Title – God of War Ragnarok
Platforms – PS5 and PS4
Release Date – November 9th, 2022
Developer – Sony Santa Monica
Publisher – Sony
MSRP – $69.99
ESRB – M for Mature
Disclaimer – This product is being reviewed on PS5. A review copy was provided by Sony for the purpose of this review. This review may also contain spoilers for certain gameplay and story elements. Watch at your own risk, you have been warned. The game was beaten twice from start to finish. First on regular difficulty and the 2nd time on the hardest difficulty – Give Me God of War. Gaming Instincts is an Amazon Affiliate and does gain financial benefits if you choose to purchase this product on this page.
The most anticipated game of the year – God of War Ragnarok is almost here and we’ve been playing for the last two weeks non-stop and have a ton to say about it. Fans have many questions – how’s the story? The visuals? The new characters? What happens to our favorite god-killer Kratos? How does the PS5 push the franchise forward and most importantly is the game better than the previous entry and if so in what way exactly and why? This one is going to be a doozy fellas, welcome to our review of God of War Ragnarok.
World, Story, and Characters
Before we get into the specifics of the gameplay, visuals, and all the new additions, it would be wise to start with the main plot of God of War Ragnarok and its characters. And no, don’t worry, I won’t be spoiling anything significant here. The game starts three years after the events of the last game, God of War 2018, where Kratos and his son Atreus are trying to live in peace after killing Baldur (Freya’s son). Since learning his true identity as Loki in the last game, Atreus has grown older and has started searching for answers regarding what it means to be Loki, the validity of the prophecies they encountered in the previous entry, and the possibility of averting fate.
Kratos’ primary concern, his son’s safety, collides with Atreus’ quest to discover his identity and destiny. The resulting dispute has dangerous repercussions for the father-son duo that agitates and attracts the Norse gods, such as Odin and Thor.
I was pleasantly surprised by the several new characters, some I never expected to show up. I won’t be mentioning who they are exactly except for one of the dwarves who goes by the name of Durlin. Durlin was a character shown in a trailer already and also has an image of himself in the promotional material that Sony Santa Monica released a while, ago.
I won’t go into detail about how and where you meet him for the first time, but he is perfectly cast and is fun to listen to. The voice acting is fantastic, his background story is interesting, and, to top it all off, he has an octopus for a pet. How cool is that? Tyr is also another big attraction in the new entry. However, I am not the biggest fan of his soft-spoken voice. Out of all the characters, he is the only one I found a bit on the weaker side.
Durlin is one example of the many new characters you’ll meet in this sequel. It’s difficult to have a lot of characters and make them likable and interesting, but God of War Ragnarok manages to accomplish that. There was not a single character in this game that I did not like, except one that I could not stand. However, I do not mean that negatively. The character was written specifically to hate him, and you know what? They did a goddamn good job. I won’t be mentioning his name or telling you who he is, but when you meet him for the first time, you will know exactly who I am talking about, and no, it’s not Odin or Thor.
Speaking of Odin and Thor, both are also well cast. However, if I am being truthful and transparent here, I was not a big fan of Thor’s voice when I heard him in the original trailers. But after playing the game for a while, listening to him, watching him interact with other characters, and learning about his storyline, he grew on me rather quickly. Eventually, I liked everything about him. Odin, on the other hand, sounds like an evil old sage who’s up to no good and is always lying to get what he wants. He has a great voice and is fun to watch and listen to whenever he appears onscreen.
The world of the nine realms is exciting as ever. Players will visit some new places, such as Svartalfheim, which is the dwarven realm, among others. If you are a fan of the elves, then you’ll be happy to return to Alfheim to see what the elves are up to and what new troubles stir. Fans will also be revisiting realms such as Helheim and Musphelheim. Midgard is now a frozen wasteland due to Fimbulwinter, which is what happens at the end of the last game. However, just because it’s Fimbulwinter doesn’t mean you can’t explore it. You can get on your dog sled to ride around the frozen lake of Midgard and find new things, such as sidequests, collectibles, and optional bosses to conquer.
Overall, I like the way Sony Santa Monica decided to portray the Norse myths in the long-awaited sequel. I enjoy seeing the continuation of this universe and how the nine realms have changed during this time. The addition of the new characters is a blessing. The badass voice acting adds a ton of personality to every single one of them except Tyr.
Gameplay Changes and Additions
For the most part, the gameplay is the same as the original. If you expect massive combat overhauls or ground-breaking new and unique gameplay elements, then you won’t find it here. That is completely fine because the combat and general playstyle were well-designed in the previous entry. Sony Santa Monica is quite good at taking what works already and improving it, and that’s exactly the case with God of War Ragnarok. The enemy variety is improved and, yes, trolls are still in the game but not as often as they were in the original. The boss fights are much better and bigger, which is somewhat reminiscent of the original God of War games from the PS2 and PS3 era.
You still have your weapon skill trees, your light, and heavy runic powers, and a talisman used for several buffs. But now there is also an amulet you can wear and upgrade. As you upgrade the amulet, more sockets open up for additional passive bonuses. The armor no longer has sockets, so instead, they gave the players a medallion that allows you to min/max at your leisure.
The majority of the new armor is also more beneficial from the get-go, unlike the previous game. You can get armor that gives you more than flat base stat increases early on. For example, Spaulders of Enlightenment have a chance to grant you a blessing for more runic power by moderate luck, and the Bracers of Enlightenment can do more damage using your runic attacks against status-afflicted enemies. On top of that, the armor is no longer limited to a certain level of upgrades. Every piece of armor can be upgraded to level 9, even the base armor you start with that doesn’t have any perks.
Shields no longer have a skill tree, but you can craft new ones that have their own benefits on top of changing the centerpiece for passive benefits. In this case, I am using the Dauntless Shield with a Rond of Expedition that grants me a cooldown reduction buff every time I interrupt an enemy with shield bash or by parrying their attacks. These Ronds are also upgraded to a max level of nine just like the armor.
My favorite new addition to the combat of God of War: Ragnarok is the brand-new weapon, the Draupnir Spear. It’s one of the coolest weapons I’ve ever used in the God of War franchise. It’s a magical spear that has infinite spears. You can throw and stick up to 5 spears onto your victim, and then by pressing the triangle button, the spears explode, causing massive damage to the enemy
At first, this weapon felt clunky and awkward to use. But after playing quite a bit with it on Give Me God of War difficulty, I learned how to use it properly, and it now has become one of my favorite weapons. It fits Kratos’s fantasy perfectly, considering he is a Spartan from Greece. A magical spear completes the whole Greek god package.
Last but not least, the biggest gameplay change is the sections where you play as Atreus. Yes, Atreus is a full-on playable character with his own skill tree, powers, and combat. He is much faster, more nimble, and is great at archery. Although, if I am being super honest, playing as Atreus wasn’t as fun or exciting. It’s not that he is poorly designed. It’s simply the fact that this is a God of War game, and you are not playing as Kratos. Some might argue that this falls into the whole Last of Us Part II similarities of playing either Ellie or Abby.
Neither of the characters has an awkward stealth section, and if that were the case, we would have a massive problem, but thankfully that is not the case here. I won’t be talking too much about Atreus’s gameplay sections due to heavy story spoilers, but one of them lasts for a bit too long for my taste and kind of felt padded out. However, the storytelling you do get to experience from Atreus’s point of view is awesome.
In conclusion – God of War Ragnarok’s combat improvements, the additional weapon, and a different playable character are more than enough for a sequel if you ask me. The improvements are nice, they feel better, and the weapon is great. Playing as someone other than Kratos feels weird and not very natural to the franchise. I get that it’s for story purposes, but I can’t deny that the Atreus’s gameplay segments may annoy the fans.
Perhaps I am overthinking this and making a big deal out of something that isn’t a big deal in the first place. I think some people will either hate playing as Atreus while others will love it. This is a very subjective topic, but from the objective point of view, it makes sense why you get to play as Atreus at certain points in the storyline. With the gameplay changes, combat, character, and story elements out of the way, let’s talk about the visuals and technical limitations of God of War Ragnarok.
Welcome to Last Gen
This is probably going to be the most disappointing section when it comes to the reality of visual and technical limitations. As you know, here at Gaming Instincts, we do not believe visuals are the most important aspect of any game. People who expect God of War Ragnarok to be a generational leap are either on hopium or don’t realize that the PlayStation 4 version started development right after God of War 2018 was released. It’s not a next-generation God of War game.
This game is simply an extension of the previous entry with an addition of new realms, enemies, new characters, and the continuation of the story. This is not your massive visual fidelity leap from God of War 3 to God of War 2018. For the true next-generational God of War leap, we’ll have to wait another 4-6 years, and just maybe you’ll see it at the end of the PlayStation 5 cycle or sometime during the PlayStation 6 era.
Does this mean this game is horrible looking and plays badly? No, absolutely not. God of War Ragnarok is still a great-looking game that plays well and is a ton of fun. But there are no big graphical leaps here, and the hardware’s age is starting to show. The level design is as linear as the previous game, but more vertical this time around. There is more climbing to do and higher peaks to reach. There is only one realm that is a bit more open-ended besides Midgard, and that’s Alfheim. In Alfheim, you can traverse the desert and find collectibles and extra side quests. It’s the only realm with some sort of open-ended exploration besides the frozen lake in Midgard.
Kratos and Atreus will still use the Bifrost to traverse from realm to realm, and the Bifrost is still a fake loading screen despite the addition of the PS5’s SSD. But as I said previously, this game is severely limited by 9-year-old hardware. The most annoying thing is when Kratos and Atreus go through a crack between the rocks. And if it’s not a crack between the rocks, then it’s a pillar that Kratos has to lift and go through after Atreus passes first, and if it’s not that, then there is a big log in your way that either needs to be lifted or crawled under. In the first game, I did not mind it as much, but in this game, it happens a bit too often for my taste. I was hoping it would slow down either halfway through the game or later, but sadly that wasn’t the case.
Despite the visual and technical limitations because of the PlayStation 4, that didn’t affect my enjoyment of the game. It still looks good, feels polished, and, most importantly, it’s fun to play. But I just wanted to be transparent that this isn’t going to be a visual spectacle like God of War 2018. On the PS5, you can run the game either in performance mode, which focuses on maximizing the framerate, or the resolution mode, which improves overall image quality.
In conclusion – God of War Ragnarok is the perfect example of how to do a sequel right. If you liked God of War 2018 and just want more of it with better-designed boss fights, good enemy variety, and a fun arsenal of weapons, then you are in for a treat. I enjoyed God of War Ragnarok. It’s a better game than its predecessor.
The new characters are interesting, the voice acting is pure bliss, the cut scenes are fun, and the story keeps you on your toes from start to finish. Yes, the game is cross-gen, and that does limit the overall level design and what the game can do, but at the same time, I just had too much fun playing through it twice. It’s a well-made, polished sequel that knows what the fans want and what they liked the most. The main questline is roughly about 20 hours long, depending on how much exploration you do during your first play-through, but if you are looking at 100% completion, then it’s most likely around the 40 to 50-hour mark.
The visuals still looked good, the game played well, and I don’t have much to complain about, other than the one drawn-out gameplay segment with Atreus. Other than that, I think it’s a well-done sequel across the board, especially considering how limiting the PlayStation 4 is at this point in its lifecycle.
It’s safe to say that the PlayStation 4 is going out with a bang. God of War Ragnarok is the last generation swan song and will be remembered as the final masterful sequel to one of the most important Sony franchises in history. God of War Ragnarok will be receiving a final verdict of 10/10. Thank you Sony Santa Monica for putting out a great sequel. I had a great time, and this is a game of the year for me alongside Elden Ring. It’s been quite a while since I’ve been so emotionally attached to a variety of fictional characters. I loved the cut scenes and interactions between every one of them. I think the developers deserve a good rest before they move on to the next-generational leap in the franchise.