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Review – God of War: Ragnarök

Available on PlayStation 4 & 5 from November 9th 2022. Reviewed on PlayStation 5, copy supplied by PlayStation NZ.

I stared at a mostly blank screen for a solid hour before I started typing this review. I wasn’t sure where to begin with this one, so I found myself staring at the slowly blinking cursor like a stunned mullet, waiting for some sort of muse to hit me. Not literally, but you know what I mean…

God of War: Ragnarök is quite simply an incredibly good game. Like, mind-bendingly good. Good enough that I wish I could play it for the first time all over again.

There, I’ve said it. Review over. It’s so, so good. If you’ve got a PlayStation, and you even remotely liked the first game enough to play through the main storyline, then this game will lavish upon you a story worthy of the pantheon of Gods and Fae that loom large in the continuing story of Kratos and Atreus. Santa Monica Studios have crafted a huge, narratively-rich, action-packed, mechanically-satisfying, and utterly beautiful game for PlayStation gamers. If you’re thinking of picking this one up as your first foray into the revamped God of War series, then I’d really suggest you start with the 2018 game before jumping in here (and if you started playing now, you could have it wrapped before release day). There is a God of War recap option in the main start screen if you’re interested in going that way, but it’s really nothing more than a “Previously, on…” for those of you who cannot wait to get into the game. My only story / premise piece about the game here:

“Three years have passed since the events of the 2018 game, with Kratos and Atreus in Midgard of the nine Norse realms, riding out Fimbulwinter before Ragnarök kicks off in force.”

… As you can imagine, it escalates quite quickly from there. I’m not going to go into any details of the campaign because to do so would spoil what is a beautifully crafted story, but let me just say that I’ve been glued to my seat throughout my time with the campaign.

Each of the characters shine in their own way, some more than others, but all of them are well-realised, and well-acted and voiced within the story. But more than that, it’s the little moments that make up the interactions in between the big cinematic set pieces that really made this game feel special for me. I’d find myself pausing to take in a conversation between a couple of characters which was unrelated to my current quest, and just drinking it in. Conversations feel natural (as far as they can considering it’s a fantasy action game set in the Norse end-times) and genuine, with little sprinklings of humour which never felt forced at any point.

Graphically, this game also shines. I was playing on the PS5 with the performance preset, getting a solid 60FPS with a targeted 1440p resolution on a 4K TV, and it’s a spectacular visual experience. Each of the realms has a unique look and feel about it as you’re exploring through them, and each one was crafted with care and attention by Santa Monica Studios. Levels are pretty large too, with plenty of side missions to discover lore and loot throughout the game so you can really take in each realm’s unique wildlife.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a God of War game without combat, and again, here the game shines with deep weapon skill trees, RPG elements, and enhancements to both weapons and combat flow throughout the game. There’s also been a big bump in enemy variety and mini-boss encounters which really brings the combat to the front and centre of the experience. I found the game to have a solid challenge on the normal difficulty preset, resulting in a few reload screens on the mini-boss encounters. There’s other difficulty settings, and a pretty massive amount of accessibility settings to bring the experience of playing God of War: Ragnarök to as many gamers as possible. Whilst I didn’t need to take advantage of them, there’s options for colour blindness, audio visualisation for hearing impaired, and adjustments to quick time events and controller mappings for players who may not have full motion range in their hands. Great stuff, even if like me you’re fortunate enough not to need them.

When all of these elements are brought together in the way that Santa Monica Studios have done so, you’re left with something that is very special indeed. It’s building upon all of the great things that the 2018 game brought to the table, and taking it further, in every sense. It’s a brilliant, beautiful, challenging game that is deeply rewarding to play and experience. It’s one of those rare instances where the sequel is genuinely a better game than its predecessor, and when I consider that for me the 2018 game was a 10/10 on both console and PC, it’s a very easy choice for me to award this game the same.

So, it’s a 10/10 for me here. Ragnarök is an incredible game, an incredible work of storytelling, and a genuinely joyous game to play. If you’ve been waiting for this one to drop, it’s almost over, and it really is as good as you’ve been hoping, but if you can, run through the 2018 game before you get stuck into this one.

– Dave

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Dave

Gaming & Technology Editor at The Empire Digital Media Ltd.
Gadget fiend, maker of beer, technology enthusiast, and Dad of three, Dave enjoys trying to protect expensive gadgets from the destructive power of tiny people, and frequently fails.

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