Release Date : November 9, 2022
Developer(s) : Santa Monica Studio
Publisher(s) : Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platforms : PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
Two years after its announcement that shook the Internet and made many players go crazy with a simple logo, God of War Ragnarok is now available on PS5 and PS4. On our side, we’ve already experienced this new unforgettable journey that knocked us out again.
At the end of its rope with a mediocre GOW Ascension, the franchise took the time to think about the direction to take, to re-invent itself and to regain its greatness as well as its former glory. A real break that allowed Kratos to regain his throne. And with God of War Ragnarok, he’s not willing to lose it.
A DUO THAT HAS MATURED
God of War Ragnarok chooses, like its elder brother, to immerse the player from the beginning with a sequence shot that starts as soon as a new game is launched. We find a powerful Kratos, with a silky beard, but his heart is still filled with sadness by his wife’s death and the farewell that took place a few years earlier. This drama mixed with Fimbulwinter, the winter that precedes Ragnarök and its extreme conditions, also seems to affect the demigod of war more than ever. He appears more raw. Despite his heavy history that still haunts him, he must honor the memory of his deceased and be there for his son Atreus, to help him understand his destiny and fulfill it.
Although Kratos’ face bears all the scars of his sinister past, our divine bald man has been putting aside all blind and extreme vengeance for a long time to educate his son the hard way with the part of humanity that remains in him. He destroys any enemy on his way but with a certain moderation. His wisdom is shown in his fatherly behavior with Atreus. He cracks the shell more and listens more than before, while being as tough as a Spartan’s fists when necessary.
Atreus, on the other hand, has gone from the “slap-happy kid” – but ultimately endearing – to the “slap-happy teenager” in search of an identity. The evolution of the relationship between the two is the main focus of this journey. The Last of Us influence is still present in this new adventure, and Santa Monica Studio does a brilliant job here. Christopher Judge (Kratos) and Sunny Suljic (Atreus) are impressive for their investment and their respective talent, with a more qualified performance, as well as other actors in key roles.
GOD OF WAR RAGNAROK, A LIVE NORSE SAGA
You think you’ve seen everything in God of War (2018) to the point of making it the best episode in the series? Think again, you’re far from the truth. It is extremely difficult for us to talk about it without going into details, without spoiling anything, but that’s what we will try to do because we don’t want to ruin the many surprises and avoid taking away the pleasure of the discovery. So yes, you’ll have to take our word for it: God of War Ragnarok is a live Norse saga that is simply breathtaking and perfects the narrative dimension introduced during the re-invention of the franchise.
We go through all kinds of emotions: from goosebumps for reasons we won’t mention, to hilarious jokes and punchlines from the dwarf Brok or Mimir, the talking head. We could even shed a tear during a strong sequence perfectly served by music that makes you shiver like the rest of the soundtrack. There is sensitivity, brutality, joy, in short all the ingredients of the new formula.
The main theme of this game is of course Ragnarök, but the developers take the opportunity to develop their characters further, who have their own personal stories, including Kratos. As a fan, we definitely enjoy the references to Kratos’ past, which are introduced into the story in a natural way and highlight the new personality of our Greek general. Even the supporting characters are very well done.
The game is also extremely surprising regarding the way it approaches its situations. Very clearly, we did not expect such a turn for some sequences. Everything is not necessarily white or black but grey. The protagonists, the story and all the elements of the game are highlighted by a brilliant direction once again, keeping the momentum until the end with spectacular scenes. Everything is more brutal, vital, with a rhythm worthy of Hades’ underworld.
A BREATHTAKING UNIVERSE
Amazing in its story and the characters it portrays, God of War Ragnarok is also incredible in the conception of the Norse mythology. Nothing is left to chance, especially not the brilliance of the environments. This sequel multiplies the wonderful sceneries, both technically and artistically. It may not be the expected PS5 smackdown – improvements are possible – but it’s still a blast and one of the most beautiful games on the market. We stopped more than once to admire the landscapes. Panoramas that we visited with pleasure, as the developers wished. The new kingdoms, like Svartalfheim, the dwarves’ realm, encourage exploration for several reasons, to enjoy the journey initially, but also because Santa Monica Studio has reinforced this aspect.
Because from now on, Kratos will take out his weapons, but not only to break faces. The Leviathan Axe as well as the Chaos Blades become tools to solve environmental puzzles thanks to their properties. Frost for the first one, blazing fire for the second one. Rest assured, none of the puzzles will block your way and they all rely on simple observation to find your path. These passages are therefore minimally rewarding without being frustrating. Freezing water for example will open a route, throwing the Axe at a stone at night will sometimes be necessary to activate switches, deploying a blade on a highlighted point will boost you to higher ground etc.
The other reason is to upgrade the characters by getting Artifacts, treasure map items, or by completing tasks like parrying a number of enemies etc. The side missions “Favors” can expand the game’s story and the background of your companions. Without aiming for 100%, we advise you to complete these quests at least so that you don’t miss out on events that are directly related to the main story.
GOD OF WAR RAGNAROK AND ITS EVEN MORE EXCITING BATTLES
God of War Ragnarok also imposes itself during its super-powerful fights, which become even more intense. Here again, the progression margin between the two games is obvious. The shoulder view and the heaviness of Kratos are still present, but Santa Monica Studio has definitely merged the old and the new formula of the franchise. And you can feel it from the first blow of the axe or the blade in your enemies’ faces. The battles are much more dynamic, whether it’s in the movements or in the reactivity when we hit our poor preys with force. You can manhandle your opponents in all directions, play with them, before finishing them off. This sequel is also more vertical than before, since as said before, the Chaos Blades can be used to climb everywhere and thus take our targets from the back.
“Death from Above”, a new attack, has been added in this sense. An enemy below? Just rush up and throw yourself into the air to smash the target. The combat system is clearly fun and fights often end with severed heads, bodies ripped in half, and other violent finishes. Yes, the gore is back! Without going into the excess of the old games, God of War Ragnarok manages to go overboard with human-sized rivals. The impressive implementation does the rest and gives us the illusion of titanic fights.
This episode also inserts a new mechanic called “Weapon Signature Abilities” to power-up your weapons with ice or fire. Previously, you could charge a Chaos Blade attack by spinning one of them, for example, but that was a special skill. Now it’s available directly by holding or mashing the key that recalls the Axe. In addition to the spectacular visual effect, it also increases the amount of damage done.
Kratos’ defensive palette is also more developed with different types of shields, including the Guardian, taken from the last game, in order to break the enemy’s guard. There’s also the Dauntless shield, which rewards perfect parries, Onslaught shield, which allows you to charge your enemies, and the Shatter Star shield, which can be used to push your opponents away with a powerful blow. And Atreus? Does he just sit back and watch his daddy beat up beasts bigger than him? No, he’ll still take initiative automatically or if called upon. His sonic and sigil arrows provide additional effects to the attacks. A fire attack? sigil arrows will cause an elemental explosion.
Runic attacks (L1 + light or heavy attack) are still there, but Spartan Rage has evolved with three types of actions: Fury (to damage while recovering some health), Valor (for healing only), and Wrath (for massive damage or finishers on regular enemies). All of these additions/redesigns make the fights deeper, more strategic and, once again, more dynamic. As for the bestiary that was criticized in the previous game, it is now a distant memory. Enemies are very varied and you always come across new ones, small creatures as well as mid-bosses and bosses, which can hurt, seriously hurt.
It’s a fact, and we can see it from the first fights, GOW Ragnarok is more demanding with a higher difficulty, even in normal. The game expects the player to exploit the full range of gameplay possibilities and not just hammer away at an identical attack over and over. Frustrating? No, because there is a balance with many checkpoints. On the other hand, and we insist on this, on the highest difficulty modes, it might be another story… The fights are also more immersive with the DualSense features. It’s not the best implementation we’ve seen but it provides a more refined feeling.
DON’T BE SORRY, BE BETTER
We could still talk about the new features… but shhh! A quick point about the whole action-RPG dimension of God of War Ragnarok. We have a mixture of rebrandings and new features. The relics that grant special powers like partial life regeneration have become talismans. The skill tree is divided into three categories: Technique, Ranged, and Close combat. As before, abilities can be unlocked by spending experience. Strength, Defense, Runic Power, Vitality, and Luck stats are improved with armor equipment ( chest, wrist, and waist armor) or weapon accessories. Enchantments also help to boost certain aspects such as the damage of all ranged attacks. The innovation is more about the skill modifiers. Modules that affect abilities.
In God of War Ragnarok, the more you use a move, the more it can be strengthened to the point of unlocking a slot to add a skill modifier such as “Element” which intensifies the damage of fire or ice effects, “Momentum” which increases the charge of frost and burn etc. Extras that do the job and, above all, ensure that the show goes on. If Kratos and Atreus can improve, so can Santa Monica Studio. The developers therefore wanted to make a copy close to perfection that could be approached by as many players as possible. And they have adopted the approach of their buddies from Naughty Dog with The Last of Us 2 concerning accessibility settings. With more than 60 options that address various issues related to vision, hearing, motor skills, and cognitive functions, Ragnarok is a model of its kind for people with disabilities.
God of War Ragnarok is a legacy for the franchise that has had our jaws dropped from the first few hours. With human, touching, and powerful characters, a narrative worthy of the greatest and careful writing, this episode took us through a whole bunch of emotions. The amazing pace and the mind-blowing direction are mixed with an exhilarating combat system that manages to merge the old and the new formula to give birth to something new and familiar at the same time. More vibrant, more brutal, and more intense, this game has exceeded our expectations and can easily compete for the Game of The Year award. A true love letter to God of War fans and a masterpiece that will make history.