When God of War became a hit, it was a surprise. Sony’s PlayStation 4 had been out for years, and the company had no idea that its new console would be the preferred platform for adventure games. But then came God of War (2018), and suddenly everyone wanted a piece of Sony’s new best-selling series.
And now, God of War 2 is here to give us more of what we love about the first game: Kratos as vengeance-driven killing machine; Atreus as a reluctant savior; and gorgeous vistas both real (Jotunheim) and imagined (the World Tree). The game also features an army of colorful characters—both new characters like Sindri (a giant troll) and returning favorites like Faye (Kratos’ wife and mother of Atreus).
But while we loved the first game, perhaps what made us love it so much was its conclusion: Kratos and son Atreus finally scatter the ashes of his wife and mother Faye in Jotunheim and simultaneously learn that Atreus was known to the now-disappeared Giants as Loki. We were left with a couple of questions: What happened
Ragnarok is a bit of a reboot for the God of War series, but it doesn’t feel like a complete break. Despite being set in new locations and with a new group of characters, the game’s basic mechanics are still here: you’ll be slaughtering monsters with your mighty axe and using magic to solve puzzles.
But some key differences make Ragnarok feel like something new: the combat is faster and more aggressive than previous games, the environments are more open (and filled with secrets), and most importantly—for anyone who played the original God of War—the story is told through Kratos’s internal monologue rather than his external dialogue. For those who haven’t played the series before, this might seem jarring or even frustrating at first; but once you get used to it, it also makes for an interesting story arc that could have easily been glossed over in previous games.
I’ve put in about 18 hours so far and, while I’m enjoying Ragnarok a great deal, I haven’t been as frequently surprised by either the scenery, combat or cutscenes the way I was in the first game. There have been amazing moments and awe-inspiring vistas, to be sure, but I wasn’t gawping at the screen the way I was when I first saw Jormungandr or Freya’s turtle-house. Of course fewer surprises are to be expected in a direct sequel, but the unfolding scope of God of War from its intimate beginnings and the diversity of the realms you visited was a big part of its charm.
I think part of this is that Kratos has had time to get comfortable with his powers and abilities. In Chains of Olympus, he felt very much like a man who had just been humbled, who had lost everything—his wife and child—and who was trying to move forward with his life by helping others. In God of War II, he still had that sense of loss lingering around him (particularly because his father Zeus had betrayed him), but he knew how to use those powers more effectively than before.
god of war ragnarok
It’s been a while since I played a game with as much depth as this one. Ragnarok is an adventure game, but it’s also a story with its own unique identity, and the cast of characters is diverse and interesting.
The good news is things begin to differentiate once you leave the first handful of areas, so if you think of them more as a “getting up to speed” thing than as the first actual set pieces, you’ll have a better time. Ragnarok does have its own identity, but it takes a while to emerge.
In terms of story, themes, and acting, it’s still extremely good, though there’s a sense of “what am I doing here exactly” that plagues me when I play, something that never really was the case before. Taking Faye’s ashes to the highest peak in the realms was a conveniently mobile goalpost, but everything was still in service to it — as Kratos was frequently at pains to explain to Atreus, they didn’t even want to get involved in the affairs of the gods.
The core of The Fate of Atlantis was its focus on exploring a world, which felt like an adventure game. In the sequel, that focus has been diluted and replaced by a more rote “open world game” style.
You’ll find yourself encountering one random collectible after another, and they rarely feel special or interesting. Characters will offer pointless advice in combat or puzzle situations, which seems to be the default response for every situation.
The game has also lost its focus on exploration and adventure—which feels like it happened somewhere along the way! The main story is still as riveting as ever, but the side stories aren’t nearly as cleverly intertwined with each other as they were in the first game.
Given all these issues, it’s hard not to wonder if we should just give up on this series after two installments. I haven’t finished it yet (I just started playing yesterday), so we’ll see how it pays off. But for now, I want to add that I’m voluntarily not including details on a lot of characters and story developments that simply are better experienced yourself—because there are some spoilers ahead!
When it comes to gameplay and systems, Ragnarok is the most polished entry in the God of War franchise yet. It adds numerous layers of customization and accessibility options for players with disabilities, which is a welcome change from previous entries. This does not mean that the game is easy to get into, however; there are many new systems and systems for equipping gear that can be confusing or overwhelming at first.
The new abilities are very cool, but they also make it harder to keep track of what you have equipped. I was personally surprised by how effective some of these abilities were when used together (though I will say that some of them felt like they were designed simply to pad out time). Another reason why it took me a while to power through the first hours was because this game doesn’t give you much breathing room: if you want to experience a good chunk of content quickly, then you should probably power through those first few hours before moving on.
I would also like to call out how accessible the menus are for anyone who needs them or wants them — there are even some accessible options available from the start! This is great news for those who may need help playing this game with their loved ones or friends.
God of War is back, and it’s better than ever.
The first God of War game was one of the best-selling games of 2018, and I’m happy to say that this latest iteration is just as good (and even better). The graphics are gorgeous, the controls are responsive and intuitive, and the combat is fast-paced but still enjoyable. The story is exciting and engaging, with plenty of twists and turns that keep things interesting throughout. And although it may not rise above its predecessor in terms of narrative or gameplay, there’s no doubt that this game will go down as one of the best ever made for PlayStation because it has so many elements fans love: first-person combat, epic battles between gods and humans alike, beautiful locations to explore—it truly feels like you’re playing an action adventure game set in a fantasy world that’s full of magic and danger at every turn.
If you haven’t played an action-adventure game on PlayStation before, then I highly recommend starting with this one!