God of War: Ragnarok PS5 review. When I first heard the title ‘Ragnarok’ I was immediately fearful for what that would mean for not just God of War’s Norse setting, but the various characters and personalities that I had gotten to know and love in the 2018 release. With additional confirmation that God of War: Ragnarok indeed marks the endpoint for the adventures of Kratos in Norse mythology, it’s certainly fair to say that my anxiety spiked – would Sony Santa Monica be able to not just create a better game than 2018’s Game of the Year, but could the legendary studio also tie up all the loose ends and create a fitting conclusion to God of War’s sojourn into Norse mythology? Yes, yes they did and in doing so have carefully crafted what amounts to the perfect sequel and one of the best games of the last decade.
God Of War Ragnarok PS5 Review
A Stunningly Impactful Sequel That Represents One Of The Best Games On PS5
To be completely clear, God of War: Ragnarok is a direct sequel to 2018’s God of War in absolutely every way that you can imagine. Though a number of adjustments have been made to the traversal and combat, God of War: Ragnarok really is ‘God of War 2018 Part 2′ and plays extremely similarly in terms of traversal, combat, exploration and puzzle solving. Naturally, if you have yet to sample the ample delights of God of War’s 2018 outing you really should. Like, right now. Right this moment – not least because failing to do so will leave you scratching your head in confusion at why certain things are happening in God of War: Ragnarok.
Though God of War: Ragnarok opens on the familiar surroundings of Kratos and Atreus’ idyllic logged home in Midgard (complete with a wonderfully intact hole in the ceiling after his titanic scrap with Baldur in the last game), a fair chunk of time has passed and with it both Kratos and Atreus have gotten older, with the latter in particular gaining a degree of maturity, introspection and physical prowess that he lacked in the previous game.
Once again, the chemistry between the voice actors that bring Kratos and Atreus to life, Christopher Judge and Sunny Suljic respectively, is front and centre of the breathlessly expansive tale that God of War: Ragnarok tells. Specifically the actual passage of time in real-life has seen Suljic essentially age alongside his on-screen role, with his deepening tone and cadence reinforcing the fact that Atreus has matured a good few years since we last saw him.
Instead of just tagging along and being barked at by his dear old dad (though that still does happen on occasion), Atreus now has his own mission that must be completed and after being exposed to the prophecy at the end of the previous game, will stop at nothing to make sure that fate does not come to pass. This is no longer a father and son team where Kratos does all the (excuse the pun) heavy lifting, but rather something approaching an equal deal where Atreus more than holds up his side of the partnership – Atreus no longer piggybacking on his dad’s back when climbing walls is one such example of how the dynamic has changed between the two.
Perhaps there is no keener example of Atreus’ importance to God of War: Ragnarok than the fact that there are numerous sections in the game where the player is solely controlling Atreus away from his father. Fear not though, not only is Atreus a joy to use in combat thanks to his hyper-kinetic bow based attacks (think a turbocharged Legolas and you’re basically there) that deftly mix up melee and ranged combat, but the lion’s share of God of War: Ragnarok still has you in control of the titular angry deity.
It really cannot be overstated that God of War: Ragnarok is huge, absolutely huge. Clocking in 40-50 hours for a single playthrough without hoovering up all of the side content and additional challenges, God of War: Ragnarok is at least twice the size of 2018’s God of War and does indeed feel like it could have been split out into two games. In a practical sense though, the enormity of God of War: Ragnarok means that the storytelling and characters all get ample time to shine and this stands as one of God of War: Ragnarok’s greatest strengths.
A perfect example of this is the character development that everyone’s favourite pair of dysfunctional Dwarven brothers enjoy in God of War: Ragnarok. Though Brok and Sindri once more return as the same effective comic relief that they were in God of War’s 2018 outing, they are given much more to do than just throw the odd sarcastic quip at you and offer to craft your gear.
In God of War: Ragnarok, both Brok and Sindri now get stuck into the action as they effectively become your battle partner, able to unleash their own form of violence (which often comes in the guise of massively explodey bombs) on their hapless foes. Beyond their newfound agency, Brok and Sindri have also seen substantial character development too, as their involvement in Ragnarok’s story is emotionally stirring in ways that I entirely did not expect.
Where the additional breadth of God of War: Ragnarok is really leveraged however, is in how it has allowed developer Sony Santa Monica to really dive into Norse mythology and introduce a range of entirely new characters to the proceedings. Though the likes of Thor, Tyr and others are present and accounted for, Sony Santa Monica has given some of the perhaps lesser known figures of Norse mythology time to shine as well, resulting in some unexpectedly entertaining, and in some cases hilarious, new characters appearing in God of War: Ragnarok.
It’s certainly worth noting that Kratos has seen his own fair share of character development, too. 2018’s God of War did a brilliant thing by finally giving Kratos a voice and an emotional anchor in his son Atreus, finally realising him as a fully-fleshed out protagonist that was a world away from the exclusively shouty and angry engine of murder that he was in the series entries prior to 2018. God of War: Ragnarok continues that trend of humanising Kratos, but it does so incrementally, slowly pulling at the corners of Kratos stoic mask to reveal an essentially insecurely paranoid but ultimately tender father who is scared to death that he won’t be able to do right by his son.
Much like the previous game then, the relationship between Kratos and Atreus remains front and centre in God of War: Ragnarok but now their connection is largely defined by the revelation seen in the prophecy at the end of the first game, which now hangs like a sword over the events of God of War: Ragnarok. As such, God of War: Ragnarok has a real shroud of fatalism cast on its proceedings, making you feel increasingly more twitchy and paranoid the closer you are to its end, not least because the characters are so well-written that you can’t help but care for them as they all collectively hurl themselves into the Norse apocalypse to defeat a greater foe.
Naturally, that greater foe is none other than the All-Father himself, Odin. A vastly different proposition to the big bads of previous God of War titles, Odin’s slight form and softly spoken, though occasionally flippant nature, belies a deity that is furiously driven by a single purpose at the expense of everything else. Where Odin truly becomes a compelling villain however is in how he slyly manipulates those around him to achieve his objectives. Odin isn’t some barrel-chested, booming voice Greek god that uses force to subjugate those that oppose him, instead he tricks people into acting against their own self-interest all the while fulfilling his. With God of War becoming a deeper and more sophisticated series from a storytelling perspective, it makes total sense that the heroes and villains evolve alongside it and in Odin, God of War: Ragnarok presents one of the most entertaining big bads that I have seen in quite some time.
Again, it bears remembering that from a design standpoint God of War: Ragnarok is extremely similar to its predecessor, albeit with some notable changes. For a start, God of War: Ragnarok fulfils the promise of allowing players to journey to each of the Nine Realms and in doing so, the player is treated to a proper variance of game worlds to enjoy. From the almost tropical Dwarven realm of Svartalfheim, through to the twilight deserts of the Elven realm of Alfheim, God of War: Ragnarok certainly isn’t lacking in new and exciting worlds for players to discover and explore.
What is especially interesting about God of War: Ragnarok though, is that while you’ll be revisiting many of the same realms from 2018’s God of War, their makeup has been altered irrevocably in many cases. In large part this is because the death of Baldur hasn’t just set Freya on a mission of vengeance to kill Kratos, but it has also triggered Fimbulwinter, the Great Winter which precedes Ragnarok and in the case of Midgard, the whole realm has been snowed all the way in and the Lake of the Nine has completely frozen over, providing all-new opportunities for players to explore and discover new secrets as a result.
Like 2018’s God of War before it, God of War: Ragnarok understands that exploring the myriad realms, unearthing treasure and discovering hidden lore is one of its greatest strengths and once again, that very same hook remains not only ever present but also enhanced thanks to the greatly expanded game world. Speaking of the game world, God of War: Ragnarok follows in the footsteps of 2018’s God of War, but makes a few tweaks in this regard. While the Lake of the Nine was pretty much the only hub area in God of War, its sequel expands on that concept with a few of the Nine Realms having their own mini hub areas where you’re not locked in by a linear path and can explore and unearth secrets at your leisure.
As before, exploration and the subsequent discovery of treasure, loot and side-quests ties directly into God of War: Ragnarok’s progression system since the more XP and raw materials you unearth, the more skills and abilities you’ll be able to earn and of course, the better gear you’ll be able to craft. Rather than just follow 2018’s God of War to the letter though, God of War: Ragnarok has meaningfully evolved how character progression is handled on a number of levels.
Though skill trees return for both Kratos and Atreus, it’s really in the gear that God of War: Ragnarok truly separates itself from its predecessor. As one might expect the Leviathan Axe and fan-favourite Blades of Chaos return, but in God of War: Ragnarok both of them are augmented by a new elemental system which allows players to infuse additional frost and fire damage accordingly depending on the foe that they are facing. More than that, the ability to infuse elemental energy into your weapons also feeds into the new Signature Strike system which when activated, provides Kratos with an overabundance of elemental damage. It’s a seemingly small thing, sure, but it does provide an added layer of sophistication to the combat in God of War: Ragnarok.
Away from the weapons, God of War: Ragnarok also makes appreciable strides in defensive combat design too. The once humble shield from 2018’s God of War, now finds itself split off into a number of very different shield types in order to accommodate different playstyles. In God of War: Ragnarok shields now boast different characteristics that can either enhance overall defence stats for gamers that prefer to constantly keep their shield up when they aren’t attacking, or focus in on quick parries for those that like to intercept enemy attacks. Again, it’s just one more system that improves the combat system of God of War: Ragnarok by providing players with additional tools to approach different encounters.
Beyond the gear and skill trees, God of War: Ragnarok has also changed up how the rage system works too. Instead of Kratos only having access to a single type of rage that allows him to deal damage and restore health, there are two others that prioritise health regeneration and damage accordingly – once more permitting players to have a broader degree of control over their builds than ever before.
Without spoiling the narrative context behind it, God of War: Ragnarok also has a sizable endgame of sorts for skilled players to sink their teeth into with a special enemy that doesn’t reveal themselves until the end credits have rolled. And of course, God of War: Ragnarok still boasts many of the same staples of its predecessor, including the returning Muspelheim trials and a variety of epic and extremely challenging encounters with the new Berserkers, that essentially replace the Valkyries from 2018’s God of War. Make no mistake, God of War: Ragnarok gives you bang for your buck and then some.
Happily, I can also report that the brutal spectacle that has arguably defined the God of War franchise since its inception is present and accounted for with aplomb in God of War: Ragnarok. Whether it’s Kratos is scrapping with Thor in a literally thunderous encounter, or the dawn of Ragnarok itself (not to mention a whole truckload of other sequences that I’m not going to spoil because, good lord, you absolutely need to experience them for yourself), it’s clear that God of War: Ragnarok places a premium on the sort of epic action that puts Hollywood to shame. Oh and of course, the whole game from start to end is shot in a single take.
Much has been made over the fact that God of War: Ragnarok is a cross-gen title, but quite honestly, God of War: Ragnarok might just be the best cross-gen title I’ve seen on PS5. Though its last-gen design bedrock can be seen in aspects of its design (there are still no shortage of holes in the wall for Kratos and co to shuffle through), the level of detail, quality of lighting and scene composition is right up there with the most visually accomplished PS5 titles around.
Not only are the environments awash with a stunning level of detail and colour, but so too have the character models seen ample improvement too. Atreus for example, no longer has the uncanny death stare that he spent most of the previous game cursed with and instead his cheeks and forehead crease appropriately when he is expressing himself, while big man Kratos has had yet more wrinkles and muscular detail added to his hulking physique.
Clearly though, it’s the facial animations in God of War: Ragnarok that have seen the biggest improvement. Approaching the level of fidelity seen in The Last of Us Part 2, God of War: Ragnarok’s character models have never been more emotive, which is fitting really when you consider the added emotional heft that God of War: Ragnarok’s narrative brings over its predecessor.
Sitting atop these improvements are a number of different visual presets that will be familiar to any PS5 owner that has played PlayStation Studios previous output. When running in fidelity mode, God of War: Ragnarok outputs at native 4K resolution and 30 frames per second, while performance mode does exactly what you think it does by lowering the resolution and attempting to hit 60 frames per second cap (which it does pretty much all of the time). Additionally, lucky owners of HDMI 2.1 compliant displays get to enjoy a 40 frames per second target in fidelity mode, while a high frame rate mode has the frames per second exceeding 60 at the cost of display resolution.
What’s most surprising about the different visual presets that God of War: Ragnarok boasts is how similar the visuals all appear when they are in use. Whether you’re using fidelity or performance mode, you’re still getting a super crisp, highly detailed visual presentation that is absolutely, 100% up there with some of the best looking games on PS5.
Away from the visual side of things, Sony’s current-gen console also brings other palpable technical benefits to God of War: Ragnarok. Loading times are now, thankfully, much swifter than they ever were before, while DualSense haptic feedback is beautifully employed, as every oar stroke comes through the pad and the adaptive triggers lend the appropriate heft and resistance to every axe swing.
God of War: Ragnarok is the perfect sequel. A carefully iterative offering that beautifully maintains the essence of 2018’s Game of the Year while making meaningful improvements to augment its already stellar combat and progression systems, God of War: Ragnarok is a meaty and deeply emotional epic that effortlessly secures its place as one of the best games on PS5 and a sure-fire Game of the Year candidate.
God of War: Ragnarok releases for PS4 and PS5 on November 9, 2022.
Review code kindly provided by PR.
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