God of War: Ragnarok Review

Richard Walker

2018's God of War unearthed new layers of depth in its hero, Kratos, and God of War Ragnarök fleshes out the raging 'god killer' even further, while his relationship with son Atreus grows increasingly fractious. We find the musclebound father and his teen offspring (the ‘boy’ is almost a man) in the shadow of the titular apocalyptic event, enduring the biting cold of Fimbulwinter, a three-year permafrost that has engulfed the land. Meanwhile, Odin has designs on learning the truth behind all creation. What follows is a wonderfully epic mythological yarn, unfolding across every one of the Nine Realms, from the snowy climes of Midgard to the hostile jungles of Vanaheim, the hellish fires of Muspelheim and the industrial dwarven realm of Svartalfheim. Building upon what's come before, God of War Ragnarök is a triumphant sequel, with its fair share of new ideas, a vastly expanded world and narrative, and that same fantastically crunchy, uniquely gratifying combat.

Please. We've fought far bigger, scarier things than this.

Like the previous game, God of War Ragnarök adopts a semi-open-world structure, enabling you to freely travel between realms, navigating the larger areas by boat or wolf-drawn sled. And while there's some familiarity in the places you'll explore, developer Santa Monica Studio has gone to great lengths to ensure that they look and feel different, whether it's the frozen Lake of Nine or the elven realm of Alfheim – it's great to revisit old haunts to see how they've been transformed by Fimbulwinter and the intervening years. Meanwhile, Kratos and Atreus find themselves grappling with a doom-laden prophecy, which, naturally, revolves around the coming of Ragnarök itself.

As Atreus strives to understand his fate, and whether he can change what has been foretold, Kratos realises that protecting his son is growing increasingly difficult, and at some point he may have to let go. As such, there are moments that expose Kratos' vulnerability, as he comes to terms with the futility of his efforts, and the futility of an unavoidable war. God of War Ragnarök's story is superb, hitting all of the right beats in a well paced and engaging saga-closing chapter, which leaves just enough threads dangling tantalisingly. When you're not following 'The Path' (Ragnarök's main mission thread) and engaging in spectacular boss battles with the likes of Thor (finally!), there are myriad side quests, or 'Favours', to complete, all of which prove enormously worthwhile, some earning armour pieces, others granting valuable upgrades.

God of War Ragnarök's RPG aspects are more intricate and far better presented than they were in its predecessor, while the combat is a touch faster, and more fluid, more responsive, more flexible. Ostensibly, the refinements to the formula may seem subtle, but through direct comparison the improvements are obvious, conspiring to make the sequel a smoother and more inviting experience. It's also far simpler to travel between realms, bypassing the faff of having to visit Tyr's Temple every time you want to venture to a new region. Everything about Ragnarök is tighter and more polished – there's very little to fault here.

But it's the attention to detail that's truly astonishing. Every one of the game's realms looks utterly stunning, the art direction, by Raf Grassetti, frequently serving up jaw-dropping sights, be it a foreboding crimson sky, a vertiginous snow-capped mountain, or a colossal whale-like creature rising from a lake. God of War has always revelled in building its sagas on a grand scale, and Ragnarök is no different, conjuring incredible vistas, towering characters, and even taller stories throughout its vast Norse world. Meanwhile, new abilities, items, and even a divine new weapon freshen things up, while presenting new traversal skills and opportunities for metroidvania-style exploration.

Each visit to dwarven blacksmiths Brok and Sindri brings with it a series of decisions to carefully ponder, too, as you choose the optimum armour and shield configurations to suit your playstyle, as well as the ideal set of enchantments to slot into your amulet. There are countless builds you can assemble for Kratos, favouring raw strength over defence, or vitality, luck, and survivability to aid you in battle. Enhancing the frosty Leviathan Axe and fiery Blades of Chaos also becomes an involving affair once again, as you endeavour to increase Kratos' power for the conflicts that lay ahead. Atreus, too, has much more to offer, with sonic and sigil arrows – the former ideal for stunning enemies, while the latter amplify elemental effects when struck.

We've been waiting four years for this.

Kratos and Atreus' new weapons and abilities also unlock further puzzle-solving potential, assuming you want to open every Nornir Chest, explore every nook, defeat every one of the dozen Berserker bosses, and complete the myriad excellent side quests. And, frankly, why wouldn't you? God of War Ragnarök's diverse world is a place you'll want to immerse yourself in, and absorb in its entirety – it's utterly and unreservedly outstanding. A dazzling achievement, God of War Ragnarök expands upon everything that made 2018's God of War feel like such a watershed moment for Santa Monica Studio, developing the relationship between father and son in a meaningful and wonderfully emotional way, making for yet another essential PlayStation exclusive.

God of War: Ragnarok

God of War Ragnarok is everything a sequel should be, refining the combat, traversal mechanics, and RPG systems introduced in the 2018 game. And while there's nary a hint of what's coming next, on the strength of this, Krato’s journey surely won't end here.

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Bear McCreary returns with another soaring orchestral soundtrack, while the game’s cast of performers are sensational across the board.


Absolutely stunning. Ragnarok’s take on the Nine Realms is the stuff of dreams, especially on PlayStation 5.


You wouldn’t have thought that Santa Monica Studio could do much to improve upon the last game, but it has, in practically every conceivable way. It’s brilliant.


A bigger game than its 2018 predecessor, Ragnarok is no less laden in detail and beautiful sights to ogle. This is 30-40 hours of pure spun gold.


The perfect companion to a sweeping epic, Ragnarok’s trophy list pushes you into all corners of the Nine Realms for battles with Berserkers, side quests, and more.

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