God Of War Ragnarök Review – Masterwork Of Exceptional Craftsmanship

God Or War (2018) was phenomenal. Studio Santa Monica decided to reimagine the over-the-top character action game series into an intimate yet epic action-adventure RPG that gets almost everything right. A sheer masterclass of design work and craftsmanship that was a soft reboot for the series and at the same time, a hard sequel where the past games remain canon.

God Of War Ragnarok has a burden as a follow-up to that.

And amazingly, the developers have managed to somehow one-up themselves in almost every aspect, refining the 2018 formula to be ever closer to perfection.


God Of War Ragnarok paints a visual feast of vibrant colours and majestic views that let the mind wander. The Nine Realms is, to use a regional phrase, same same but different- the same places you visit now look different now that Fimbulwinter is here and Ragnarok looms.

Midgard, the central hub of the 2018 game is dense in snow and the lake is all frozen. You can still spot familiar locations but it all looks different, reflecting the consequences of what happened in the last game.

Thankfully, it’s not all winter in all the realms, so visual variety is still there. The new realms that you’ll be setting foot in, the dwarven lands of Svartalfheim, the swamps of Vanaheim where the Vanir calls home and Asgard- all have dramatically different scenery and vibe.

Overall, the Nine Realms will fill you in awe with its choice of vistas, sombre ruins and beautifully detailed towns where the last remnants of mortals can be seen. If only photo mode was available at launch.

And it’s not just the environment artists are killing it either. The visual effects are amazingly applied. The little sparks and splashes of goop/gib/gore make combat feels so good and satisfying. The animations are stellar. For gameplay, the animations are snappy and fast, but still readable and flow well with your button presses. And every speaking character’s mouth moves when their lines are heard.

While in the cutscenes, the motion capture team delivered a captivating performance. There are moments where there is no dialogue and characters just do mundane things, but I can sense the emotions being put forth and what they are trying to communicate via body language alone. It’s that good.

And on that note, expect the same high-quality performance from the voice cast as well. Kratos’ booming gravitas still steals the show despite him just grunting most of the time, which makes every full sentence delivered meaningful. Atreus is a bit awkward this time, however, but I can totally see and excuse some of the line delivery as him just reaching his awkward teen phase. If you love the Huldra brothers, then you’ll love to see Brok and Sindri having a lot of screen time. Freya returns alongside several other Norse gods like Thor and Odin finally appearing in person.

Some of the new characters might not match up to any previous depictions of the Norse gods in other media, but the subversion makes it all the better. I am particularly blown away by Ragnarok’s depiction of Odin, who we finally see after all the foreshadowing in the 2018 game.

Sure, the characters feel more like American actors that happen to play a role of a Norse god, but that just makes the performance all the more relatable. These gods feel humanlike in that way, and you’ll like empathise more with their relationship and family dramas, which almost every member of the cast has some. Even gods can’t escape from having a dysfunctional family.

And the developers still did a good job of respecting the mythology it is portraying. The names of the gods and special nouns are not anglicised- how Ragnarok is always spelt where the “o” has an umlaut. Characters will speak Old Norse from time to time. It feels like a good balance of honouring the source material and using it to inspire new interpretations. Like how a good Marvel game adaptation doesn’t need to be 100% lore correct.

On the PS5, the “Favour Performance” delivers a rock-solid performance that reaches the target 60 fps (or at least above 30 fps- judging by eye and no framerate analysing tools), with very rare dips in framerate.


God Of War Ragnarok takes place after the events of the 2018 game. Characters will have conversations bringing up what happened previously that help jogs the memories of players who last played the previous game four years ago, and for new players, essentially spoiled.

There’s a recap of the previous game for those needing a refresher on what Kratos and Atreus did on their previous journey, as a lot of those events happening in Ragnarok are the consequences of their decisions in the previous game.

What Kratos and Atreus did was set off the events that will culminate in Ragnarok- the apocalyptic event foretold in the Norse prophecy that will bring the end of the Nine Realms. And the whole game is about the two figuring out what to do from here.

Atreus is older and in his teens, and still keen to explore, investigate and figure out what his destiny ultimately is. Kratos on the other hand wants to keep his son safe and alive, knowing what fate has in store for him. And together, alongside the talking head Mimir and other allies and companions, they’ll be trekking through the Nine Realms on new adventures during this pre-apocalypse.

Fine-Dining Experience

If you’ve played God Of War (2018), you should be comfortable by now with the tight over-the-shoulder camera perspective. The main critical path, The Path, is mostly a linear affair with some minor branching paths that leads to collectibles or puzzles or optional encounters. But there will always be times when you get to roam free and explore the realms at your own pace.

Speaking of pace, Ragnarok does an exceptionally fine job at keeping you gripped on the controller. Like a fine dining experience, it knows just when is the right time to ramp up the action, should said action be kicked to overdrive or not, and when to let things simmer down and fizzle out.

There are extravagant moments where everything is popping off and the stakes are high and you, the player, are emotionally invested in beating an encounter or a boss just like the characters you playing are. There are quiet moments where you just see the mundane activities that give you a look at these characters, and how they are as a person outside of the action and adventure.

These are boring scenes out of context, but the timing of it after having to go through big moments will make you appreciate the fantastic performance capture work done to flesh out these little slice-of-life moments.

God Hand Did Nothing Wrong

Because for the most part of Ragnarok, you are expected to fight. Kratos wields both the Leviathan Axe and the Blades Of Chaos from the get-go this time, and Atreus can do more than wait for you to press the “boy” button (which now is more of a “companion assist” button).

Atreus will shoot arrows on his own accord, sometimes do that grapple move that stuns an enemy for Kratos, and he now can pull of his own string of combos, something he can do alongside his father. What a way to bond together, pulling sick combos as father and son.

You do have to unlock all those moves from the previous games again though,  but it’s fine. There are so many moves that are at your disposal in this character action-adventure game that you’ll be glad the game gives you time to familiarise, or re-familiarise, the moveset.

I’m glad to report that despite the seemingly claustrophobic camera angle, it is still fun. God Of War (2018) proved God Hand was ahead of its time, and God Of War Ragnarok continues to refine this unique perspective of character action combat.

Enemies will still cheekily attempt to attack you from off-screen, but you get not only a Forza-style opponent radar (that also turns to red to signal that it’s about to attack), but you literally have a pair of eyes at your back (Mimir will call out enemies that are behind Kratos, and so does other companions).

There’s a good leeway time to dodge, block or quick-turn (if you have that activated) and confront those enemies- a lot of the long-winding heavy attacks are cancelable into a dodge or block. The hard part is actually trying to stop yourself mashing buttons to do long combos.

Pressing The Right Buttons

Because my goodness me, pressing buttons here feels so good. The first few simple fights will give you a good feel of how rewarding and satisfying God Of War’s brand of combat is. The Axe lets you launch enemies into the air and strike them mid-air (which they will remain as long as the hit connects), and should they land down, there are even off-the-ground attacks that can connect.

The same goes for the Blades. The camera zooms out a teensy bit when you are whipping these bad boys of Kratos’ dark past out, and while they don’t do as much raw damage, it makes up for being able to attack a crowd of enemies rather than just targeting one- which you also still can do.

The problem here is that mashing buttons feel so good, that you will be severely punished during harder encounters where you must not mash buttons. Some of the optional encounters you can find will see you battling against enemies a couple of levels higher, and should you be like me, foolhardy enough to attempt, it will be frustrating as it is engaging.

The optional, high-level encounters are hard. One wrong button press will see you lose half a life bar. But if you keep a good momentum to dodge/parry/block attacks and only press buttons when it’s safe, it is entirely possible to defeat bosses two or three levels higher than your current gear level.

In a way, the combat designers have done a good job at making combat so engaging, that you want to take up a challenge you’re not ready yet over and over again because you were this close to beating it. Even if it means banging your head over and over again in frustration.

Also, there are accessibility options, some of the most comprehensive I’ve ever seen. There’s a menu to play out all the audio cues. You can fully remap each button- if you play on an Asian region PS4 where the circle and X buttons are swapped and then jump to the PS5, it’s a handy feature that involves not retraining your muscle memory again. And of course, there are difficulty options that can make the experience tailored to you. But on normal (Give Me Balance) difficulty, this is what I end up with.

All the weapons you have at your disposal have a great use case for them, but most of the time, all of them are viable in any encounter. There are some enemies that require the use of specific weapons to insta-delete an extra bar of health (because using the wrong weapons does meagre damage if any), but it’s not DMC Devil May Cry level of egregious.

If there’s one minor complaint, swapping between weapons doesn’t feel as satisfying or as reliable as I would hope for during the heat of battle.

Gears Of God Of War

Just like 2018, Ragnarok lets you equip gear with different stats, RPG-style. There’s an overall gear level, there are various stats that include strength, defence, vitality, runic (elemental) and curiously, luck. Gear are not randomised, but each of them can be upgraded to reach level 9. It’s cool that the starter gear you get will become relevant again should you have the resources to upgrade them to the highest levels.

Each gear also have set bonuses and other passives so you can tailor a particular playstyle like an RPG would allow you to do. From making Kratos an elemental powerhouse that whips enemies into flames with only one hit to a very high-risk high-reward playstyle where successful parries activate Realm Shift (slow-mo/time-stop), sinking the time and effort into the combat and gear builds is rewarding.

Exploration should feel familiar to players of God Of War (2018). You get to visit all of the nine realms this time, and yes, boat rides are back. And there are dog slides (where the dogs can be wolves or other mythical creature) for areas that are not covered in water.

There are plenty of those Nornir Chests- the “find the three runes but good luck finding the last tricky one that will get you stuck for a good 10 minutes” as I like to call it. There are combat challenges including optional boss fights- the Berserkers are Ragnarok’s equivalent of the Valkyries. And yes, plenty of boat/sled stories.

While you can explore some of the lands early in the game, don’t expect to 100% clear them on your first visit. There will be other unlocks to find that give you access to previously unreachable areas.

If you like God Of War (2018), you’ll definitely like God Of War Ragnarok.

So What’s New In Ragnarok Then?

While most of the stuff described here may not be new, there are some fascinating and cool surprises that you should see and experience yourself. It’s hard to talk about some of the gameplay changes because they are tied too closely to story spoilers.

We’ll post an addendum (with spoiler tags) on how the new additions to gameplay add to God Of War Ragnarok once the game is out and save the surprise for those who are going in fresh.

But hear this: Ragnarok is a story of Kratos and Atreus figuring out what their fate lies ahead, in a journey structured differently from 2018. And expect all the buttons of the controller to have a function by the end of the game.

The new additions are much welcomed and contribute to the tight pacing and give more variety in combat.


My first playthrough of God Of War Ragnarok spanned 33 hours before the credits rolled, and that includes doing a good chunk of side content here and there. I’d say that the main story path should be around 25 hours-ish to complete, but you will likely spend almost 40 hours to 100% complete the game.

And as far as content goes, Ragnarok is pretty meaty.

Story-wise it’s a roller-coaster of emotions and like a good roller-coaster ride, it has good pacing, as I’ve explained earlier. But should you need more time to take a breather, still play the game, but don’t want to progress the plot, the game will make it crystal clear when’s the time you are free to explore the Nine Realms at your leisure.

God Of War Ragnarok, like the 2018 game, is not an open-world game per se, the worlds are not of that scale. But it’s a plus. Hub world (or small open world) design, usually seen in immersive sims like the Deus Ex series, is effectively used to squeeze in fun and engaging interactions while not padding it out with vast empty lands where you do nothing but press forward.

And it’s great! If your typical AAA open world game (and that includes Sony’s other blockbuster release of the year Horizon Forbidden West) is a buffet full of carb-loading side activities, God Of War Ragnarok’s experience is, again, like fine dining. Smaller portions, sometimes ridiculously so, but the quality of it will make it all worth it.

But there is one gripe I have.

Apparently, there are a lot more boat stories this time around and since the locations are more tightly packed in, most of the time I would just wait on the boat or sled to finish listening to the story. Of course, the story can be cut abruptly if you leave and will seamlessly continue once you get back on the boat or sled.

But I feel like the devs went too ham on the stories this time- it’s too packed in lore that it’s sometimes hard to really pay attention, the storytelling isn’t as memorable now that this gimmick isn’t fresh, and it’s a blink-or-you-miss-it moment. And I also feel like it’s hard to keep up on the story that was interrupted partway. I would love the ability to manually start a conversation that triggers a specific boat story again and again. Or any other way to recap all the lore that was told in-game. The codex doesn’t have boat story entries.

But I do love that other realms now have a sizeable world that you can explore at any time.

If you’re a completionist, don’t worry about not clearing all the realms on your first visit. There are side activities unlocked only late in the game, some even only appear in the post-game.

And it’s not just the adventuring bits that have good content. For combat, most of the skills are tied to specific labour (tertiary missions) where you must use that skill X amount of times. Doing so enough times let you “mod” the skill, adding an extra passive like extra damage or extra protection from staggers. There are so many gear, runes and skill combinations that for those looking to excel in the combat trials, you have a lot on your plate.

Personal Enjoyment

Typically, I don’t look forward to major blockbuster games. Especially if the focus is more on storytelling rather than gameplay mechanics. I prefer my city builders over yet-another cookie-cutter open-world checklist-a-thon. But when I do play them, somehow I do find them quite comforting- especially all of the PlayStation Studios’ first-party titles of the past years (heck, I even liked Days Gone).

I do have some moments where I disagree with God Of War Ragnarok, though not at a fundamental level. As mentioned before, the combat sucks me in that I keep sucking at it and really have to force myself to stop. The boat stories are too bloated.

And there’s another point: this game has a massive install footprint, close to 100GB on PS5 and exceeding that on PS4. Cleaning out hard drive space on a console with a slow-loading HDD is not fun, so you better clear up around 150GB of space now if you want to play this on PS4.

But that’s about it, minor gripes.

God Of War Ragnarok, like God Of War, will hit a little differently to anyone who plays it. For some, the intimate story of how a father communicates with his son will hit close to home- and you can expect some heart-wrenching moments on that aspect. Others would geek out on how Norse mythology is being depicted.

It’s A Video Game

This brings me to another strong point of God Of War: Ragnarok: It’s a video game.

I don’t mean that dismissively, as how “it’s a video game” is mainly used.

What I mean is that there’s a strong harmony between gameplay and story that feels woven together in a way rarely seen in story-heavy games. It’s not just by having QTEs during cutscenes- though that helps in a way. But it’s the little nods. A conversation with companions noting how lucky Kratos is (and he has a literal Luck stat bar you can max out), seeing the health bar going low after Kratos took a big hit during a cutscene, a conversation explaining why Kratos lost all his gear from their previous adventure, that one game over screen.

It’s not quite 4th-wall breaking, but the game winks and nudges at the said wall with a subtle grace, reminding you that the world and story co-exist with the gameplay mechanics you are interacting with.

It’s less a movie, but an interactive theatre, where the actors and the stage are working with you, the player, who’s also an actor on this very stage, who’s also the sole audience of this performance.

And you know what, maybe that’s what big-budget blockbuster games should strive for. Not make a game that replicates a movie, but of a theatre performance. And God Of War Ragnarok feels more like the latter, because an interactive theatre for an audience of one is more or less, a video game.


God Of War Ragnarok is a dramatic epic of godly proportions. Its unique brand of character action combat continues to be refined and paired with a solid exploration aspect that makes it the few games to live up to the action-adventure genre name. The story is gripping and engaging thanks to its excellent pacing and an amazing performance from all its cast members. And the overall product leaves a lasting experience that rarely games do these days.

Ragnarok is structurally no different from its mould-breaking previous game, but it proves that God Of War (2018) is no fluke. This action-adventure game is in its own league.

The designers, programmers, animation team, sound team, composer, voice and performance cast, game testers, and contributing co-developers have worked closely together and delivered a masterwork of exceptional craftsmanship, a masterpiece of a single-player experience that no PS4 or PS5 owner should miss out on this year.

Played On PS5. Review copy provided by the publisher. Unwatermarked screenshots used captured from PS5.


God Of War Ragnarök

God Of War Ragnarok is a dramatic epic of godly proportions. Its unique brand of character action combat continues to be refined and paired with a solid exploration aspect that makes it the few games to live up to the action-adventure genre name.

A masterwork of exceptional craftsmanship, a masterpiece of a single-player experience that no PS4 or PS5 owner should miss out on this year.

  • Presentation 9.5
  • Gameplay 9.5
  • Content 9.5
  • Personal Enjoyment 9

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