Googling Ragnarok before “Santa Monica Studio” announced their sequel to the incredibly received God of War (2018), you’d see a flurry of Marvel references or even Wikipedia pages devoted to Norse mythologies version of the Apocolypse. Now you google Ragnarok, and most links, news, and images all refer to the incredible 2022 God of War: Ragnarok.
This game has exploded onto the scene in a fashion only an iconic game like God of War can.
This review is an in-progress playthrough; I’m around twelve hours in at writing.
God of War is a labour of love for me; rushing this game to write a review is downright scandalous. The art, story, music, puzzles, exploration and lore give so much depth to this game. I’m even learning valuable fatherhood life lessons from Kratos.
This review, therefore, will consist of three main sections. Prologue will discuss previous titles and the story of Kratos. Ragnarok will discuss a spoiler-free review of my time so far, and then at the end, after my rating, a spoiler-filled Give me God of War section. Mainly for my excitement and the questions I currently have. First, a little history.
Seventeen years ago, I picked up an unassuming game for the PlayStation 2, the story of a vengeful spartan, loosely based on ancient Greek mythology, driven by hate and vengeance. On a quest for revenge and blood (lots of blood), after a deceitful god tricked him into killing his wife and daughter.
Regarded as one of the best action-adventure games of all time, it spawned a legacy of sequels I will remember forever—the moment I took control of Kratos, I felt a connection with a game unlike anything before. The story and style of gameplay mixed with mythology were a winner.
Fast forward to 2010, when I thought the story ended with the finale of God of War 3, as Kratos plunges the blade of Olympus into himself to give hope to humanity. However, the post-credits scene showed blood leading away from the blade, implying his survival, but where could he have gone?
Four years later, Santa Monica Studios confirmed a “reboot” of the favoured title, and yes, the fans’ minds did wonder. Over the next few years, there were some leaks, but E3 2016 gave us our confirmation with a gameplay demo. This time we saw a full-bearded, weathered Kratos teaching his son how to hunt.
This title wasn’t a reboot but a reimagining of what’s next for Kratos, setting the relaunch roughly 150 years after GOW3. This latest God of War received universal praise, mainly around a dynamic story between our anti-hero Kratos and his son Atreus. Many parents felt that pain of dragging a child around as we all empathised with Kratos.
Revitalising the series, God of War was awarded Game of the Year numerous times and has sold 23million units up to the beginning of November 2022.
Prologue – The “condensed” story so far
It’s worth noting that the previous series played a huge part in the prologue to Kratos life before meeting his new wife, Faye (Laufey). Here’s a very snappy synopsis.
Kratos was born in Sparta, the demi-god of one of Zeus’ many late-night calls. Kratos raised a Spartan, a warrior primed for one thing, war! At this point, he was unbeknown to his Olympian heritage. Zeus then learns of a prophecy that one of his children would be his demise, just as he murdered his father, Cronos.
Athena and Ares are sent to the mortal realm to find and kill these illegitimate offspring, inadvertently delivering the wrong child (Deimos) to Zeus. As Kratos grew stronger, he succumbed to near death in battle, where he swore allegiance to Ares, bestowing upon him the glorious Blades of Chaos. Defeating an entire army by himself and blinded by blood rage, Ares sought to free Kratos from his mortal shackles and teleported Kratos previous wife and child to a temple where he unknowingly slaughtered them. Cursed to wear his family’s ashes as skin, he broke his vow and swore revenge on Ares. Fast forward through a myriad of games, God killing, and Greek mythology, we end with the prophecy fulfilling.
Yet vengeance led to nothingness for Kratos; after being driven by rage and hate for years, he had nothing.
We reconnect with Kratos all these years later in the frozen lands. Putting his legacy behind him, he married and had a child, Atreus. However, Faye has died as we open; and Kratos finds himself solely caring for this child, his biggest challenge so far.
God of War sees us fulfil the final wishes of Faye while Kratos wrestles with his past and learns how to raise Atreus not only to be strong but a better man than he.
So “previously on” God of War;
- Kratos kills Baldur, kind of
- The two take a side unwillingly in Alfheim
- Jormungandr is a friendly world serpent
- Mimir becomes a body-less backpack
- Kratos grunts a lot
- We take lots of boat rides
- Magni dies
- Meet Freya
- Atreus gets a cough
- Helheim has the antidote.
- “BOY” 119 times (thanks Reddit)
- Modi dies
- Blades of Chaos make a comeback
- Lots of Valkyries die
- Freya is Odin’s ex
- Freya is also Baldur’s mother (shock)
- Baldur tries to kill his mother, and Kratos kills him
- Freya is furious
- We arrive in Jotunheim to learn Faye was/is a giant
- Surpise, Atreus is Loki (uh-oh)
- Nap time as Fimbulwinter kicks in 100 years early
- Thunder followed shortly by Lightning
- Who’s at the door; that’s Thor
- End Credits
Ragnarok (Spoiler Free)
As stated earlier, I am twelve hours into the game. Even though Thor is outside their home at the end of the previous game, we open to a slightly different setting. Unsurprising, we get a little more history between the end of the last game and that post-credit scene that stoked the flames of keyboards everywhere.
Kratos feels worn; it’s fair to say the previous game took its toll on him. The journey of his loss, the constant weight of raising a child safely in a world set to kill them both and once more, bickering Gods.
Ragnarok now signals the end of the Gods, as we probably all have read on numerous occasions or from certain film franchises. However, in this saga, Kratos and Atreus travel the nine realms to find a way to prevent Ragnarok from happening, uncover why Atreus is named Loki and journey to find a long lost God.
Kratos continues his strict teachings to Atreus to make him a better man than he is, and now Atreus is a teenager, a rebellious one at that, but he has also slowly started to bond with his child. This relationship is what drives the original 2018 God of War, and it’s what binds the sequel together, much like the branches of Yggdrasil. The dialogue and scripting of Kratos (Christopher Judge) and Atreus (Sunny Suljic) are what pull you into the narrative. It’s poetic in its approach, with subtle blends of parental nuances, advice, arguments, lore, easter eggs and comedy. The chemistry between characters is well-balanced and gives depth to the story. For me, the depth of detail is shown when you’re simply looting and other background characters conversations happen, so it’s worth listening.
Lots of Snow
For those versed in the previous title, the gameplay mechanics and environments have followed over, with subtle hints as you traverse the realms. Not only does this give the game a fresh coat of snow, but it’s a different perspective on once previously travelled paths. The Leviathan Axe and Blades of Chaos work similarly but now have opened up new terrain traversal with hook and climbing options.
Unlike the previous game, the weapons are available immediately, and mastery of these weapons is something the game desires.
Fighting monsters with combos, runes, and Atreus have all been revisited and offer a slightly different experience. Each monster has a fighting style and exploits to overcome it.
Graphically the game is stunning, with vivid colours, depth of light and dark areas, and environmental behaviours that mimic real life. These are designed to draw you into this world and be a part of it.
Santa Monica Studios has delivered for me a game I cannot fault. Perfectly beautiful. The way the camera moves about the game is fluid, the combat is fun and doesn’t force combos as before, the voice-over acting is Hollywood-level, and the script has kept me hooked since I pressed start.
Delivering a spoiler-free review was challenging because so much happens even within the first hour, and now being 12 hours in, I’ve fallen deep into the lore and a story that keeps unravelling.
If you want to read a more spoiler-ridden review, continue below the rating.
I however, depart with three tips for maximum enjoyment and ultimate power. Chests are powerful, so explore a little more. Ravens are useful, so kill them when you see them. Finally do side quests, there is so much story to uncover, you’d be doing yourself a disservice.
Rapid Reviews Rating
5 out of 5
Give me God of War
Final Warning. Spoilers ahead.
After twelve hours, quite a lot has happened, but I wanted to touch briefly on a few things that are going on in my mind.
The unravelling of the plot shows we have inadvertently caused some issues across the nine realms. What else have we broken? Did we start Fimbulwinter when we killed Baldur!
Defeating the dark elves has caused an imbalance in Alfheim, and the reluctance of Kratos to fight rings truer. Now we start to see the effect we have had from the previous game. But the prophecy shows everyone fighting against Odin, how does this work with the imbalance.
Ragnarok prophesies that even if Odin dies, the other realms look to survive, but does Loki betray his father, or does he pull a Loki’esque deceitful manoeuvre? Does Kratos die to save Loki?
Loki is also more mischievous and now explores without his father. His need to be the “hero” blinds his vision, and flashes of old Kratos emerge. The blatant disrespect of his father’s wishes holds, for now, no comeuppance, but I’m sure it will soon.
Playing as Loki also feels faster and more fluid. He is delightful to control; his conversations with Angrboda are those of a child curious to fill a void, and his transformation through “rage” give a depth to his play-style akin to Kratos. Will we get different animal transformations?
Initially, I felt sad that this was designed possibly as a bridge to Loki in his own title. Does Ragnarok signal the end of Kratos? Is the prophecy true? Like in the Last of Us Part 2, where you play as Abby, you begin to enjoy the difference. Am I ready to let go of Kratos once and for all? Conflict lives inside me, and the developers know it.
Also, how is he going to free the giants from the marbles? Do they need soil and water?
I have so many questions, and as eager as I am to explore the outcome, Santa Monica Studios have confirmed that Ragnarok is the end, and the series won’t become a trilogy.
I just don’t know if I’m ready for that.