Review | God of War: Ragnarok
"Dad of War is back, and he is better in all segments when comparing it to the previous title! Explore the Norse Mythology, slay some gods, and have fun!"
The God of War franchise is definitely one of those that marked the PlayStation brand. We all know about Kratos. The changes in the last sequel were not positively accepted by everyone, but four and a half years ago, a touch of freshness was introduced into the series. Personally, I like games where it's hard to stop, and God of War is certainly one of those.
God of War (2018.)
Before we talk about Ragnarök, let's remember the spring of 2018. The Greek god Kratos moved to another mythology, had a son Atreus, and unfortunately lost his wife Faye – Atreus' mother. Their journey to fulfill Faye's last wish and scatter her ashes on the highest mountain of the nine realms was anything but ordinary and boring.
Of course, Kratos wouldn't be Kratos if he hadn't resented a handful of gods and killed a few along the way. Unfortunately for him, he actually killed Odin and Freya's son Baldur. Odin, as the supreme god, rules this kingdom and torments the other gods while Freya helped along the way and with the misfortunes that befell you. Odin sent Baldur to get Faye, not knowing that she was dead, but no matter how hard Baldur tried, getting through Kratos was not easy.
Freya did not accept the death of her son well, so Kratos became her target, and this is exactly the beginning of Ragnarök and a good part of the story that awaits you. Remember the prophecy at the end of the game depicting a dead Kratos? When you throw in a visit from Thor sent by Odin, a lot of questions are left unanswered. Ragnarök is here to answer them.
Freya is mad, but don't be either. Kratos needs some rest.
God of War Ragnarök (2022.)
I would like to note that the state of the game is almost flawless - I had almost no problems, and it remained so until the very end. A couple of times I had no sound in animations, which was resolved by restarting the game. Also, some battles simply got stuck, but here the Restart Checkpoint option helped. Most of this was fixed in the later 1.02 patch, and I only had both happen twice.
Nine graphics modes for three consoles
God of War Ragnarök is a cross-generational game. Despite the superior visuals on the PS5, it's clear that it can do better. But that's why I have to give credit to the developers from Santa Monica for the amount of effort put into making sure that all players on current PlayStation consoles have a great experience.
Ragnarök boasts as many as 9 graphics modes on PS5, PS4 and PS4 Pro. Those on a 9-year-old PS4 won't be able to pull more than 30 FPS, PS4 Pro gamers have a choice between 30 and 60 FPS at the expense of detail, and PS5 gamers with devices that support HDMI 2.1 have capabilities like the average PC game:
- PS4 – Standard, 1080p, 30 FPS
- PS4 PRO – Favor quality, 1440-1656p, 30 FPS
- PS4 PRO – Favor performance, 1080p-1656p up to 60 FPS
- PS5 – Favor quality, native 4K (2160p) and 30 FPS
- PS5 – Favor quality + HFR or VRR, 10800-2160p up to 40 FPS
- PS5 – Favor performance, 1440-2160p up to 60 FPS
- PS5 – Favor performance + HFR or VRR, 1440p unlocked 60 FPS
Before I go any further, I would like to add that there is no photo mode and the developers plan to add it later. I believe that the additional development time went in the direction of polishing, which is more important, so if we draw a comparison with another PlayStation exclusives like Horizon: Forbidden West - Ragnarök is more stable and polished game.
The news are wonderful, and the old team is still there. If I may, I would add that the team comes with a great sense of humor.
PlayStation 4 owners needn't worry too much about the benefits of the PlayStation 5 version. The haptic vibration does not change the gaming experience, which disappointed me a little and I consider it completely unused. The shaking of the controller while driving through the snow is fine, but it definitely appeals more as a vibration rather than haptics. Scripted scenes where you need to cut something clumsily create resistance on the R2 trigger - the solution is of course to squeeze as hard as possible, and if you ask me that is completely unnecessary in games. Maybe something more about haptics awaits us in future patches.
The end of the story?
I expected a lot from Ragnarök. The thought that this might be a sequel where we lose Kratos pulled me forward strongly. It wouldn't be right to reveal juicy details about the story so as not to spoil the experience for you, so I'll just mention that the story is generally great. For the most part.
The emphasis on other perspectives outside of Kratos is excellently well executed. Atreus has grown into a teenager, he is curious and obstinate. We loved dad, how could we not love his son? In fact, the thought crosses my mind that Kratos himself might not be the most interesting part of the narrative. At least I have that impression. Which is by no means bad, but speaks of the quality of the writing, which is definitely at a high level. The only character that I missed completely was the new female dwarf blacksmith - just terrible voice acting with a sketchy background made me want to run away from her.
The ending itself was a bit of a problem for me because of the naivety of events and certain gods. Although the pacing is actually excellent, towards the end the frivolity of the situation spoils the experience. Some twists and turns are predictable, and the story ultimately feels vague. Is this really the end? The producers say that in the case of God of War Norse mythology will not go into the trilogy. I think the team from Santa Monica studio doesn't want to piss of the players like The Last of Us Part II did, so they took a safer route that ultimately didn't leave such a strong impression on me.
The visuals are sometimes breathtaking, and I love how you change visually with new armor sets.
Keep in mind that this is a small piece of the cake because the package as a whole is an extremely positive experience. I absorbed all the scenes like a sponge and marveled at the perfect voice acting, presentation and interactions between the characters permeated with so many casual conversations. I never went outside the atmosphere they wanted to achieve for a single minute.
All this was already seen in the last sequel, but it is important to note that in Ragnarök we do not have a case of a script that repeats three sentences 30 hours apart from the main story. Kratos, Atreus and other characters adapt to the current situation and events and have real conversations. Personally, I love Norse mythology, so every sentence incorporated into the story of Ragnarök is interesting to me, whether it is part of a side event or the main story.
If you are in that group of players who prefer the original trilogy, Ragnarök is exactly a copy of the last game, not the previous trilogy. What does this mean for gameplay?
More boss fights, more meat
The gameplay is a complete copy of what has already been seen. The good thing is that you immediately start with the ax and blades, which was not the case in the last game. At the very beginning, the development of events is a bit slower, so combat is put aside a bit until you get to the first realm. Dosing with new mechanics may bother some, because most of the game is just an upgrade to what has been seen with minimal updates to the core mechanics.
Maybe over time, the fight will become a little repetitive, but the dosage is well done, so it won't be felt very much. More attack options come with the use of the shield, but dodge is still the main key that you will stick to. The bigger issue is From Software taking the combat to a level that GoW just doesn't reach, but I don't see that as a minus or a problem, just a fact. I would mention the wonderful effects, the fluidity of the performance and the juiciness that just oozes out of every fight. And of course, the possibility of approaching the fight as you like - be it throwing an ax or close combat.
I am one of those who enjoyed all the sequels equally. A solid number of special attacks that will enrich the range of basic ones certainly contributes to the impression, and with the variety of enemies and a much larger range of opponent types (especially boss and mini-boss fights), a good balance has been created. I miss more aggression in the form of execution, but I'd be lying if I said that cutting off the rotating body of a defeated opponent in the air doesn't work. Perhaps the image of the werewolf when his jaw is pulled up to his knees is what stuck with me the most.
When I look at these pictures they look better than the graphics when I played the game. I'm joking, of course. Ragnarök is full of various boss and mini-boss fights, which I missed in the predecessor. Maybe they lack more variety of exection finishers, but I forgive them.
Without revealing too much, in one part of playing Ragnarök there are certain changes. Digression refreshes the formula enough to make me forget everything I've played before, and it's a welcome refresher. The dynamic changes are just enough to shut up those who make snide comments about Ragnarök in the context of DLC.
In terms of micromanagement, Ragnarök is almost identical to its predecessor. It's good to combine character development with various weapon hilts and combinations that can turn a battle around, but it's all pretty simple and already seen before. Which is by no means a minus, because it does the job, and I think that's what matters. At the end of the day, what matters is how good you are, and the benefits of equipment and new skills can only further highlight your skill.
I would recommend playing on medium difficulty, the two below are really easy and the two above might encourage those who want more of a challenge. Higher difficutlies in the sequel mean that the enemies are just bigger sponges, and that's something I didn't like in the previous game either, I'm just not a fan of such difficutlies.
9 Realms. Recycled?
Not even a little. You can finish the game in about 25 hours, and the rest of the content is enough for over 50 hours of pure fun. I will leave 10 hours for the "unnecessary" category because some locations and challenges are pure grind that I didn't like. Like Muspelheim whose arena arrives again with almost the same or slightly modified challenges. Other locations are not nearly as recycled.
Those skills you learn through experience branch out and will enrich your arsenal of attacks. I would especially single out the special attacks that are divided into "light" and "heavy" whose visual effects are simply wonderful. Along with the skills themselves, you'll spend a lot of time looking around so you don't accidentally miss some little thing around you. The game is bursting with details.
It's a bit ungrateful to expect the impact of the previous sequel, but the new look of the locations I've already seen caused me to admire because they are actually new. For the most part, nature did its thing, and that type of location is the best for me. You don't have to worry, there are freshness and completely new locations, and the old ones are different enough.
What I object to are the linearity and invisible walls in some places. I would go deeper into the forest, but the game just won't let me. Moments like these take you out of the illusion aided by realistic visuals. Fortunately, puzzles and collectibles are designed and hidden in the best possible way. It's simply a sin to rush through the game, all realms offer a handful of optional adventures.
Often you will discover wonderful side-scenes and conversations that are at the level of the main story. I appreciate such locations. The ingenuity of some of the puzzles blew my mind, but ultimately I reached 100% completion. Almost not a single moment was superfluous, but I would like to mention Vanaheim, which was stretched unnecessarily.
What about the backtracking? It is present, but somehow it feels natural. I didn't feel tired when returning to the same locations again. With a natural dosage of new research possibilities and alternative paths, backtracking in the context of "bad" is just a myth for this game. It was not difficult for me to return to where I had already spilled blood. Moreover, I reveled in knowing that I could now peek into new parts of already visited locations. It doesn't take away from the fact that they are beautiful, especially all the snowy ones (because I love them!).
Ragnarök for the Santa Monica studio, or their salvation?
It's definitely not the end for Santa Monica and I'm very interested to see what's next on their plate. The level of quality built into God of War Ragnarök is truly the top of the industry. Maybe not next-gen quality, but why should it be?
Although it looks better and more detailed than its predecessor on PS5 and is often visually stunning, don't expect any monumental improvements. I shudder to think how much better it can get once the limiting factor of the PS4's nine-year-old hardware is out of the way.
I have already described the lukewarm impression left by the haptic vibration, from which I expected more. On the other hand, the sound supported by 3D audio technology has made a significant step forward. I see the audio experience as the highlight of the offer, voice narration and acting are generally a level above the highest level and you will find it difficult to remain indifferent.
This is how you'll open your game boxes when the game is out.
Ragnarök is a better version of God of War in everything, and even in terms of gameplay. In this aspect, most of the stuff have already been seen, but the formula works perfectly and with some surprises that I hinted in this review, they bring additional freshness. For something more, I would welcome some new mechanics, like the jump that I used to hate in these kinds of games, which would bring additional immersion into the gameplay.
Finally, I would strongly recommend God of War Ragnarök, which from my over 50 hours of play definitely justifies the price. Ragnarök is good enough that Kratos would play it himself, and you don't want to piss him of. Although this is the calmest and most peaceful Kratos we have had the opportunity to meet, which is also a good reason to give him your attention.
"In the last Nordic adventure, Kratos has had enough of everything, but we will never have enough of this kind of God of War. Ragnarök is in every sense an upgrade of its predecessor, and as one of the last intergenerational experiences, it provides an excellent insight into the audio-visual spectacle that awaits us in the continuation of this generation of consoles."
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