Despite being right there since the beginning of the series, I never really got into God of War. Oh I played the main games on the Playstation 2 onwards, but Kratos never really resonated with me as a character. When God of War came out for the Playstation 4, I changed my mind somewhat and got curious about how the plot of God of War Ragnarok (teased in the cliffhanger ending of the original game) would play out.
Well…it’s taken years but now Ragnarok is finally here.
Has it been worth the wait?
What is God of War Ragnarok?
God of War Ragnarok is a single player action RPG developed by Sony’s Santa Monica Studio, exclusively for the Playstation 5. A PC version is inevitable, so that exclusivity will probably not last for long. The game’s published by SIE, who awesomely provided us with a copy of the game.
Continuing years after the ending of God of War, the sequel has Kratos and his son, Atreus (aka Loki) still coming to terms about the coming of Ragnarok and what it means for the nine realms. Fimbulwinter (the endless winter that preludes Ragnarok in Norse mythology) has set in and Midgard is in dire straits.
Atreus, believing in the Jotun prophecy that he is destined to be the Champion, wants to go to war against the Aesir, to ride the Nine Realms of Odin and his machinations.
Kratos, is unsure that war is the right course of action. Instead, he opts to seclude his son and himself in their home, hoping the protective wards set up by his late wife holds, hiding the duo from the ever searching Odin.
As you can probably guess, it doesn’t and what follows is a multi-realm spanning tale that follows Kratos and his son as they debate on whether free will is real or destiny is set in stone.
The premise is intriguing…especially in the beginning. God of War starts off like any good movie or book does; with a slow burn. Unfortunately, that slow burn is much too slow, making it hours before anything truly interesting happens.
In fact, the biggest issue I have with the plot is that the pacing is all over the place. There are numerous parts throughout the game where I felt that I was forced to slog through just to get to the good bits. I’d talk more about them but that would be spoilers.
Suffice to say, there are many many parts in the game where the plot just gets derailed because of a certain somebody. The final act also is surprisingly weak. All the debate between free will and fate gets thrown out of the window as nothing’s addressed to a satisfying conclusion.
I’d love to talk more about this but spoilers prevent it. It’s just too bad. I can say this though, the ending is a MASSIVE disappointment for me.
Thankfully, Kratos doesn’t factor into the bad parts because he is just plain awesome in this one.
Ok, not Kratos, but Christopher Judge. His voice actor. If you’re a fan of sci-fi, you’d know him as Teal’c from Stargate: SG-1 or more recently, as T’Challa in Square Enix’s Avengers game. Where ever you know him from, know that he is Kratos.
Just like Keanu Reeves is Neo, or Harrison Ford is Han Solo, Christopher Judge is Kratos. His baritone voice fits the aging Spartan perfectly. Judge’s performance is one of the biggest highlights of the game for me.
In-game Kratos is cool too.
He’s just as brutal as he was in previous game, which is to say the combat is just as delicious as ever.
Kratos is magnificent in action; viscerally violent and unapologetically so. Whether it’s with his axe, or the Blades of Chaos or the *REDACTED*, Kratos is a machine. There’s a reason he was Ares’ champion. Kratos’ battles with Thor are some of the best action scenes in the series!
Fighting is actually pretty fun, and the game encourages you to use every skill Kratos has. Some skills have modifiers can that be unlocked once you’re done them enough times. These modifiers can make the skill more damaging, or inflict more elemental damage or even cause more stun so you can stagger enemies.
Like before, you can craft and upgrade your equipment too, so you can customize Kratos to be just the way you like to fight.
Sadly, while the combat is fast, fluid and violent…it does tend to fall into a pattern. The ‘Stun’ mechanic is a bit unbalanced in the game, as it allows Kratos to do a massively damaging finisher once an enemy is stunned.
By itself it’s fine…but coupled with the Blades of Chaos’ Hyperion Pull skill (which has Kratos dashing to an impaled target and then shoulder charging them) it’s way too overpowered.
If you set up Kratos’ move modifiers and gear to focus on causing as much ‘Stun’ damage as possible, it’s entirely possible to fully stun enemies with just one hit of Hyperion Pull. Then it’s just a matter of hitting R3 to initiate a finisher which will either kill outright or do massive damage. It even works on certain bosses.
I tried to stop myself from using it as a crutch but it was just too overpowering not to abuse. It makes a HUGE difference in big battles.
Like God of War (2018) before it, God of War Ragnarok is a blend of open world and linear sections.
There are a few locations where you’re free to explore the world freely, but most of the game’s linear. I’d have killed to have more open world sections, because exploring the realms for side quests and optional content is incredibly fun and rewarding.
Like Metroidvanias, you’ll even need to return to earlier areas later on to unlock previously inaccessible areas and secrets. I just wish the map for the locations were better.
Sometimes it’s really hard to navigate to a particular section because you just don’t know how to get back there. The jungles of *REDACTED* is one of those areas that I was tearing my hair out with in frustration because I couldn’t figure out how to get to a draugr hole I didn’t close earlier.
It’s highly advisable to go off the beaten path and do the optional stuff too, as they’ll net Kratos (and Atreus) gear, equipment and even upgrades that are otherwise unobtainable. Some of the optional challenges are on par with the hellish corrupted Valkyrie fights from the first game, except this time around you’re tangling with draugr Berserkers for Mimir.
These optional battles will really test your skills and gear, and are some of the best fights in the game. Ironically, the worst fight in the game is actually the final fight against *REDACTED*. If you didn’t slack off and did sidequests as you played, kicking the final boss’ ass is incredibly effortless.
It’s truly an anticlimactic final battle…which is ruined by an ending that’s just as anticlimactic.
It’s a shame because the game is incredible, right up till the final act. Unresolved issues and nonsensical plot twists plague the final parts of the story and completely ignore the buildup and questions the game has accumulated.
I felt that the last third of the game was really sloppy and nowhere near the quality of the other parts.
Hopefully that doesn’t impact Kratos’ return in the future because I sure as hell want more of Christopher Judge.
The Bottom Line.
God of War Ragnarok promises a lot…and it delivers. Mostly.
The visuals are incredible, the gameplay’s awesome and the enemies are cool.
Sadly, the plot falters in the final act and the ending will undoubtedly leave a sour taste for those craving something conclusive.
That doesn’t mean you should skip on a great PS5 game though!
Great game that’s let down by its sloppy final act.
- Christopher Judge as Kratos.
- The incredible visuals.
- The fun and visceral combat.
- Some parts are incredibly boring.
- The final act and ending isn’t as cool as expected.
- Final boss is trivial if you’re geared decently.