Dad and Boy are back! God of War: Ragnarok REVIEW

Developer(s): Santa Monica Studios
Publisher(s): Sony Interactive Entertainment
Genre(s): Action-Adventure, Hack and Slash
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
Release Date: November 9, 2022

When I picked up the first God of War game in 2005, my initial thought was, “This is going to be an awesome game.” By the time I had played the third game, I thought, “This is an awesome series.” Fast forward to the 2018 reboot which showed me a whole different side to the Ghost of Sparta and made me ‘man cry’ by the game’s end. God of War: Ragnarok keeps that formula going and builds upon it. The next entry in Santa Monica Studios flagship series immediately pulls at the heart strings with Kratos still in mourning as he holds the pouch containing his wife Faye’s ashes as he laments while sitting by the campfire. He gently caresses it a sorrowful expression. This small moment expresses a lot of emotion especially from a man who has been known not to show any. Soon after, the game wastes no time jumping straight into the action when a vengeful Freya attacks Kratos and Atreus while they were riding their dog sled heading for home. You get into a short quick-time event (a well-known staple for the God of War series) to fend her off. The father and son arrive home to pay their last respects to Fenrir, a wolf whom Atreus has come to love dearly. The beautiful animal dies peacefully with Atreus cuddling him one final time. Kratos tells his son to prepare himself for Fenrir’s demise to which Atreus, like any child loving their pet, objects at first until his father calming gets him to understand. Again, this is a completely relatable moment that tugs at the hearts strings of any parent who has had to help their child cope with the passing of a beloved pet they have cared for. In the previous game, we have seen Kratos struggle to be a parent when he himself was not parented. Now, we see him being a protective father who is teaching his son to be independent although he is not letting go of the reins that easily. One example of his protectiveness shows when Atreus is badly injured and, like any parent, he quickly panics, concerned for his son’s well-being. On the other side of the fence, Kratos learns that his son has been searching for the Aesir God of War without his knowledge or permission. This leads to him ordering Atreus to abandon this endeavor.

One thing about this is how well the acting is in just the first hour of playing the game. Both Atreus and Kratos have grown in their role as father and son with Atreus now a teenager trying to find meaning in his life while trying to uncover the secrets his mother left behind. Now that actor Sunny Suljic is a teenager himself, he does an excellent job of conveying the difficulties of becoming an adult via his portrayal of Atreus. Christopher Judge gives another excellent performance as Kratos, seemingly bringing more emotion to the character who is a father mentoring his child who can be rebellious at times while maintaining his calm, remembering that he cannot treat Atreus as a Spartan warrior, committed to leaving that life and all its baggage behind.

God of War: Ragnarok soon picks up exactly from where the previous game ends with the arrival of the God of Thunder himself, Thor. After a brief conversation between Kratos, Thor and Odin who accompanied his son, things go from mild to “Holy Hell!” in less than a second. While the first Baldur fight was impressive, the battle between Kratos and Thor cranks it up to twelve. Thor is known for his massive strength and thirst for battle. He fights the Ghost of Sparta to force him to reveal the strength he used to destroy the Olympian Gods and it is intense. I was completely unprepared to face the powerful God of Thunder so early in the game. It felt like a final battle, yet this was only the beginning with these two titans clashing mightily. The last battle to have me feel every blow was the final fight with Baldur in the previous title. When he was first revealed, many people were upset over Thor’s appearance, likely because of Chris Hemsworth’s portrayal of the Norse God in the Marvel Studios films. What Santa Monica Studios came up with it how Thor is supposed to look according to the translated scriptures that described him and let me tell you – he is far better than ‘Marvel Thor.’ Ryan Hurst delivers as the mighty Norse God with a performance that is as imposing as his appearance, which is that of a strongman or a powerlifter, not a chiseled ‘beach bod.’

Santa Monica Studios pushes the PlayStation 4 to the limit with Ragnarok. The detailing in this game is spectacular. Everything from the leaves on the trees to the accents on clothing and armor to expansive landscapes that make the world of God of War: Ragnarok feel alive. Gameplay remains nearly unchanged from the previous entry; however, the new mechanics call back to older entries in the series. Kratos can traverse areas using his chained blades as well as use them to move objects and burn away specific obstacles. Several of the Spartan’s previous abilities make a return including using the Blades of Chaos to hook into and pull himself toward enemies, or yank airborne foes from the sky, slamming them to the ground. Players can still customize and upgrade Kratos and Atreus’ gear and weapons. Bear McCreary returns as composer and delivers another orchestral masterpiece, fusing classical and traditional Icelandic folk music into an epic symphonic score.

I was blown away by 2018’s God of War game and God of War: Ragnarok not only refuels my love for the PlayStation’s flagship series, but also my love of Norse mythology. I have replayed the first hour of the game three times already and can’t get enough of the battle with Thor and the meeting that precedes it. Santa Monica Studios and Cory Barlog always knock it out of the park with each God of War entry and they do so again with God of War: Ragnarok. I cannot wait to see what they have in store for Kratos and Atreus next.

God of War: Ragnarok thunders in with 4.5 out of 5.

God of War: Ragnarok – Meeting with Odin and Thor

God of War: Ragnarok – Raider Fights

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