God of War Ragnarok Review: Denying Prophecy and Fighting Fate

The 2018 God of War is a nigh perfect game.

We could speak hours waxing lyrical about the storytelling, visuals and gameplay, but what really sets it apart from the slew of AAA titles in recent memory is how it took an iconic character in Kratos, the Ghost of Sparta, and completely reinvented him.

It was clearly a labour of love for Cory Barlog and the team at Santa Monica Studio, which means the sequel has been highly anticipated.

After a delay and a year in which all games have had to bend the knee to Elden Ring, just how well does God of War Ragnarok fare?

Mastering your fate

Starting with the story, and events from the first game to this one have moved forward a handful of years, with Atreus in his early teens and Fimbulwinter in full force, as Midgard is enveloped in snow and ice. Atreus has also honed his ability to talk to animals, taking on a trio of wolves of pets, two of which are used to transport through the snow-filled forests and frozen-over lakes of Midgard.

It is not the cold that you need to worry about either, with Freya seeking revenge for the death of her son Baldur from the first game. She is the first threat you encounter in the opening prologue of the game, and one of many you meet during thew first few hours of gameplay.

The other threat is Odin, along with his son Thor. In the first hour of the game you meet both, with the latter choosing to tussle with Kratos in order to exact a blood debt for the deaths of his own sons Magni and Modi.

Here you are once again met with one of the key themes of the game – revenge. It is cyclical and something that Kratos is always caught up in, regardless of his desire to live out his days in peace.

The other key theme in the game is fate. Where the 2018 game featured the word “boy” throughout its dialogue, even getting memed, this time around it is fate. Where Atreus wishes to rush head on into fate, while Kratos does not wish to be bound by it, the pair are at odds with one another throughout most of the game for their differing views on fate.

We won’t talk much more about the storyline at the risk of sharing spoilers, but needless to say the narrative that drives God of War Ragnarok is just as impressive as it was in the first game. As are the performances of Christopher Judge as Kratos, Danielle Bisutti as Freya and Sunny Suljic as Atreus/Loki.

Where we left off

Shifting to the gameplay and not much has changed from the first game to this, and we mean that in the best way possible. The shift to an over-the-shoulder third-person view for gameplay in the 2018 game was a brave one, and one that simply works. It allows for action to feel intimate, as well as enough real estate to handle groups of enemies too. It also frames action to right in front of Kratos, as it should be.

Here we should mention that Kratos is not the sole character you play as this time around, as Atreus too will get the chance to go on missions sans his father. It allows for a nice change of pace in terms of how you fight enemies, with Atreus needing to find other ways to engage against foes compared to the brutal and visceral way that Kratos does.

On those occasions when Kratos and Atreus are separated, they each get to use different companions to assist them in a support role. This too opens up opportunities to find different ways to fight, when the usual pair are not side-by-side.

While not a lot has changed in terms of the gameplay, there are two new elements worth mentioning – stuns and bifrost. The former is a new mechanic that prompts players to stun enemies, by double tapping the L1 button. It is not a game changer, but certainly something you need to be aware of while fighting.

Bifrost, however, is far more interesting, as it is power from Odin himself that allows enemies to be imbued with energy. It works in a similar fashion to the rot, fire and ice from the 2018 game, with the key difference being that a few blows from an enemy can end in death. It is an energy that you should be wary of while fighting multiple enemies.

Lastly we should talk about weapons. The Leviathan Axe was one of the great aspects of God of War, and while it makes its return in Ragnarok, without giving away spoilers, there is a new weapon being added to the mix that rivals it. No we’re not talking about Mjolnir, which is quite impressive while being thrown about by Thor, who we fight on a few different occasions, but this new weapon might just be the best that we’ve encountered in some time.

So much so in fact that the moment it was introduced, we did not fight with anything else, only using the Blades of Chaos against enemies protected by ice and the Leviathan Axe against fire-protected enemies.

Final verdict

God of War Ragnarok is another masterpiece from the team at Santa Monica Studio. It picks up expertly where the first brilliant game ended, not missing a beat along the way. Well paced with its action sequences, tough boss fights and interspersed with tender moments between father and son, it is nigh perfect, just like its predecessor.

The only reason why the 2018 iteration holds a slightly higher ranking for us, is the fact that it was our introduction to this reinvented version of Kratos.

When people say it’s just a videogame, tell them to play God of War and God of War Ragnarok to understand the heights that AAA titles can reach. Where past games this year have been difficult to justify the asking price for, the R1 369 (RRP) price tag for Ragnarok (PS5/PS4 version), is well worth it.

It may have only come out in November, but this is GoTY contender if ever there was one, and will be remembered for years to come, just like its predecessor.



About Author


Related News