In the world of Norse mythology, Ragnarok is seen as the end of everything and in the case of God of War Ragnarok, it marks the perfect swansong for Sony's PS4 as we transition into the PS5 era fully.
While there may be more games that get cross-gen releases, this title is to the PS4 what the first iteration of The Last of Us was to the PS3. One last hurrah for the console as it rides off into the sunset and while the bar for this game was high, God of War Ragnarok clears it and more.
A Tale of Mythological Proportions
While God of War is a series that has been mostly synonymous with its massive boss battle encounters and hack-and-slash combat, Ragnarok, much like 2018's reboot of the franchise, instead focuses on providing an excellent narrative experience
God of War Ragnarok takes a much broader and grander approach to its narrative when compared to its prequel's more tightly-weaved plot, something which it executes perfectly.
Following on from the original, we find Kratos and Atreus now on the path to Ragnarok with Atreus discovering more about his powers as a half-god and the role he plays in the prophecy of Ragnarok.
Ragnarok takes us across the nine realms, all of which are beautifully crafted by the team at Sony Santa Monica to look visually stark and unique from each other. Every single realm is a feast for the eyes and once a photo mode is added, it will likely take up a lot of my time as I try to capture just how beautiful this game is.
Between the moments of my jaw dropping from how pretty Ragnarok is, we have a plot that sees the player try to put a stop to the tyranny of Odin, meeting new and old characters alike in a journey that wouldn't be amiss in the Norse epics and legends that it is inspired by.
It is truly a gripping tale from start to finish and one that is carried by the incredible performances of one of the most truly brilliant ensemble casts that I have ever encountered in a video game, with every actor putting on a memorable performance that will truly engross you as you experience the story.
The strongest and most impactful of these performances has to be Danielle Bisuitti as Freya, who puts on a show-stealing performance in her expanded role for the sequel. I was completely and utterly captivated whenever Freya was on my screen, with her personal story arc being just as engaging as the overall plotline.
Of course, we also have to mention Christopher Judge and Sunny Suljic as Kratos and Atreus respectively who are the foundation of this excellent narrative, carrying the journey with their excellent portrayals of the characters.
The best moments of God of War Ragnarok, however, are absolutely the quiet moments when Judge and Suljic get time to flex their talents together but also their solo moments or one-on-one talks with the other characters.
This game finds the time to develop its entire cast far beyond what the 2018 title did and it made God of War Ragnarok a narrative experience that's among the greatest this medium has to offer.
Action Worthy of Valhalla
For those coming into God of War Ragnarok after having recently finished playing or re-playing the previous game, Sony Santa Monica wastes little time jumping into the action and the intrigue.
From the moment you press start on Kratos sitting in the cave, the game balances its highs and lows of action to perfection, presenting an exciting continuation of threads from the 2018 title and new threads that are guaranteed to get you hyped for the journey ahead.
God of War Ragnarok has the greatest opening two hours of action I've ever experienced in any video game, constantly keeping me on the edge of my seat and glued to the screen as it jumped from set-pieces and interactive cutscenes to combat to boss battles constantly.
Ragnarok is a game that starts with its dial maxed out at 10 and tactically turns it down and backs up again throughout the entire experience to make for something unforgettable
Standard combat and movement are where Ragnarok makes the most improvements over 2018's God of War. Kratos feels a lot more fluid when he's hacking and slashing through his enemies, the variety of which is massively improved upon as well.
Upgrades and skills feel a lot more useful as a whole, with the use of separate XP pools for Kratos and other characters making the process a lot simpler.
To balance this, God of War Ragnarok feels more challenging than the previous game. I completed my playthrough on the standard "Give me balance" difficulty and found that it provided enough of a struggle to keep encounters tense. This allows the skills of both characters and players to shine more brightly.
Boss battles are where the game's combat is truly at its finest. In almost a Souls-esc kind of way, there is a sense of grandeur to many of the major encounters throughout God of War Ragnarok. Challenging encounters with various changing patterns to learn and a combat system which is intuitive and easy to pick up but difficult to master.
While I never did quite reach that high-skill level, there were a handful of bosses where it just clicked for me and I breezed through them in a matter of minutes, feeling like the true God of War.
Anyone Can Be a God
Perhaps my favourite part of God of War Ragnarok, however, is what will likely be an unappreciated element of the game. The increased amount of accessibility and customisation options.
As is becoming a more common occurrence in the AAA gaming scene, the moment you load up God of War Ragnarok, you are presented with the option for a full accessibility set-up, letting you customize the experience so that it's the best possible experience for you.
There is a wide array of video and audio accessibility options at your disposal, along with your standard array of motion reduction options and even some minor control changes to help people enjoy the game in a way that benefits them.
While the game's implementation of its accessibility options isn't perfect, it's a much-needed step in the right direction and hopefully will become the standard for AAA games in the future so gaming can truly be for everyone
It's been two years since the release of the PS5 and while it's been an impressive leap over the PS4 and has had some great games, none have really felt like a must-play. Until now.
2022 has been a strong year, bookended by massive titles for Sony and while Horizon Forbidden West was a brilliant title and is in the conversation for Game of the Year... God of War Ragnarok is an absolute masterpiece.
Everything about this game just works beautifully together with its slick combat colliding with its beautifully directed cutscenes and performances to create a title that is genuinely hard to put down.
I was hooked throughout the entire experience and I'll likely still be hooked once I go back to complete all the side-quests I missed the first time around, determined to squeeze every last bit of story out of the game.