God of War Ragnarök review: Specs
Platforms: PS4, PS5 (reviewed)
Price: $60 (PS4), $70 (PS5)
Release Date: November 9, 2022
A sense of finality permeates God of War Ragnarök. This is fitting, considering how Ragnarök signals the end of the Old Norse gods. From the game’s harrowing intro all the way to its gripping climax, you’re aware of the inevitable end, which gives every action you take increased importance. This elevates God of War Ragnarök from being a simple action game into something more poignant.
Beyond the game itself, God of War Ragnarök is also essentially the unofficial end of the PS4 generation. Though the PS5 version contains features such as 4K resolution, haptic feedback, 3D audio and improved performance, this is very much a PS4 game at its core. That doesn’t mar the overall experience, but it’s difficult to forget that you’re still playing a last-gen game. But if this is, indeed, the last first-party, cross-gen title that we see from Sony, then it’s a hell of a sendoff for the successful PS4.
Cross-gen or not, God of War Ragnarök is an exceptional experience. It’s arguably Santa Monica Studios’ finest effort yet — and a title people will discuss for many years to come. Read on for our full God of War Ragnarök review.
God of War Ragnarök review: Story
God of War Ragnarök takes place a few short years after its predecessor, God of War (2018) . Fimbulwinter grips Midgard, covering the Earth in snow and ice. Series protagonist Kratos, along with his son Atreus, must contend with the harsh winter environment. At the same time, they must also fend off frequent attacks from the grief-stricken goddess Freya, who seeks Kratos’ death for killing her son, Baldur.
God of War Ragnarök doesn’t make you wait for the good stuff. After a chance encounter with the Aesir gods, Thor and Odin, Kratos and his allies set out to stop the All-Father and prevent Ragnarök from destroying the world.
While the overarching plot is compelling, the characters’ interpersonal relationships are what hold it all together. It’s satisfying seeing how Kratos and Atreus have grown into a competent team, along with how each one deals with his respective destiny. The supporting cast, villains included, is no less intriguing. God of War Ragnarök is a masterclass in video game storytelling.
Side quests have narratives that are just as engaging as the main plot. You gain a greater appreciation for this game’s take on Norse mythology, as you gain insight into what motivates each character. Side quests may not be overly abundant, but they’re exceptionally crafted. The Assassin’s Creed series could learn a thing or two in this regard.
I don’t want to spoil any of the game’s numerous plot twists or exciting set pieces. Suffice it to say that Santa Monica Studio delivers a gripping tale that’s as good, or better, than anything out of Hollywood recently.
God of War Ragnarök review: Combat
The latest God of War saga is a more mature affair than the admittedly juvenile (but awesome) earlier God of War entries. However, the series hasn’t forgotten its action/adventure roots, which are on full display in God of War Ragnarök.
As before, Kratos’ primary weapons are the Leviathan Axe and the Blades of Chaos, which are attuned to ice and fire, respectively. The axe works well against single opponents, and you can also hurl it at pesky distant foes. The iconic Blades of Chaos don’t strike as hard as the axe, but they’re ideal for dealing with multiple enemies. You’re free to switch weapons at any time, which gives you the opportunity to unleash some truly devastating combos.
Kratos receives a third weapon later in the game. I won’t spoil it here, but it’s a specific instrument of war that we’ve only seen twice before in the series. It pairs wonderfully with the axe and the blades, and I found myself using it quite a lot. It’s a fitting weapon for a Spartan warrior like Kratos.
The game isn’t lacking when it comes to enemy variety, either. Each realm has distinct creatures and warriors that want to tear Kratos apart. Some bad guys are weaker against specific weapons and magic, which forces you to think on your feet and swap between different equipment as needed. As for boss battles, you’ll be pleased to know that this installment features some of the series’ finest encounters.
There’s another playable character besides Kratos, although I won’t get into specifics here. They have a completely different set of attacks, which become more varied as the game progresses. I found playing as another character to be a welcome change of pace, and looked forward to their sections.
God of War Ragnarök review: Skills and upgrades
As you complete missions, defeat enemies and make discoveries, you’ll earn experience points that you can use to unlock skills. Skills include new combos, attacks, weapon enhancements and more. God of War Ragnarök is fairly generous with experience points, and I was able to unlock most skills simply by going through the main quest. This means you don’t have to wait until late in the game to receive some truly powerful abilities.
You also level up Kratos overall by donning higher-tier armor, weapons and enchantments. Like the previous game, the level cap remains in the single digits — which makes it all the more meaningful each time you finally reach a new level.
Some enemies, particularly those in side quests, might be at a higher level than you. While you can survive these encounters through pure skill (or luck!), it’s better to either equip higher-level armor or upgrade your current gear so that you’re on even footing. Leveling yourself up is a slow and steady process, but it’s extremely satisfying when you’re able to finally defeat an enemy that you couldn’t before.
Upgradeable weapons and accessories also give you specific perks. In turn, this helps you customize a Kratos that suits your unique playstyle. For example, you can equip the surly Spartan with gear that enhances his magic attacks, or you can rock gear that helps him deal — and receive — a ton of damage. Trying out different equipment types to get the best possible build is a lot of fun.
God of War Ragnarök review: Exploration and puzzles
Exploring the Nine Realms brought me as much joy as slicing undead Norse warriors in half. Whether it’s the humid marshes of Svartalfheim, the overgrown forests of Vanaheim or the majestic plains of Asgard, every level brims with loot just begging to be found. Going out of your way to seek a seemingly impossible-to-reach treasure chest is almost always worth it, since you’ll find hacksilver (money), upgrade materials, equipment and more along the way.
The puzzles you must complete to progress the story don’t provide a significant challenge, though. This is disappointing considering how great puzzles were in the older games. However, some of the puzzles you need to solve to open valuable treasure chests — striking three bells within a tight time limit, for example — feel sufficiently satisfying. There are also some tricky weapon and magic-based puzzles.
God of War Ragnarök review: Visuals and sound
Regardless of the era, God of War games have always featured exceptional visuals. The previous title on PS4 is still one of the best-looking games out there, even on the best gaming PCs and the Steam Deck. It’s no surprise that God of War Ragnarök is another visual stunner.
I played the game on PS5, and was impressed with the amount of detail poured into every environment and character. There were several times when I stopped just to admire the gorgeous, awe-inspiring scenery. Photo mode won’t be ready at launch, which is disappointing, but I can already see people posting their best pictures on social media when the feature comes out.
Composer Bear McCreary delivers another rousing soundtrack that enhances the game’s epic scope. Sound design is both subtle and in-your-face, depending on the moment. I encourage everyone to play while wearing one of the best gaming headsets.
God of War Ragnarök review: Verdict
There’s a lot more to discuss about God of War Ragnarök. But it’s enough to say to say that Santa Monica Studio went out of its way to create a truly memorable experience that should satisfy a large portion of the gaming community.
While the game’s numerous hidden load screens remind players that this is a PS4 title, that isn’t enough to ruin what is an otherwise exceptional work of art. God of War Ragnarök has certainly earned a spot in our best PS5 games list.
In short, get God of War Ragnarök. It’s a title worthy of the gods.