It’s been four years since Santa Monica Studios released the sequel to God of War III, which received universal acclaim from critics and gamers. 2018’s God of War had everything – exceptional storytelling, fluid combat, and a great introduction to Kratos and Atreus’ father-son relationship. God of War Ragnarok is my most anticipated game of 2022, but does the game live up to my expectations after the faultless experience of the 2018 title?
This review will contain NO spoilers for God of War Ragnarök but may contain spoilers for previous God of War games.
We rejoin Kratos and Atreus three years after the events of God of War (2018), well into Fimbulwinter, a harsh winter that precedes the events of Ragnarök. The pair must journey across each of the Nine Realms in search of answers as Asgardian forces prepare for a prophesied battle that will end the world. Along this journey, Kratos and Atreus gain exposure to new friends, enemies, and new mysteries to uncover.
Santa Monica Studios have excelled in storytelling once more, with the direction and character development a complete standout. I wasn’t sure how the studio was going to trump God of War (2018) but the story was solid from start to finish. While the game’s storyline is heavily prophesized, at no point did I ever predict what was going to happen next. We have seen Ragnarök covered in different types of media in recent years, but this one outshines them all. The well-paced and masterfully crafted story is something that I will remember and be my favourite for many years to come. Like the previous game, the camera is always following Kratos or Atreus which enriches the story even further, making you feel like you’re with them on the journey every step of the way.
Kratos and Freya by Santa Monica Studios
The gameplay remains familiar with a few aspects revitalised through new weapons and additional environmental puzzles. If it sounds like I’m being vague, it’s because I am. Some new mechanics may incite a spoiler so I’ll leave those details out. The combat feels as fluid and fresh as ever with even more ways to kill the new and returning enemies. Kratos’ finishers are as epic and gory as ever, it is so satisfying watching him rip the jaw off of a creature that you took so long to defeat.
Throughout the story, you have numerous companions to help Kratos and Atreus navigate the Nine Realms. These companions never feel like dead weight and it is often noticeable when you have to fight on your own. The boss battles feel quite challenging and may require a few tries before learning the boss’ movements, but with a large number of ways to approach a battle, it’s easy to find a tactic that you can flourish in.
The landscapes explored throughout the Nine Realms are absolutely breathtaking. Even though most of the realms were in God of War (2018), it never felt like I was walking through a copy-pasted location from the previous game. Santa Monica did a fantastic revitalizing these old locations and making them feel brand new. My personal favourite was Vanaheim, which was not available to travel to in God of War (2018) thanks to Odin. Vanaheim is a sprawling with fauna and flora of every colour and is home to our old friend, and new enemy, Freya.
A large amount of your interaction with the world is through puzzle-solving. While a lot of these puzzles are easy enough, your companion often chimes in if you’re taking too long to solve it. Navigating around the world using wolves, boats and traversal is a breeze and the painted rocks and structures make the navigation feel seamless. This game is extremely polished and as such, there is not much to nitpick about. The only infraction I experienced in the game was that the compass was a bit janky at times, but this was very rare.
Kratos and Mimir by Santa Monica Studios
There are many side quests in each of the Nine Realms and while most are “fetch quests”, a lot have lore infused into them, which gives the incentive to complete them. These quests are crafted with as much love and purpose as the story is and never feel like a tacked-on filler quest that most open-world games have.
Familiar collectibles such as Nornir chests, Legendary Chests, Odin’s Ravens, and Lore make a return to the game. A new addition to the collectibles is the Berserker Gravestones – which are difficult battles against Berserkers, similar to the Valkyrie boss fights in the previous game. These Berserker battles are not for the faint-hearted, they are brutal and are in my opinion more difficult than any of the main boss battles throughout the story.
Kratos in Vanaheim by Santa Monica Studios
Bear McCreary, who is nominated at the 2023 GRAMMY awards for his work on Call of Duty: Vanguard, returns to the helm and nails it again. The score throughout the game matches both the intense and light-hearted moments which play a vital role in shaping the game into what it is. The game’s final act had me on the edge of my seat and biting my nails, and that was all thanks to the god-tier score.
The voice acting is top-notch by all involved. I would love to give a standing ovation for Christopher Judge who voices Kratos, Sunny Suljic who voices Atreus, Adam J. Harrington who voices Sindri and Danielle Bisutti who voices Freya. These four voice actors were absolutely phenomenal and left me in awe of the emotion presented in their dialogue. This game’s cast has one of the best performances I’ve ever seen in a video game and in my opinion, should set the benchmark for years to come.
Santa Monica Studios deliver an action-packed and emotional journey that includes everything you would ever want in a video game. The exemplary performances of the cast, innovative gameplay mechanics, and masterful storytelling make God of War Ragnarök one of the best games in the 21st century.
God of War Ragnarök is now available for purchase on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5.