God Of War: RAGNAROK REVIEW(PS5)
Updated: Nov 19
''God Of Sequel''
Developed: Santa Monica Studios
Published: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Genre: Action/Single Player
Release Date: Nov 9th,2022
*Review copy provided to me by PLAYSTATION*
God Of War Ragnarok is the sequel to the highly successful original title God Of War from 2018 and is developed by Santa Monica Studios and published by SIE. With the previous title setting new boundaries for the cinematic story telling format, Santa Monica felt they had to up their game and bring something even greater to the fold. But did they manage to do this? or does the game fall short under its own hype? only one way to find out, so lets go!
''THE REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS''
Kratos and Atreus must journey to each of the Nine Realms in search of answers as Asgardian forces prepare for a prophesied battle that will end the world. Along the way they will explore stunning, mythical landscapes, and face fearsome enemies in the form of Norse gods and monsters. The threat of Ragnarök grows ever closer. Kratos and Atreus must choose between their own safety and the safety of the realms.
God Of War 2018 gave us a highly regarded entry into the long running God Of War franchise and successfully gave us one of the best titles available on the Playstation 4. While I personally did not find it a masterpiece, I can not deny that It was a really great time. By taking a shot in the dark to the usual formula everyone liked in the original series of titles by changing its core mechanic gameplay and focusing more on a personal father and son relationship over rage and constant death, Santa Monica found a winning format and aimed to continue it here, in Ragnarok. I say that this is mostly achieved, but I break with the rest of the crowd in saying this one is a bonified masterpiece. What it does do above its 2018 iteration is dive more into the relationship between Kartos and Atreus, the realms, new characters and friends and gives you a gripping story that is able to both tug your heart strings or make you laugh at certain character interactions, mainly Brok. Dude is such an ass, I love him.
The story picks up roughly several years after the events of the 2018 title with Kratos now even grumpier than before because now, uh, he has to deal with a teenaged Atreus who does like teenagers naturally do and listens to absolutely nothing their parents tell them to. Including sneaking out during bed time, traversing multitude of realms, visiting a mythological snake who ate you before, and seeking answers from a woman who's son you helped kill. What? that's not how your childhood was? my bad. Winter is hitting the realm of Midgard with vengeance as Atreus and Kratos get by day by day scavenging for food and staying out the terrifying eyes of Odin himself. Which.. that does not work really as Odin finds them anyway, and Kratos gets his butt whipped by thong wearing fatty himself, Thor. Ouch. To be fair, Kratos holds his own, but its clear, in this stage of Kratos life, he isn't a match for him at this time. Thor the entire time with his banter was like the ''perfection meme''. I want the real god of war, no the REAL God Of War, I SAID THE REAL GOD OF WAR.... perfection.
Ragnarok is a game that operates on multiple different layers, just like onions, according to Shrek. While you have the engaging story telling of the first game, that in my opinion goes to even greater lengths in this entry with character interaction and bonding of Kratos and Atreus, the battling also gets a slight uptick in its mechanics as well with contact and combinations of attacks feeling more brutal and heavy hitting than previously experienced, and that adds more weight and feel to how you engage with your enemies. If Ragnarok could be described in one word, I'd have to label it as ''humanized''. What I mean by this is while yes you have your over the top cinematic fighting, which is amazing - you however now see how the world around Kratos is affected by his actions, inactions, aggressiveness, passiveness, and him learning to become more of a kinder and more understanding person in Atreus's life as Atreus tries to figure out who is he supposed to become going forward. Will he fail his father? or will he go from zero to hero, just like that. Well.. he better not, because if he goes that Hercules way, Kratos will probably just kill him, just saying.
Along this 30 to 40 hour journey, you will witness the change in Atreus as you see he's not the boy you once knew from the 2018 game, with him being more calculated, more mature and even more extensive in his combat with Atreus being able to use Dwarven powered arrows to gain the advantage over his foes with combination attacks or melee attacking and even uncover secrets and hidden paths by shooting specific targets in your way to reveal them. I may be in the minority here, but I personally found playing as Atreus more engaging and fun overall due to his agility, speed, endurance, quick melee kicking with R3 to finish off enemies and using a volley of arrows to either stun or kill whatever you shoot. That's not to say Kratos isn't without his advantage either with skills and upgrades being able to slam the ground to create shockwaves, throw blades to pull an enemy to you or you to them, use relics and other powers to interact with objects in the environment around you, such as freezing water mills from moving to stop waterflow and direct it elsewhere to solve puzzles, pull down statues in your way, use blades to swing across gaps and cliffs. It's not as straight forward as you expect to be honest, and weapons this time actually feel important enough beyond just ''blade kill, blade strong''. Just don't over think puzzles too long like me and get stuck for literally thirty minutes, trust me, its super embarrassing, I was such a disappointment for my son Atreus. Forgive me, kid. As I stated earlier about the story being a father and son type of narrative, while yes it is true, it's not the only part of the story, because again, Shrek, layers.
Ragnarok is a very interesting title to try to explain because on one hand, it doesn't feel like the big bad masterpiece to me personally that most of the gaming community is making it out to be. I personally have found titles like Horizon Forbidden West to do more for its sequel to push it forward for future titles than I have here for Ragnarok, game play wise that is. I know, I can feel the red dot sniper rifles on me right now, but you didn't let me finish. Here in Ragnarok, while things seem the same, what really stands out for me is the ''who is really the bad guy'' here scenario presented in the games story. Through my playthrough, I couldn't really pinpoint WHO was a true villain over another because even when I tried, they'd say something or do something that made me think ''oh wow, I totally get why they did that''. Everyone in this story, from perceived villains to even our heroes, are multi-layered to the point that the story always keeps you guessing and makes you want to learn more about their plight or issues and know more about what ales them. That is the key to amazing story telling and WHY to me, it should get praise above the 2018 original - OVER its actual gameplay. But once again, the combat, while a bit same-y, shouldn't just be snuffed at and ignored as a whole, because lets face it, even if with a stellar story, if you didn't have at least competent gameplay, then uhh, just go watch a movie. Just as long as its not 2010's Clash Of The Titans, then you're good. Stick to good ol Ray Harryhausen, you can't go wrong there, but yeah, oops, were definitely off topic now. When you're not watching the amazing cinematic set pieces taking place between ''get in mah belly'' Thor and Kratos who are having a fight like they're Beerus and Champa, venturing through gorgeous lands, and getting sad alongside Atreus as he loses his wolf named Fenrir, you will allow yourself to get immersed in the games mechanics this go around, because yes, they are actually fun.
Now with a loot system that allows you to strategize more in battle to become more effective by harnessing your focus to elevate specific stats from gear you collect, weapons, or even new abilities you acquire with each level you gain from combat, you will notice while things seem a bit different, they mostly at its core stay the same, just with a tad bit more depth. But don't worry, it doesn't feel like Final Fantasy 1.0's old world maps, copy and pasted. Yes, a decade later and I'm still salty, sue me. To further upgrade either Atreus or Kratos himself, you can unlock different moves and weapon abilities by just killing everything you see to gain experience points as touched upon previously. When acquiring a new move we just spoke of, should you spam it or use it a ton, because its your favorite ability or weapon, you will be able to get the option to improve how effective it is, whether you want it to deal more damage, resistance to spells, or stunning your enemies at a quicker pace. Sure it may seem minimal with its addition, but like a broken record, tell them again Donkey, LAYERS. All of these additions have a purpose and tie into another mechanic, your crafting. Much like from the last entry, you'll need to collect hacksilver and other items you pick up from enemy drops or treasure chests that are found during your worldly adventures. Once acquiring a specific amount of resources and materials that you need to begin your brainstorming, you can begin upgrading chest, arms, weapons and other pieces to strengthen their overall stats. Whether its perks for chest armor or weapon attachments to attach Runes to in order to raise resistances or power. The great thing is that it's not a ''one or another case'' as you can mix and match how you play to create your own unique build based off your own play style. As Borat would say, ''Very Nice''. This means no playthrough of yours or another persons will ever be the same experience.
By the time you reach the end of the journey, based off what you've accomplished in your crafting, you'll be able to become quite resilient in combat if you've made the time and effort to increase effectiveness of status effects on armor and weapons, picking a style that either focuses on a power build over speed or on the flip side, focus more on speed over power. However, if you're extremely lazy, like I tend to be sometimes, there's even the option for auto-equipping that chooses things for you without all the headache. That's one less tylenol to pop at the end of the day, thank Zeus for that. Even with all your upgrades and abilities, its still not wise though to just blindly jump into combat due to certain enemies having abilities or even weaknesses that must be exploited before its even possible to damage and defeat them. For example enemies with shields blocking you can be stopped in their tracks by using your Leviathan Axe to throw at their exposed feet to freeze them and then either rush them yourself, or call for BOY to focus his arrow shooting on the enemy to stun them at the same time, allowing you more of a opening to pull off some really sick combination attacks. It all comes down to how quick your reaction speed is or how creative you want to get really. Always experiment and adapt to truly get the most fun out of the game as you can.
Boss fights this go around are about what you'd expect from the franchise by now with the over the top hard hitting battles, slamming through things with big manly grunting of anger and hate, QTE button prompts to keep the really good choreographed fighting at a fevers pace, etc. Once again, while this doesn't come off as a real shocker, they're so bombastic and over top that even Vin Diesel and Michael Bay are going to feel a bit envious. I can see it now, God Of Furious, in theaters summer 2023, with Kratos racing Odin for pink slips for his wolf sled. ''I don't have RAGE, Odin, I have family''. Don't lie, you'd watch it. So we have an idea of story, crafting and combat, but what about the environments you take part in? well this go around, Ragnarok feels like a mix of both linear and confined areas with focus on backtracking or retreading prior steps, but at same time, as you explore nine varied realms, it tends to open up in certain realms you venture to with areas feeling more like open zones, leaving you having to walk a very long way or even have to use a sled or boat to get across as you listen to very natural sounding dialogue between characters in the story that doesn't feel forced or fake. For a better idea, think of Sonic Frontiers or the easy go to of Ocarina Of Time. Open zoned, not open world, and that's what the title ends up becoming at specific spots. Heck even Wild Area's from Pokemon Sword and Shield is a good comparison, just without the really really low quality trees. Sorry Pokemon, your trees looked as bad as Final Fantasy 14's grapes. To get around your new found environments, as touched up briefly before, you can use weapons to traverse your surroundings like when gimmicks block your path, you can freeze water gears with your axe, blades of chaos will burn down bushes and vines to reveal paths, Atreus and his dwarven arrows clear our green magic, use Axe to bounce off walls to destroy lights to open paths, etc. This makes you WANT to search for new areas, new secrets and acquire more abilities so you can open up the world or paths that much more than previously. Its quite addicting.
While the game has great story elements, combat can be fun, characters charming and fully realized.. it does tend to fall short for me in several areas. For one, it comes off more as a complimentary title or just a competent sequel rather than a boundary pushing defining entry. Sure you have your loot system and upgrades, but its very minute and small as far as differences between the first title and to Ragnarok goes. Another issue I have relates to pacing in some of these chapters, and missions going from really engaging, to an absolute slogger filler fest of nothing interesting going on, or dragging on a concept longer than it should be going on. For instance after Atreus falls asleep and wakes up in a realm that is deemed a myth, Ironwood, you meet another girl your age named Angrboda. While she herself is witty and funny, I like her a lot, its the mission that made me bored to tears. During this nearly three hour mission, while riding on her Appa from Last Airbender looking animal, you spend your time doing amazing things such as following her around slowly, pick fruit off trees, destroy monster nests, cut off tiny tree roots, etc. I mean if the tree roots were similar to the shrieking plants from Harry Potter, that would've been hilarious, but nope, they are not. I know the purpose of this mission is to help Atreus figure out his destiny I get it, that's fine, but even after all that slog I mentioned of doing tedious and meaningless tasks, is it over? heck no. We then decide to go Honey I Shrunk The Kids and have to destroy Angrboda's 50ft tall grandmothers cauldron. Really. Its literally what happens. Scope is awesome, but when you're already bored and want to get on with the main captivating story, it drags. The one saving grace though however is Atreus holding his magical ball close to him as he cuddles up and says there's no place like home, just like Dorothy, so he can wake up and go back to his realm. Its literally the only thing I thought of at the time.
At the end of the day, God Of War Ragnarok to me, is far from a masterpiece its made out to be, nor is it even in my top 5 of games I've played, reviewed and beaten this year due to its negatives of combat feeling the same with minimal differences from 2018, some narrative dialogue set pieces going on longer than they should and focusing too much on exposition, missions that have a good concept but overstay their welcome, and some pacing issues mid game that drag the game on longer than it needs to be. However even with my gripes, this is still very much a game you need to or should play due to its gorgeous looking environments like the icy chilly winter of Midgard, amazon rivers of Alfheim, boulders and rocky terrain of Vanaheim, amazingly written characters who you grow to love, hate and laugh with as you meet more of them or interact with them, weapons feeling more useful for puzzles and environmental mechanics, boss fights that go from intense to insane that always seems to keep you on your toes, and down to the core of the story being about family and son and a coming of age story for Atreus, that has a perfect payoff to wonderfully written characters. Congrats kid, you did it. You broke the ''Carl'' mold from The Walking Dead. You aren't annoying. In fact, you know, you're actually pretty dang awesome Atreus. Just stop punching treasure chests like your father, because you weak as all heck little bro. So with all that having been said, my verdict is clear, GameNChick says BUY NOW.