The God of War series has a special place in my heart, so God of War Ragnarök has been on my radar for a while. I played the original title when it was released for the PS2 in 2005 when I was 19 years old. I still have that copy of the game, and the 2nd and 3rd instalments as well. Needless to say, I am a fan. Kratos is still one of my favourite characters in all of gaming, so getting the chance to play God of War Ragnarök is like a dream that my 19-year-old self is getting to live.
Picking up a few years from where we left off at the end of God of War, Kratos and Atreus have been in hiding as the fabled Fimbulwinter has arrived, trying to keep away from Freya after the goings-on in the previous game. Before long, the Ghost of Sparta and Atreus have a couple of unexpected visitors who set them on a path that will take them across the Nine Realms, visiting some truly incredible environments and meeting some very interesting characters indeed.
Like most new games these days, God of War Ragnarök asks you to customize your settings when you load up the game for the first time. Giving you 5 different options for your difficulty, including one called ”Give Me God of War”, which is the hardest difficulty and can only be accessed at the start of a new game. You can reduce the difficulty in the middle of your save, but it cannot be put back on this level. Apart from the difficulty, there are a fair few new settings to look through as well.
Graphically, there are two options to speak of, where you can either favour performance, or you can favour resolution. Favouring performance will tell the game to prioritize framerate over image quality, and favouring resolution will have the game prioritize image quality over framerate. Basically, it comes down to if you want to run at 60fps in 1080p, or at 30fps at 4k resolution. I elected to play on 60fps at 1080p after trying both out and deciding that 30fps was too hard to power through even if it had better resolution.
“…God of War Ragnarök’s ‘one shot’ camera style begins the game in earnest, and this is one of the things I love most about this title and the previous as well.”
One of my absolute favourite settings in God of War Ragnarök is the ability to determine exactly which items to automatically pick up off the floor. You have the option to select from an Essentials option, and an Essentials + option. The differences being that using the Essentials option, Kratos will automatically pick up health, rage, and other stones when needed; and in Essentials +, Kratos will automatically pick up the same items as in Essentials, but will also automatically pick up hacksilver (still used for crafting), resources, and other loot drops when not in combat. Obviously, I turned on Essentials + since pressing a button every time I wanted to pick something up seemed like quite the hassle.
One last setting that I want to touch on in God of War Ragnarök, and it really is a ‘quality-of-life’ setting, comes from the Playstyle section of the gameplay settings. It is where you can change the input required when you are prompted for repeated button presses. You can now switch between tapping the required button, or simply holding it. As someone who grew up playing this series as well as games like Mario Party, tapping the button came as no issue, but I can absolutely see the appeal of just wanting to hold it and have a less stressful time during that given interaction.
After choosing my settings, God of War Ragnarök’s “one shot” camera style begins the game in earnest, and this is one of the things I love most about this title and the previous as well. Immersion is so important to me in single-player games and, to me, there is no better way to immerse myself in a game than to have the scenes flow from one to the next. By not having any cuts in the camera, immersion is at the top end of the spectrum. I truly feel like part of the story.
If ever there was a story that I wanted to feel part of, this is it. It is an epic in every sense of the word. Spanning all Nine Realms, God of War Ragnarök weaves a tale of the prophesied end of the world: Ragnarök. Seeking to stop the end of the world, Kratos and Atreus must venture out and seek out new friends to help them along their journey. I don’t want to spoil anything here so let’s just say that characters of Norse mythology are present.
All of your favourite combat techniques are still present in God of War Ragnarök, Kratos still wields the Leviathan Axe with devastating effect, and Atreus has improved his archery abilities over time as well. Each of our two characters here will acquire new skills and abilities over the course of the game and put them to good use, should you choose to do so.
Santa Monica Studios has employed an “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” approach to combat in God of War Ragnarök, so veterans of the previous title (and the rest in the series) should feel right at home hacking and slashing your way through hordes of enemies, both new and familiar.
“All of your favourite combat techniques are still present in God of War Ragnarök…”
Graphically, God of War Ragnarök is absolutely gorgeous. From the snow-covered forests of Midgard to the lush greenery of Vanaheim, this world is teaming with life and interesting things to look at. Most impressive, however, is the work done on the character modelling. There were times that I could pick out tiny facial expression changes that changed the entire tone of a conversation or interaction.
While on the topic of graphics, I did see a couple of very minor anomalies, and when I say minor, I mean minor. For instance, there was a scene where Atreus was touching an object and his hand went slightly into it instead of staying on top. That happened a couple of times, but I can’t say I experienced any other issues.
When a game is as story driven as God of War Ragnarök is, you need to get some good voice acting. Santa Monica Studios really shines in this area as they have employed some incredible names to lend their voices to the characters of this game, with names like Ryan Hurst, Richard Schiff, and Laya Deleon Hayes. As well, Christopher Judge and Sunny Suljic both return to play Kratos and Atreus respectively. This stellar voice ensemble helps to make the dialogue scenes really hit, and you can feel the emotion behind the lines.
“God of War Ragnarök is an absolute monument to the action-adventure genre and weaves a beautiful story that spans entire worlds.”
As I said in my review for Horizon Forbidden West, there is no shortage of things to do throughout the Nine Realms. Between favours, labours, and more, there is plenty to do to extend your time in this fantastic world. Some familiar ones from God of War (2018) return, like hunting Odin’s ravens and throwing your axe through them. I got lost a few times just doing side quests for a couple of hours, so there is something in God of War Ragnarök to keep you occupied at all times.
As much as I love the environments, the story and the gameplay, I do have a couple of small complaints. One being that some environments can get fairly linear. There are a few times that your path will branch off in a different direction, but that is largely because there is either a secondary path to your destination, or a chest of various degrees to be found and looted. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely looted every single chest I could find because I have a problem, and no amount of Mimir or Atreus telling me to go a certain way was going to keep me from getting to that chest I can see behind that partially broken wall.
Speaking of Mimir, he bridges the gap between dialogue scenes. Whether it’s asking Atreus or Kratos a question, or providing interesting background information about the location I was in at the moment, there was no shortage of fun quips and information to fill the quiet. He very quickly became one of my favourite characters in the previous title and that remains true with God of War Ragnarök.
The absolute best thing about God of War Ragnarök is the relationship between father and son, Kratos and Atreus. All Kratos wants is to keep his son safe, a feeling that I can absolutely relate to as a father myself. Atreus has grown up a lot since the last game, both physically and emotionally, and there are times that he is at odds with his father, as most of us probably were at that age. Even when they disagree, or argue, or even fight (with words, not physically) you can tell that father and son love each other and I will always get behind a story like that.
There aren’t many games that I have been unable to stop playing, but this one tops the list. It has everything I need in a title: an incredible story, interesting characters, vivid environments, and, above all, replayability. God of War Ragnarök is an absolute monument to the action-adventure genre and weaves a beautiful story that spans entire worlds. It is a must-play for fans and newcomers alike.