God of War Ragnarok is a big, expensive game with beautiful graphics, a scale that will blow your mind, combat that is as satisfying as it is brutal, and a world that begs to be explored in every nook and cranny. It’s a great blockbuster, but these aren’t even the best things about it.
God of War Ragnarok: Introduce
In a game where a huge god rips all kinds of creatures apart limb by limb, the most shocking moments aren’t filled with blood, but with heartfelt words and feelings. They are the words of a former God of War who was known for killing his family without mercy. They are also the words of a sad child begging his father to break a cycle of self-destruction. They are a tender moment in the life of a boy who carries the weight of the world on his shoulders.
The most impressive things about God of War: Ragnarok are how it explores loss and love, grief and growth, and fate and free will. It’s an amazingly well-written game that takes Norse gods’ stories apart and puts them back together as an odyssey about families. It’s not about the end of the world, but about the people who are responsible for it. People worship them as if they were mythical gods, but they have deep flaws, have skewed views, and have questionable motivations, just like the people they rule over. Still, some have qualities that make them better. In this way, Ragnarok’s story is told from a gray area where heroes and villains, good and bad, are hard to tell apart. These characters are interesting because they keep making you think about who they are and what makes them act the way they do.
There are times when characters you’re not supposed to like show you the hard times that have made them who they are or the demons they fight. This is enough to make them seem real, but Ragnarok also makes the bad guys go through the same problems as the good guys. This makes you ask yourself, “If I can feel for the good guys because of what they’re going through, shouldn’t I feel the same way about the bad guys?” It turns out that the answer is very complicated, which is what makes the story so interesting.
Even though Kratos and Atreus are the main characters, almost everyone is going through their own hard journey. For some, it will pull them out of a pit of despair or out of the dark and onto a brighter path. For some people, it’s a thing that leads to obsessions that could ruin everything and everyone. This is best shown by Kratos and Atreus, who signal the end of the world by killing Baldur at the end of the last game.
Because their actions pull them in different directions, the consequences of this moment mean different things to each of them. Kratos has finally learned to lead his son with love instead of fear. He tries to keep his son away from war and the business of the Aesir gods. However, he does this knowing that his son will play a role in Ragnarok and die. Atreus, on the other hand, feels compelled to stop Ragnarok and find out who he is as Loki, the name the Giants gave him. To do this, he goes to find Tyr, the Norse God of War. This complicated situation is what sets them against each other: a man who wants to avoid war at all costs because he has seen what it does to people and a boy who thinks war is the only way to get rid of a power that has hurt so many people.
The most impressive things about God of War: Ragnarok are how it explores loss and love, grief and growth, and fate and free will. It’s an amazingly well-written game that takes Norse gods’ stories apart and puts them back together as an odyssey about families.
People who played the last game will remember Atreus’s power-hungry “fledgling God” phase and how frustrating it was. There’s nothing more annoying than a spoiled child. Ragnarok, on the other hand, deals with the different points of view of father and son in a very different way. Kratos is now learning that he needs to let his son find his own way and that he can’t hold on too tightly or he will push his son away. Since we last saw him, Atreus has grown up and is now more aware that what he does can and will have consequences. Because of this, the relationship has changed. Now, Kratos is trying to find out more about Atreus instead of trying to define him, while Atreus tries to see things from his father’s point of view. In both cases, Mimir’s lawyer is a very important part of this. The previous game’s journey for both characters is carried over into this one, and the back-and-forth between them is really interesting thanks to the great writing and acting. In these conversations, there is a newfound sense of mutual respect, which is new for Kratos and adds to the theme of growth that runs through God of War: Ragnarok.
People will change in important ways as they play this game. Without giving too much away, both new characters and those you got to know well in the last game go through things that have a big effect on them and the people around them. God of War: Ragnarok has a lot of things to talk about, like how family and trauma can affect people and how power abuse and emotional manipulation can change people. God of War Ragnarok puts the Norse pantheon under the harshest of lights to show how deeply flawed they are, and we can learn a lot about that through our own experiences with them and stories told by others who have their own. Mimir, who thinks he is the smartest person alive, comes back to talk about Norse history. There are also many writings all over the realms that tell complicated histories, the stories of famous people, or what different characters are thinking and feeling.
God of War Ragnarok is a long game, but the writing and characters make every step of the way count. It’s worth that much time because it gets you close to the characters in a way that you can only get by spending hours and hours with them and learning how they see the world and what makes them think the way they do. And almost every character is interesting, but the Aesir gods, who can be cruel at the best of times, are the most interesting. With the threat of death, though, each of them starts to fall apart in their own way. Some people’s natures become even more concentrated, which has bad effects. Others, on the other hand, are forced to think about what they really care about.
Norse mythology has been retold in many ways, but God of War Ragnarok is by far one of the most memorable. It’s made better by the fact that Kratos is in it. His past life as a Greek God gives him a unique point of view, and he’s also in the middle of it. The stories we know about him and his son are based on them, and they fit together in a really impressive way. When it’s all over, you can look back and be amazed at how well and creatively different plots and characters from older God of War games, the previous game in this rebooted series, and Norse mythology as a whole have been woven together.
God of War Ragnarok doesn’t change much about how Kratos and Atreus fight their enemies on the battlefield compared to the last game. However, there are some new additions and changes to key mechanics. The core gameplay, on the other hand, stays the same, which is a good thing. Since I had played the last game, it was easy for me to start tearing my way through the battlefield, and the close camera angle gives a dramatic front-row seat to the brutality that has made Kratos famous.
There’s a crazy kind of joy that comes from stomping around arenas and swinging the trusty Leviathan axe to kill Draugrs, Elves, dragons, demons, and all kinds of other fantastic creatures. Even after all these hours, it’s still fun to throw your axe far away and then call it back. With new skill trees to unlock, this ability gives you plenty of chances to make combos that look good and hit hard.
This time, Kratos has the Blades of Chaos right from the start, and Sony Santa Monica has made good use of them. The fiery blades are great for controlling crowds and dealing extra damage to ice-aligned creatures. They are also used to emphasize movement and height. Kratos can grab on to enemies and get close to them, which makes them very useful for figuring out which targets to go after first and even for getting away. But they’re also the only way to quickly get to higher platforms, where enemies are often waiting to shoot. This means you’ll need to be much more aware of what’s going on around you and make sure these dangers are dealt with quickly. A small but very welcome new feature is the ability to jump off of higher ground and attack enemies below. This keeps the momentum that is built up in skirmishes from being lost as players move around the battlefield.
The trusty fists of Kratos are still my favorite weapon. They hit like boulders and cause a lot of stun. Like the last game, enemies have a stun meter that, when full, gives them access to devastating cinematic finishers that depend on the weapon and usually involve ripping something in half, breaking bones, or destroying the enemy completely. It’s the kind of cruelty that makes you want to wince, but it really drives home the power fantasy of being a god. This is funny, since Kratos in God of War Ragnarok is a much more balanced and, dare I say it, emotionally stable person. The contrast ends up being good for the game because it shows how far Kratos has come to be able to hold that kind of beast inside of him.
Fighting is exciting, whether you’re fighting a few Draugers or trading blows with gods. It’s well thought out and very enjoyable from the first swing of the axe to the last.
Shields are another area that has grown. Before Ragnarok, you could only use one shield, but now Kratos can use a wider range of shields. Most of the time, each one is made for a certain style of play, so if you want to focus on blocking attacks to make openings, there are a few that will let you do that. But if you like to take a lot of damage, you can choose something bigger and more durable. Most shields also have a secondary function that can be used by tapping L1 twice. This can be used to check an enemy and make space, slam the shield into the ground to break guard, hit them back with a punch, or even rush forward. With this new change, you can go from being on the back foot to being on the front foot in an instant. This makes combat feel more offensive. It’s a smart little addition that gives you the option to change how you play if you want to.
The different role-playing systems that are tied to Kratos’s equipment make him even more powerful. Equipment can, of course, be upgraded to make it stronger, make the element it’s made of work better, or make the unique Runic attack more powerful, among other things. But the attachments are often where you’ll find the most noticeable changes. Some of them improve attributes even more, while others add new features, like sending waves of frost with every swing of the axe. Armor works the same way, giving positive or negative effects to attributes or having a unique effect that comes into play when certain conditions are met. None of this is particularly new or changes the way the game works, but it does give you the freedom to build Kratos in a way that fits your style of play. For instance, I like to play very aggressively and use high-risk strategies, such as parrying before blocking and dodging. I focused on getting and improving equipment that would reward me for being so aggressive. My whole strategy was to rush in and punch enemies until they were weak enough to be killed with a cinematic execution, which would give me a burst of health. I put this together with a relic that creates a “Realm Shift,” which slowed down time and gave me another chance to attack quickly or more time to look for gems that restore life that might be on the battlefield.
Because Kratos is so aggressive, his enemies hit much harder than they used to and try to take him out. In the beginning, this is fine, but as the game goes on and more difficult enemies show up, the mechanics can have trouble keeping up with the speed and aggression of the game. Most of the time, these enemies can take much more damage, have more than one phase, move around and attack from afar, or have more than one of them. Because of this, it can feel like you’re being pulled in a lot of different directions, and holes can start to appear in your defenses. I was often in the middle of a series of attacks when an enemy would suddenly appear from behind, forcing me to stop what I was doing and either turn around or roll out of the way. The quick turn button is now L1 and down on the directional pad. Even as I got close to the end of the game, it felt awkward and unreliable to use, especially when I was in the middle of a battle. You can change this, but I’ve never found a place where I was happy with it.
This also felt like it broke the flow of combat, especially since the action was so fast that it was easy to lose track of the arrow on the screen that shows when an attack is coming from behind. The light changes from yellow to red to give you an idea of when to move, but I still got cut off a lot. In the first half of the game, this isn’t a big deal. However, in the second half, enemies can stunlock you, so there were many times when a single enemy would leave me open to being hit by multiple enemies at once, and I’d die in an instant. When these situations came up, I felt unprepared and unable to make Kratos react in a way that would help me deal with what was being thrown at me. It wasn’t because I wasn’t skilled enough. Since there are high-level challenges like Valkyries from the last game and more than a few that are even harder, this is the kind of thing that can make the difference between life and death. God of War Ragnarok is much better at saving your progress as you move through phases, at least for boss fights. And when it comes to fighting, Atreus is much better equipped this time around. Along with Mimir, he will either give you callouts to let you know what’s going on or shoot some arrows at you or on his own if you threaten him. He’s a good boy.