God of War Ragnarök Review: Appropriate End to the Norse Age of Kratos and Atreus

God of War Ragnarök Review: Appropriate End to the Norse Age of Kratos and Atreus

God of War Ragnarök — releasing November 9 for PS4 and PS5 — has a mighty task on its hands. How do you follow a critically acclaimed and universally loved soft reboot that reinvigorated the franchise? with 2018 God of War, Santa Monica Studio not only transported its Greek demigod Kratos into Norse mythology, but also reinvented some key aspects of the series along the way. Its director, Cory Barlog, faced criticism from Sony and the team. But he delivered, in spades. That success means a lot in Ragnarök, which has the added task of bringing God of War’s Norse era to an end. (That’s fitting. After all, Ragnarök leads to the end of days. Next time you see Kratos, he may appear in Mayan or Egyptian mythology, as was hinted at earlier.)

But back to the question at hand. The answer is simple: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. God of War Ragnarök maintains or builds on the foundation laid by its predecessor. It’s as cinematic as ever, told in a deceptive one-shot that is never interrupted. This illusion is broken whenever Kratos travels through portals, which is part of how Ragnarok hides its loading screens. (It also has unnecessary long tunnels, rocks you have to squeeze through, or places you have to crouch.) The immersive cinematography is married to the writing (Matt Sophos and Richard Gaubert) and direction (Eric Williams) which is very good. It looks like a movie. In fact, the Ragnarök scenes were so involved at times that I didn’t want them to end, because then I’d have to play.

This is a problem with the medium itself. Because video games need to give players something to do – not just for a few minutes, but for hours and hours. More so for AAA titles that must “earn” their price tag – their stories almost always suffer as a result. This also happens in God of War Ragnarök. That said, it seems silly to complain when playing is as much fun as it is here. Ragnarök retains the frenetic, satisfying, and sometimes comical combat of 2018 God of War, although the camera continues to be tighter than many would prefer. It builds on what we’ve seen with some new moves and mechanics, and allows Kratos’ now-teenage son Atreus to be a more active participant.

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God of War Ragnarok Review: Combat

The biggest change to attack is the use of the triangle button, whether on DualSense (for PS5) or DualShock 4 (with PS4). in 2018 God of War, the triangle button was used to equip or retrieve the Leviathan Axe. But if you already had the ax in your hand, the triangle button did nothing. In God of War Ragnarök, holding down the triangle button covers the ax in ice. Your next melee or ranged attack – R1 or R2 respectively on both PlayStation controllers – will send an additional chill to your enemies. You can do something similar with the Blades of Chaos, Kratos’ signature weapon from the Greek era, which is now available from the start in Ragnarök. Except instead of ice, the effect is naturally fiery.

These skills form part of God of War Ragnarok’s skill tree, where you can spend XP – gained from completing objectives – to teach Kratos and Atreus a variety of skills, spanning melee, ranged, technique and instinct talents. As you use these new skills, you’ll unlock new levels, going from bronze to silver to gold. Each time you level up, you can choose how to improve that skill. Even though there are a decent amount of options built into Ragnarök, I found the level system interesting. Character growth is defined, in a sense, by your play style, and not just by the arbitrary allocation of earned XP. To be fair, it does exist, but how you approach combat is equally valuable. If you prefer a weapon or attack a lot, this becomes more powerful than the rest of your tools.

While many of the abilities improve the versatility of your weapons, this isn’t the only way to upgrade them. There is the standard method: you earn XP and gather resources as you play and use them to increase the quality and strength of weapons. In addition, you can also insert runes – awarded after defeating minibosses – for elemental effects. Both weapons, be it the ax or the blades, offer a light and heavy rune attack in God of War Ragnarök. They’re great for crowd control and dealing extra damage, though you’ll need to be careful with their cooldown timers.

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God of War Ragnarök is full of all kinds of strange creatures
Photo credit: Sony/Santa Monica Studio

Weapons also help in crossing Ragnarök. The Blades of Chaos work like grappling hooks – these are the most ubiquitous tools in modern games – allowing you to climb to places you couldn’t otherwise, interact with objects that help unlock loot or new areas, or even latch onto enemies to wreak havoc. Also, Kratos’ movement can help in combat. In God of War Ragnarök, you can run off cliffs and slam into enemies below, dealing damage to them and those nearby.

What I love about combat in God of War Ragnarök is that it’s a lesson in how you can do more with less. There are only two weapons here – the ax and the blades – but still a wide variety of gameplay. You can charge your weapons with ice or fire, hold buttons to trigger special combos, and of course, line up attacks in a coordinated way to maximize the damage you deal.

What I don’t love is how the game limits what you can see. Enemies get free shots in God of War Ragnarök simply because the camera won’t let you see them. And the way Kratos dodges attacks isn’t always natural. Also, while you can command your companions – be it Atreus or someone else – to aid you in combat, it feels very limited in the heat of battle. In most cases, companions just help you with the enemy you’re already focusing on, or those in your line of sight. They will rarely attack anyone not in their sight, leaving them open to attacking you.

Plus, God of War Ragnarök is all about old school level game design. Enemies that routinely spawn out of the ground are meaningless fodder – they exist only to help you level up villains in the story. This is also true for some mini-bosses that appear out of nowhere to help you gain XP. Without a narrative purpose, it sometimes feels like combat exists for combat’s sake.

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Týr, the Norse god of war, is a fortunate ally
Photo credit: Sony/Santa Monica Studio

God of War Ragnarok review: PS5 graphics settings

Ragnarök brings the God of War franchise to Sony’s main console – natively – for the first time. While the 2018 God of War received a PlayStation 5 patch in early 2021, boosting its fidelity and performance to a smooth 4K 60fps, Ragnarök is the first true release in the series on Sony’s flagship games console.

You can do 4K 30fps for better visuals, 60fps and dynamic resolution for more performance, or even 120fps if your TV is capable of that. And if you’re on PS5, all without the fan noise we had with God of War on PS4.

I’ve only played Ragnarök on a PS5 as I don’t have a PS4 or PS4 Pro with me so I can’t speak to graphics and performance on older Sony consoles.

God of War Ragnarok Review: History

There are times when God of War Ragnarök feels like a loot simulator. Of course, most maps are designed to allow Ragnarök to place chests in strategic locations. Some of the loot is tied to environmental puzzles which I really enjoyed. But looting is also left open in many cases. Characters sometimes even comment on how you love breaking objects and getting away from the main objective at hand. But the nature of breaking the fourth wall can’t take the mundanity out of it. That said, it’s not nearly as irritating as the approach other games have taken, some from the very house of PlayStation.

It helps that you’re immediately drawn into the narrative, with characters that are easy to admire and root for. God of War Ragnarök is a coming of age story for the naive teenager Atreus, who is a big advocate of being more involved in the affairs of the gods. And it’s up to protector Kratos – who has seen much more of the brutal world – to protect him from the dangers of the Nine Realms. At the same time, Atreus wants to know more about who he is. But is he carving his own path in life or is he just fulfilling prophecies by learning more about them?

Even when the story isn’t progressing in God of War Ragnarök, the dynamic and exchanges between Kratos, Atreus, and Mimir’s severed head serve it well. The dry humor born of the conflicting personalities of the father-son duo – Kratos’ bluntness and sincerity and Atreus’ irritating, inquisitive nature – is still here. It was actually expanded because Atreus is less afraid of expressing himself now.

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Ratatoskr and Atreus in God of War Ragnarok
Photo credit: Sony/Santa Monica Studio

And now that Atreus is a little grown up, he can have his own adventures. (Not telling Dad mostly.) There’s a lot to do and explore here, with God of War Ragnarök taking you through all nine realms of Norse mythology this time around – whether it’s the exquisite beauty of Svartalfheim, the icy embrace of Niflheim or the weirdness of Alfheim. In fact, there’s so much of it that Ragnarök feels like two games in one as you get deeper into it. I’m not alone in that feeling. The developers felt the same way and even considered splitting God of War Ragnarök into two games, as its scope became much larger than originally planned.

That would have turned God of War’s Norse era into a trilogy, which is always an enticing prospect. But they didn’t want to spend 15 years telling a story – so much with 2018 God of War and Ragnarök taking five years each. And so God of War Ragnarök is the second and third chapter, in a way, if it were a trilogy. It sends you across the nine realms in search of identity and a desire to avoid war, as you tackle quests for revenge and fight a host of monsters of all sizes, armed with a bunch of new tools and combat techniques. All this against the background of the end of days.


  • very cinematic
  • Writing, directing are solid
  • Character growth defined by your playstyle
  • Combat does more with less
  • variety and diversity
  • Elemental effects look cool


  • The camera is too tight
  • Companions could have been more helpful
  • Very old school level design
  • Works like a loot simulator in some places

Rating (out of 10): 9

God of War Ragnarök launches on Wednesday 9th November for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5. On PlayStation Store, God of War Ragnarök is priced at Rs. 3,999 for PS4 and Rs. 4,999 for PS5.

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