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It’s difficult to oversell how polished God Of War Ragnarok is. The only real criticism you can make of it is that maybe it has way too much crammed in for one game of its kind. God Of War Ragnarok is a near perfect game for a Playstation fan, a God Of War fan and a video game fan in general.

How do you follow up something like God Of War (2018)? The obvious answer would be to make it bigger, better and nicer (or in case of God Of War, gorier). But as we all know that hasn’t always worked out for franchises before. So does God Of War Ragnarok, offer a fitting endgame or is it really the end of days for Kratos? Let’s find out.

God Of War Ragnarok is an action adventure hack n slash light RPG developed by Santa Monica Studios and published by SIE. The game is due to be released on November 8, 2022 for the PS5/4.

The Stories I Have Read

God Of War Ragnarok picks up a few years after the end of the last game. Since those events, Fimbulwinter has set in. The father and son duo have been training hard for the inevitable knock on their door. Atreus is twitching for action, and Kratos just wants to be a good father. When that knock does come though, Kratos and Atreus set out on a journey to prepare for the titular Ragnarok.

While the first game was all about the relationship between Kratos and his son Atreus, God Of War Ragnarok further explores the eco-system the duo exist in and how the people around them affect them and vice-versa.

Odin, the all-seeing, all-hearing, All-Father is akin to a mob-boss, plotting and scheming against his enemies, offering “Deals That Cannot Be Refused”. Thor is his muscle, who enjoys battle for the thrill of it all. Tyr is a “God Of War” who wants for peace in all the violence surrounding him. Angrboda is a giant stuck in the promises of a prophecy. Themes of revenge, reconciliation, coming-of-age, fate, destiny, pain, loss, and of course war, are all explored through various lenses.

With so many characters, and so much to tell, the story can feel stretched out a bit. Maybe because of this being the final game in the series (for now), the team felt a pressure to do well by all the characters that were introduced. That however, is a very subjective aspect of the actual story-telling, and your mileage may vary if you shuttle between the main path and the various side quests the game has to offer.

The Things I Have Seen

What God Of War Ragnarok offers, exudes beauty from every virtual inch that you will cover. In visiting the 9 realms, you will be introduced to the perennial winter in Midgard, the earthquake of the heavily mined and stony Svartalfheim, the aggressive fauna of the overgrown Vanaheim, and the desert of good old Álfheimr now dominated by the White Elves for a change; among others.

You will see new locations, and appreciate the old ones with a new aspect. All of them beautifully handcrafted with vistas to die for and textures to stare at. In the beginning of the game you will stop frequently, stopping to catch the light just right and take that screenshot (which would be available on your PSN app immediately if you have turned the settings on).

Towards the middle though, this graphical beauty would be so par for course that it will just become a part of the experience, and while you would still say ‘WOW’ you might not be reaching for that Share button as often. And then towards the end, as you reach the corners of the realms that were initially blocked off for you, and you brush off bosses that were too hard for you earlier, you will feel the need to share those moments again.

All of this is presented like one continuous shot much like the earlier game. But once again the idea is picked up and expanded upon without ever stretching it too far. Set-pieces are not just presented in gameplay challenges. It’s also presented visually. Like when gods sit across a table for parley. Or when two teenagers finding calm among the chaos of the world. God Of War Ragnarok might be a game about the end of days, but its full of colourful and lively eye-watering tapestry.

The Things I Have Heard

All of this visual goodness is complimented by some excellent score by the returning composer Bear McCreary. The haunting, opera-esque soundtrack goes from soft to full on orchestra as the situation demands, with a hint of the original Kratos thrown in.

And then there is the voice acting. Christopher Judge IS Kratos by this time, and you can’t think one without the other. His mono-syllabic grunts accounts for everything from approval to dismissal to annoyance and ignorance. But the cast around him does stellar work as well. Danielle Bisutti, as Freya, gets way more range to express her anger and reconciliation. Sunny Suljic, as Atreus, is a teenager who is surer of his abilities and struggles to find a balance between being his father’s son and being himself. Then there is Alastair Duncan’s Mimir, who has become as much a friend to Kratos as he is a teacher to Atreus.

I can keep on going, but the game throws so many characters at you, and all of them are so well done and well portrayed, that everyone will have their own favourites by the end of the game.

The Battles I Have Fought

For all the focus on story-telling, the visuals, and the music of the game, God Of War Ragnarok has a surprising depth when it comes to gameplay. The original God Of War games thrived on visceral hack-and-slash, with a bit of metroidvania gameplay thrown in. The last God Of War borrowed heavily from souls-borne games and extended upon the themes of exploring and re-exploring the same arena. In God Of War Ragnarok, Santa Monica Studio takes all those themes and mixes them with another game mechanic that might surprise you: Mario Odyssey.

As much as that comparison might sound weird, hear me out. The 9 realms that God Of War Ragnarok will take you through are not only visually different, but they also offer different gameplay choices, so much so that the way you play in one is markedly differently from the other. And each of them is a metroidvania puzzle in itself, which will have you heading back over and re-exploring the area to get crucial upgrades for your next battle.

Each of those aforementioned battles is also very gory. Filled with dismemberment, straight up slaughter and pummeling which would make you feel right at home, if you are a God Of War fan. Of course these battles are missing those horde modes that were so signature of the original games, but they are still as tough and perhaps even more challenging as it asks you to think on your feet and use all your tools at your disposal. Even at medium difficulty (Give Me Balance), there are sections which had me reaching for my ressurection stones.

At its core though, God Of War Ragnarok is a puzzle. Its a game about finding your way through the many paths that are offered to you. And, true to its form, Santa Monica Studios offer up puzzles that aren’t too hard and yet make you feel smart when you crack them. Doubly true for anytime you are able to open a Nornir chest.

Having said that, God Of War Ragnarok is not a game which is easy for new-comers, and offers very little hand-holding in its initial phases. Returning players though would find themselves settling in quite nicely as muscle memory returns slowly but surely. Of course having both: the Blades Of Chaos, and The Leviathan Axe from the beginning of the game this time feels refreshing. There is a lot of permutations and combinations on offer which can make the experience much more tailored to your needs.

You can customize the runes on your weapons, craft different pieces of armour, and equip mods and on your skills to tilt your playstyle one way or the other. Your shield gets some love too, as you can now emphasize blocking or parrying as per your play style. Atreus gets even more love this time: with armour, equipment and skills way more fleshed out this time. 

Real Talk

It’s difficult to oversell how polished God Of War Ragnarok is. The only real criticism you can make of it is that maybe it has way too much crammed in for one game of its kind. God Of War Ragnarok is a near perfect game for a PlayStation fan, a God Of War fan and a video game fan in general. It’s not hard to find a reason to play God Of War Ragnarok, you just need to “Close Your Heart To It”.

Final Verdict: Essential

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