Console, Gaming, PlayStation

God of War Ragnarok (PS5) Review: The Incredible Evolution of a Beloved Franchise

The original God of War trilogy was mainly focused on violent actions, aggressive combat, and of course, vengeance – lots of vengeance. The tone shifts with the new God of War that was released back in 2018: there’s much more focus on thoughtful characterisation; a heavier, more engrossing storyline; and a revamped combat system.

With God of War Ragnarok, all of these elements are further refined. What was once a franchise of (almost) senseless violence has evolved into a semi-open world AAA game with rewarding exploration, robust gameplay, and an incredibly moving narrative with story moments that will stick with me for years to come.

As of this moment, Ragnarok is easily one of my top contenders for 2022’s game of the year, and this is our spoiler-free review of the game.

What It Is

Taking place a few years after the events of the previous game, God of War Ragnarok starts off in the middle of “Fimbulwinter.” The phenomenon is a prelude to…well, Ragnarok itself, which is basically the end of the world.

Kratos’ son, Atreus, is now a teenager, and he is on a quest to find out who he is, given that the previous game revealed that he’s actually – slight spoiler here – Loki from Norse mythology. As the father-son duo set out on their journey, they will come across a number of legendary Aesir gods, including Tyr and Thor himself.

That, and also being hunted by the goddess Freya.

Available on both PS5 and PS4, God of War Ragnarok is priced from RM249 for the Standard Edition on the PS4, while the PS5 version goes for RM299. There’s also a Digital Deluxe Edition for RM339, which includes both the PS4 and PS5 version.

The Good Stuff

What impressed me the most with God of War Ragnarok is its incredible plot, and I love a game with a good story to tell. I find the narrative of the 2018 game to be quite good, but Ragnarok elevated it to another level. Not in my wildest dream would I have thought God of War – especially in the context of the original trilogy – could tell such a compelling story.

There’s a lot to unpack throughout the main story of Ragnarok, but never did it feel too overwhelming. The lore is explained well enough for me to understand what’s going on – you do have to finish the previous game first though to really grasp it – and character developments are excellent.

Besides that, the main storyline of Ragnarok is quite long too: it took me about 30 hours to complete it. Granted, I did do some side quests as well; the game almost always encourage exploration after completing certain plot points. But there’s no denying that this is a lengthy game with a boatload of side quests to complete.

When it comes to replayability, there’s no doubt Ragnarok will keep players entertained for hours on end. There are even somewhat of a continuation to the story after the main plot is finished.

Further enhancing the narrative of God of War Ragnarok is the fantastic voice acting. Whether it’s Kratos (Christopher Judge), Atreus (Sunny Suljic), or Thor (Ryan Hurst), every voice line is delivered with the right emotions. It’s also nice to see Suljic reprising his role as Atreus in Ragnarok – I find his character to be much more likeable in this game, but I digress.

Complementing the strong voice acting are the realistic facial expressions of character models in God of War Ragnarok. When a character is angry or happy, these emotions are rendered almost flawlessly on their faces – almost. I’ll elaborate more on this further down the review.

Of course, Ragnarok also offers stunning graphics – at least, that’s the case on the PS5. The environment is lush and expansive, character models are extremely detailed, and in my eyes, lighting looks realistic as well. Not surprisingly, there are also two graphics modes: Performance and Resolution.

Most of my playthough in God of War Ragnarok is with the Performance mode enabled, as it seems to lock the game at 60fps. I don’t see a huge difference visually between the two modes, so I went with the higher frame rate option for smoother gameplay – it helps a ton in combat situations.

And that is a good segue to the combat system of Ragnarok. I selected the Balance difficulty, and it offers just the right amount of challenge. I can’t just mash buttons and hope for the best; if I’m reckless and not utilise my different weapon skills effectively, enemies can quickly overwhelm me.

As I upgrade my weapon tree and unlock more skills, the combat gets much more entertaining as well, and I find boss fights to be particularly satisfying to beat without feeling (too) frustrating. That being said, it does still get annoying at times – let’s get to that in the next section.

The Bad Stuff

As much as I enjoy the combat system of God of War Ragnarok, there is a steep learning curve. In the beginning, I was dying more often than I care to admit, especially in mini boss fights. But once I got into the groove – getting the right timing for parries is very, very important – the combat feels more satisfying and “fair,” though your mileage may vary.

Aside from that, there are also some instances of clipping with character models. It is not terrible by any means, but it does break the immersion of the game a tad bit. But on a more positive note, I never encountered any game-breaking bug, even with an early (non-final) version of the game.

Last but not least are the facial expressions of characters in God of War Ragnarok…outside of cutscenes. When conversing with characters in the open world, their expressions are hit-and-miss. Eye contact is not quite right, expressions are not…expressive, and it feels like they’re just talking to an open space instead of having a conversation with me.

Is It Worth It?

Absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt. God of War Ragnarok is by far the most entertaining AAA game I’ve played this year, especially in the aspect of storytelling. It could be my nostalgia talking here, but to follow Kratos’ story from the first game to where he is right now in Ragnarok…is quite an emotional journey.

After experiencing one emotional cutscene to the next – and sometimes emotional (read: frustrating) combat encounters – God of War Ragnarok definitely deserves the Nextrift Recommends badge. It’s our way of endorsing a particular game or product for its entertainment value, refinement, unique appeal, or even just sheer value for money.

Yes, priced at RM249 and RM299 for the PS4 and PS5 copies respectively, God of War Ragnarok is not exactly a value buy, but you will certainly get your money’s worth out of it. From its replay value to uncovering how the Ragnarok apocalypse plays out in this latest entry to the franchise, countless hours of entertainment awaits you in Midgard – and the other eight realms accessible in the game.

God of War Ragnarok launches 9 November on PS5 and PS4.

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