It’s not often that a game makes you feel so simple. To finish something and think, “That was one of the best games I’ve ever played.” But it was clear with Ragnarok. The sequel from Sony Santa Monica is a high point for the genre and beats all first-party games on PS5 to date.
It’s also hard to talk about, because Ragnarok’s best feature is that it can surprise people. There are big parts of this game and many of the things that make it so amazing that you should be able to play it without knowing what’s going to happen.
People kept asking, “Are they really going to do that?” as the end of the Norse Saga reached its peak. It’s an adventure with an intense ending that is one of the most memorable in modern games. It uses epic spectacle in a way that is rarely done.
But what makes God of War Ragnarok so great isn’t just the big moments. If anything, the times of peace between Kratos and Atreus’ march towards Ragnarok, the war that will end the world, make them even better.
Now that Atreus is older, taller, and fully aware that he is half-giant and half-god Loki, he is struggling with his fate, which Kratos does not want him to fulfill. What this conflict shows up as early on is basically rebellion by teenagers. That very common feeling of being a teenager and thinking you know everything and your parents just don’t get it.
The strength of the God of War duology has always been making the Gods into characters that are easy to relate to and have a lot of depth, and Ragnarok just keeps doing that. Within ten minutes, Sunny Suljic, a key player in this game, will have made such a huge improvement that many players will be in tears.
Kratos does not want to go to war again. Even though he is God, he is determined to leave that life behind, which is why he came to these shores in the first place. However, he knows it is inevitable and is struggling with his own death. He wants to protect Atreus, but he knows that by doing so, he is pushing away the thing he loves the most. Kratos is having a hard time accepting that Atreus is no longer a boy and is now a man.
All of this is happening in the shadow of Asgard and its leader, who isn’t too happy about it. After Kratos killed a god for a short time in the last game, Thor comes to his door with Odin, the All-Father. He wants to make a peace deal between Kratos and the Asgardians so that Ragnarok doesn’t happen.
Odin is a mix of a mob boss and a cult leader, and Richard Schiff plays him. He hits the figure of George Carlin and spouts poisonous insults at everyone around him. He’s not like any other bad guy in the show. The writing strikes the perfect balance between complete distrust and the possibility that this call for peace could be real. His whole Asgardian clan is written very well. Instead of being cartoon villains, they are more like a Norse-themed episode of Succession when it comes to the drama between them.
“But what makes God of War Ragnarok so great isn’t just the big moments. If anything, the times of peace in between Kratos and Atreus’ march towards Ragnarok, the war that will end the world, make them better.
We’re at the point where we don’t want to talk about the story any more because it needs to be seen for yourself how quickly things get worse. Even trying to tell the whole story in the first seven hours would ruin some of the best surprises of the year.
Not surprising is how great it feels to play God of War: Ragnarok. The combat system, which was one of the best parts of the first game, has been improved and now feels tighter. New abilities and moves have been added, making fights feel much more varied than in the first game. This is also helped by the fact that enemies have been changed a lot. No longer do players have to fight a never-ending stream of Draugrs. Instead, each realm has a variety of unique enemy classes that make combat more difficult and push players out of their combat comfort zones.
Because this is a long game, it’s important that the fights stay interesting and new. Not only does the main path take about 20 hours to finish, but the huge amount of side content and the post-game, which is much more fleshed out and big than the first game, will add another 10 hours to that.
This isn’t your typical open-world stuff. There are a lot of side quests in places you’ll pass through quickly if you don’t look around. We really think you should finish these quests before the end of the game. Most, if not all, of the dialogue will talk about what’s going on, and if you do these quests after the end of the game, they won’t have as much to do with the main story. There are puzzles to solve, fights that are even more brutal than the legendary valkyrie fights from the first game, and a huge amount of lore to learn about.
And the worlds you are exploring are absolutely gorgeous. This isn’t just about making things look real (though we did wonder how many dozens of people it took to make snow that looks photoreal as a background for you to behead things), it’s about the epic art direction. Everything is bigger and grander. It is a very expensive game in a way that video games don’t usually get to. Play it on a screen as big as you can.
The game has a performance mode and a fidelity mode, and both can be boosted with a high frame rate if you have a TV to show it off. Even though the fidelity mode is beautiful and the photo mode will be great for digitally touring the realms when it’s finally added, the 70 to 90 FPS we got out of performance mode on a 120hz screen is crazy. If you compare how this game looks and runs to how the first one did when it first came out, it feels like a generational jump, even if some parts of the game don’t.
“The combat system, which was one of the best parts of the first game, has been improved, feels tighter, and more moves and abilities have been added to make fights feel much more different than they did in the first game.”
God of War Ragnarok is probably Sony’s last big cross-generation game. The game doesn’t feel like it was held back in terms of performance, graphics, or scope, but it does have a few marks from being on PS4. On the PS5, areas aren’t as big as they could be, and there are a lot of “duck under the wall” loads, but that’s about it for leftovers from the last generation.
We had played the game for 10 hours before someone told us about them. This was mostly because we were too busy laughing at the ridiculous opening act to notice some annoying last-gen concessions. Fast travel between realms is almost instant when you use the realm between realms. It takes longer if there is dialogue to finish before the magical door opens.
Bear McCreary’s music is so good that it deserves special attention. It really does sneak up on you, and when it does, it doesn’t so much pull at your heartstrings as hook onto them with a Blade of Chaos and throw them across the room. When it needs to be quiet, the soundtrack is, but when it needs to be emotional, it does so in a great way.
As we got closer to the end of God of War: Ragnarok, we couldn’t help but think about how incredibly far the series has come. It’s hard to believe that this game, which shows how a parent and child’s relationship changes as the child grows up, is the same one that began on the PS2 with us ripping the heads off of Hydras and throwing pieces of an old Greek temple at Zeus.
Epic music by Bear McCreary signaled the start of the end, and the chills we felt were rare in media. It made me think of how amazed I was when I saw The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in the theater and couldn’t believe that something this big could exist. In video games, it’s not often that you can say, “I’ve never seen anything like that before.” The final bow of Ragnarok is one of those times. It’s full of them, to be exact.
God of War Ragnarok shows that the company that made it is at the top of its game. It is not only one of the most powerful games ever made, but it is also a standard for the current generation that other studios should try to reach.
The story of Kratos and Atreus will go down in history as one of the best, and Christopher Judge and Sunny Suljic deserve all the praise they can get for bringing these characters to life.
It’s a march to victory. Even though it appeals to people of many different ages, the game’s visual, aural, and emotional symphony completely drowns out the small things that make it so. A truly unbeatable duology comes to an end with a final act that may be the best in all of gaming.
God of War: Ragnarok is an amazing game. It’s important in a way that few other releases are. It’s a game that does everything it sets out to do to the highest standard. It has great acting and a great story that leads to a jaw-dropping ending.
Combat that is polished, addicting, and always different
Chrisopher Judge and Sunny Suljic give two of the best performances in the history of video games.
A story that is both epic and heartbreaking
Some minor cross-generational scars