of disconnection with the game that is hard to ignore.
But God of War Ragnarok is a big game and it is incredibly fun. The game looks beautiful too with each and every location stunning in detail. There’s also a lot to do here and it will keep you very busy. I just wish Santa Monica Studios made the exploration feel more natural and organically blended into the game. The pacing just isn’t great and it gets in the way of enjoying the important moments. The final few hours are also crammed together as a result and come off as a rushed job. It isn’t a major issue because the game is magical and there’s enough good here to overshadow the minor flaws.
God of War Ragnarok also does what many sequels fail to do – it successfully evolved its mechanics to make things more compelling. The game also respects its past by paying homage to the events Kratos has gone through in previous titles. These moments are beautifully merged into the story too. Since 2018, God of War has emerged bolder, more exciting and if anything, more legendary and Ragnarok sees the end of an unforgettable saga.
This God of War Ragnarok review is based on a code sent to us by Sony Interactive Entertainment. The game releases on 9 November for PS4 and PS5. You can pre-order it from R1045.
God of War Ragnarok Review
Story - 8/10
Gameplay - 10/10
Presentation - 10/10
Value - 10/10
God of War Ragnarok is almost perfect in every aspect but sadly its pacing is inconsistent. Often its story gets thrown to the side in favour of hours of exploration and its last act is horribly rushed. However, it is incredible in every other aspect.
Every realm is wow
Combat is still unmatched