In this God of War: Ragnarok Review we’ll be sharing our impressions and takeaways having finished and platinumed GoW Ragnarok. Is God of War: Ragnarok better than the 2018 version? How is the story? What changes have they made to the formula? In this Ragnarok review, we’ll answer all these questions and more. All the footage of this preview sticks to the first 25% of the game bar some skill trees and predictable mechanics, and there are no story spoilers, except for mild explanations on the very first few hours and events of the 2018 game as it’s unavoidable to play this title without finding out the ending of the previous game. Also, note that we played on both PS4 and PS5, so we’ll be giving our impressions on how the GoW: Ragnarok played on both platforms thanks to Sony Playstation, who graciously gifted us a review code a couple of weeks ago!
God of War: Ragnarok Review
Developed by: Sony Santa Monica Studio
Published by: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release date: November 9th 2022
Platforms: Playstation 4, Playstation 5 (reviewed on both platforms, code provided by Sony)
Price: Standard Edition $59.99 / 69.99 USD
Before we get into this review, and because this is a highly anticipated title, I have not only played but actually platinumed the original God of War series as well as the 2018 reboot. That is to say, I am very familiar with the God of War series as I have played them fully, so some of my opinions on this installment will reflect that perspective and it’s not necessarily what you may experience if you don’t play these type of games often or if you’re casually approaching the title.
We would also like to note that we covered the first few hours of the game and accessibility on our preview, so we won’t repeat them here for the sake of brevity. Here’s a link to the preview if you want to learn more about them.
God of War: Ragnarok Review Story and Setting Impressions
The first thing to consider when appraising the Story & Setting of this title, is that Ragnarok picks up right where God of War 2018 left off. This means that if you haven’t played the original game you will have a knowledge gap and understanding gap on what is happening or why. The game provides a “summary recap” of the previous game but, in my opinion, it was insufficient to explain the protagonists’ current predicament. Thus, if you have not played the 2018 game, I strongly suggest that you watch a summary of all the cutscenes or something of the sort online, or play it before playing this one.
Now onto the actual main story of Ragnarok: You will find Atreus and Kratos very close to where you left them, except that they are now “hunted” by a very angry Freya. The game sets a very serious tone very early in with a rather heart-breaking scene, and the first few hours introduce new characters in true action-packed God of War fashion. From there, however, the game starts off somewhat slow for the first 5-8 hours, after which the story begins to pick up again and the world opens up.
This slow start is not uncommon for Sony titles, so it might be expected by many, however in this instance I had an issue with character motivation. In the previous game, motivation was simple but powerful: your wife / mother has died and your journey takes you to fulfill her last wish. Mystery surrounds everything as the audience wonders “how is Kratos in the Nord Realms”? “how did Kratos get married”? “why do they have all these strange happenings with the other gods”? etc. Eventually this brings to a grand crescendo reveal, but it was the journey, not the destination, that made it intriguing and fun.
God of War: Ragnarok offers no such mystery: you are teased with visions of Faye (Kratos’ late wife) that add some mystique to your situation, but by and large you seem to simply be following the whims of your irrational and stubborn teenager, who has an inexplicable obsession with the antagonist. Thus, Kratos grumpily sets on a quest to do more and more of what he swore not to do anymore, while trying to keep up with Atreus’ convoluted plans. Unfortunately, for me, the whole journey continued with that feeling that I was being force-fed why the antagonist was bad, while never quite convincing me entirely, and excusing a lot of irrational or outright silly choices by hiding behind the immaturity or mischievous nature of Loki.
Another pet peeve for me was the relentless and immersion-breaking vocalization of contemporary American expressions. In the past, I have quite enjoyed that games like AC: Odyssey or Ghost of Tsushima gave protagonists and other characters accents and phrases of the game’s location: it added to the immersion. This is not the case in Ragnarok as every character talks as if they just hopped off a Netflix show in 2022. I understand that for many this may be nit-picky, but I do very much appreciate the incredible talent doing the voice acting, and I felt they were often let down by a superficial script. I don’t expect immortal nordic Gods or beings that have been alive for millions of years to speak like surly teenagers.
The amount of cursing and the modern colloquialisms like “crap”, “stuff”, “no shit” brought me out of the story often, and it was unfortunately a consistent detraction from it. In addition to this, the seriousness of the story is constantly picked at by jabs and jokes between characters. This is not to say I don’t appreciate humor, but it felt like it was overly common and coming from everyone around me, making Kratos’ stoicism really out of place when everyone he interacts with is ready to hit a comedy club.
The story does feature powerful and touching moments, and carries the flag for the “dad of boi” feel of the previous games, giving players the opportunity to experience bonding and adventure, discover beautiful locations and share a feeling of companionship. We get a closer look at Kratos’ next stage of growth from an angry young man to a more experienced and wise Father and God. Those moments are very well executed, and will succeed in overwriting many of the shortcomings that may be present in the main plot.
Adding to the positive, the side quests and lore do a lot of heavy lifting in the fun department. Thor and some other supporting cast have their own journeys, that make them feel more like living breathing people, than just existing in YOUR story. The side stories are well crafted and interesting as well, particularly if you spend the time reading the lorebook entries on them and correlating them to Nordic myth.
Visiting the side locations and learning about the depths of narrative that went into the backstory and worldbuilding of Ragnarok is both interesting and enjoyable. From finding the site of Odin and Freya’s wedding to discovering the tragic past of the Queen of the Valkyries, there is a lot of very engaging content that should not be skipped. It adds so much to the feel of the world that I found myself not caring that the main story wasn’t all I had hoped it would be, and enjoyed myself regardless of the annoying bits.
God of War: Ragnarok Review: Gameplay
If you liked God of War 2018 for its gameplay, you will like and love the new installment. It follows the same mechanics and formula, and adds some new ones to freshen things up. You should not expect a grand departure from any of the concepts you’re familiar with, and the gameplay loop feels very similar to the previous title, particularly during the early goings, which we noted in our preview.
For those of you who haven’t played, this means that you will be wielding mainly two tried-and-true weapons that have a set of skills that you can unlock and chain into combos. Each skill can be powered up after completing a certain amount of uses, and you can also customize your playstyle with active skills that have a cooldown. There is armor and weapon upgrades and modifications to find and tinker with. Your non-combat time is spent exploring a semi-open world and unlocking locations based on the tools you have discovered, completing side quests and interacting with other characters.
God of War Ragnarok Review: Exploration
Exploration in GoW Ragnarok gives players a semi-open world with narrowish walkable corridors to run around and find things in. Most of what you see in the distance is inaccessible, but there are many nooks to delve into to retrieve special treasures.
Unlike Horizon or the modern Assassin’s Creed games, God of War doesn’t give you any markers besides teleports, landing spots and shop locations, and all collectibles and secrets can instead be tracked via the interface after collected, but you won’t be able to see them easily on the map and head right to them. This means there’s a good amount of paying attention that you are required to do in order to get all the items, and that’s something that I personally enjoyed.
You do get a compass and can mark a specific destination, but your map will never say “legendary chest 5 meters away” or anything of the sort. This was a positive of the experience that many players may appreciate, but the narrowish explorable areas also mean that it does not take the wow factor to Elden Ring levels. You will often notice things on the side with glowing markers that you will recognize as traversable, but you’ll have to unlock some tool and come back later. This “return to earlier levels with new tools” is a common aspect of these kinds of games, however in Ragnarok it becomes a bit tedious because doing the side content is fun and should not be all left for after the main story. However, if you don’t leave most of it until after this point, you will have to backtrack many more times than necessary to unlock doors and chests, as these areas require multiple tools to explore fully.
God of War: Ragnarok Review: Combat & Customization
The game uses the same combat formula as the 2018 version, with some tweaks aimed at making the combat more dynamic and giving players a new weapon to learn and master. Overall, I played the original PS2-Ps3 titles exclusively for the combat, but it was by no means the focus of my enjoyment for the reboot. Ragnarok adds some new stuff to the mix, such as more versatile shields that allow you to focus on charge or parry, new runic magic spells, some new skills. However the core of the combat continues to feel about the same, which is to say good but not great.
Enemy variety is improved from the previous title, with new movesets and patterns to watch out for. In addition, there are a lot more finishers and some really brutal close-ups and really cool animations, but while you may get into “the zone” during some boss fights as you stunlock some very powerful foe, you do a similar set of moves and have a similar tempo the entire game, with the only real “fresh” feeling coming from the excellent addition of your third weapon, which I won’t spoil for everyone. Just know that weapon is very fun! You will also enjoy some completely new combat experiences and features via specific segments that I won’t spoil here but were certainly a great break from the main combat style.
Besides that, there was no RPG-like feeling that I was getting more powerful, nor was there a feeling that my gear had a lot of impact on my performance, at least until the very end of the playthrough when I decided to take on the really hard content and had to craft some accessories in order to complete my platinum trophy.
For those who like to tinker, the game offers some serviceable options of weapon modifications, runic abilities, armor upgrades (also providing fashion!) and passive perks in the form of a multi-slot amulet that you progressively upgrade. You can also trigger some 8 different status effects with assistance and cooperation with your Companions, who also feature their own skill trees and equipment skills. This was a plus for me as it gave me some more reason to smash every pot I could see for whatever hacksilver hid there!
God of War: Ragnarok Review: Side Quests & Post Game Content
Ragnarok has interesting and engaging side content. I very much enjoyed completing these activities and spent some time reading on the whos, hows and whys of the 9 realms. You will be able to take on “labors” to improve your skills, “Favors” to complete sidequests, and find some more challenging encounters in “Post Game” after the credits roll.
You can expect the sidequest content to take you anywhere up of 25 hours, depending on your skill, the amount of time you spend reading or searching for things, and of course the difficulty you’re playing on. The post-game content is challenging on any difficulty mode, and features extra story and you may find some meaningful secret cutscenes as well.
Design, Audio and Visual
God of War Ragnarok is a visually stunning game with truly excellent graphics that push the Playstation software forward, to the point I am actually surprised this runs as good as it runs on Playstation 4. The character design is well thought out and detailed, the character models are very well done, and every cutscene is rendered in-game so all your character customizations to armor stay through and look gorgeous.
The game features performance and graphic modes that let you pick between framerate or fidelity. I personally put the game on performance as the smooth framerate makes everything better, and the graphics are outstanding on either mode. On PS5, my playthrough was nearly flawless with short and seamless loading times, quick reloads, no graphical artifacts or glitches, and only the mildest of pop-ins if moving very fast on one specific area.
On PS4, the game really taxes the hardware and the loading screens are a lot longer, there is some texture loading delay, and you may encounter some more bugs and issues. Of note, I encountered about 4 serious bugs during my PS4 playthrough: the first was a jump that let me fall through the world without ever dying. The second was a conversation that began muted and then locked me in the conversation animation without any way to exit. A really scary one was when one of the bigger side quests “cancelled” on me after completing a step, preventing any further progression, and lastly the worst was a really bad crash-to-home bug when facing the last boss.
All of these issues were quickly solved by simply rolling back to an earlier save (and the game gives you PLENTY of autosaves and 60 manual saveslots). The final battle one I eventually figured out one specific attack seemed to be the culprit and I simply “got gud” and didn’t get hit by it. We have reported the issues to Sony who have already put out one patch during the review window, so we expect these will be addressed quickly and possibly before launch. Four glitches in a 50 hour playthrough on a review copy before day 1 patch is not a big deal so I feel the game is already in a good spot in this regard.
Audio-wise God of War Ragnarok keeps the standard set by other Sony exclusives and its predecessor by delivering top-notch voice acting and helpful, believable sound effects. There are many sound-based accessibility clues such as companions calling out attack directions or helping with progression, chests and secrets making special noises, and even a sound effect to hint at a nearby crow to smash. There are also several options to tune the audio that many people will appreciate, particularly the one that lets you boost character voices only. I did wish there was a slider to diminish the amount of clues and interjections from your companions, as these felt a little too frequent for my taste, but I’m not sure most people will care about that.
The musical score is good but somewhat underwhelming. You may enjoy the quiet “idle” exploration music, but the only time I really noticed the music was during the most intense boss fights, and at some points it felt like it was out of pace or “too loud” if that makes sense. I wasn’t blown away by the themes and I don’t have any stuck in my head, so overall they were serviceable without being impactful to me.
God of War Ragnarok Review: Playtime, Replayability & Longevity
Adventure games like God of War don’t often offer a lot of replayability, so we judge this aspect on the amount of content available, the quality level of that content, and the possibility of long-term enjoyment of the game.
You can expect to complete the main story with minimal sidetracking and almost no reading in about 20 to 25 hours. You can then add another 25+ hours of side content, leaving platinum seekers looking at about 50 hours for a “full” playthrough. If you read all the journal entries, let all the dialogues play out and actually find every post-game secret, you are likely looking at about 70 hours, depending on the difficulty level and your skill, and assuming you’re not using a guide to find everything quickly. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out where some puzzle bells were!
The game left some mystery open for DLC or another saga, but given the previous game didn’t get any extras I am not sure that there will be any to look forward to, so it’s possible that is all the time you’ll get with the game. If you are looking for something to play consistently for months, this is likely not it, but if you seek a strong single playthrough it will probably tick your boxes.
The content of God of War Ragnarok is very similar to the previous game, coming to about the exact time it took me to platinum the 2018 title. It’s a sweetspot where the story feels long but not too long and the side content adds a lot of value.
The asking price for the title can be seen as steep, however I feel like it is a worthy purchase for anyone that is interested in this franchise, as it provides great production value and a high quality, high polish experience that is not common in gaming. If you enjoyed the previous game you will enjoy this one for sure, and if you missed out on the previous game you will probably get even a bit more than others as a lot of the systems are new to you.
God of War: Ragnarok Review: Final Thoughts
God of War: Ragnarok is an epic tale of celestial struggle with emotional narratives of love, family, personal growth, hope and despair weaved together for added depth. And while the main storyline wasn’t without significant flaws for me, spending time doing the side quests provided so much more context to the lore and world that it made up for it in many ways.
Incredibly high production values that keep your jaw hanging open for a large portion of your playthrough, and new gameplay features enhance God of War: Ragnarok’s combat, though it can still get a bit repetitive at times, particularly on harder difficulties where enemies can become damage sponges.
In short, God of War: Ragnarok is a worthy successor to the previous title in practically every way, but it is not the flawless master piece I was hoping it would be. Considering that God of War 2018 is often referenced as the best PS4 “exclusive” game of all time, there were incredibly high expectations for this game, expectations that I’m not sure they were ever going to be able to meet.
Sony seems to have mastered a formula, one that produces highly pleasant albeit somewhat safe games, which results in a very highly polished and fun experience that just falls short of true greatness, yet should not be missed.
God of War: Ragnarok is a highly polished and incredibly produced but predictable entry into the series. A worthy continuation of the reboot, this is another must-play Sony title that continues to define the development style of first party studios.