God of War Ragnarök on the PlayStation 5 is one of the best games I’ve ever played. I know that’s a lame thing to give off right at the start of the review, but it’s true. Everything about this game is perfection.
If you have played God of War (2018) you will have a very easy time getting into God of War Ragnarök. The best thing about this game to me is how much it is like the first game. God of War (2018) completely reshaped how adventure games should be handled. It introduced a one shot style direction. The cinematic camera is incredible. Cutscenes seamlessly blend in with gameplay. There are no black screens or fadeouts or weird transitions. Everything is seen at every moment by the camera. We all have Resident Evil 4 to thank for giving us the over the shoulder POV which, in my opinion, is the single greatest design decision in video games. It revolutionized how third person games are played and it’s hard to imagine a time where games weren’t using that camera angle. In God of War Ragnarök Sony Santa Monica have done something incredible with this already extant camera design. It acts more like a drone that follows EVERY important move. You never miss a detail or story beat because you are always being shown the most important thing at any given moment. It’s killing me that I can’t just tell you parts where the camera blew my mind because those parts are riddled with spoilers.
What I can tell you is that the story and performances in God of War Ragnarök are unlike anything I’ve ever seen in video games before. These are some of the best performances I’ve seen in ANY medium in the last decade. It’s hard to pick a single standout because everybody is at the top of their game. If I had to pick one it’d be the flawless performance of Richard Schiff as Odin. I’ve never actually seen The West Wing, but I know so many people who swear it’s the best show of all time. I have officially decided I will watch it because of how incredible Richard is as Odin. It’s so refreshing to see a portrayal of the All-Father that isn’t some shredded guy with a beard down to his crotch. This Odin is more like a Mafia boss. He doesn’t seem to do much, but everyone is terrified of him. He is likeable as well as detestable. Odin’s presence helps push the driving theme of God of War Ragnarök. The theme of fatherhood. I am not going to elaborate.
Odin is my favourite character, but that doesn’t mean he is head and shoulders above the rest. Every single performance in God of War Ragnarök is stellar. Sindri and Brok, the dwarven blacksmiths are back from the first game. Freya is back in a much bigger role than the first game. What Danielle Bisutti does with the role of Freya is similar to what Richard Schiff does with Odin. She brings so much life and depth to the character. Her portrayal feels so human that you almost forget you’re watching lines of code. Freya has quickly become one of my favourite women in video games. I can’t really go into many more characters without potentially spoiling things, so I won’t.
Of course, Kratos and Atreus have the most believable and incredible father/son bond in video game history. God of War (2018) focused a lot on Atreus learning to love his father. God of War Ragnarök has a major focus on Kratos learning to love and trust his son. Atreus is much older now. He is a stubborn teenager who doesn’t want to hear what his father has to say. Watching the two of them learn to understand each other and work together is so inspiring and moving. The performances of Christopher Judge as Kratos and Sunny Suljic as Atreus are so top notch and real. It drives me insane that the Oscars don’t give out awards to actors for their performances in video games. Every single person in this cast deserves an award. Fucking stellar.
God of War Ragnarök is a much more vertical experience when it comes to traversal and combat. Enemies hop up onto structures and lob fireballs at you. You can use Atreus’ arrows to get them from afar. Maybe you feel like launching your axe into their skull and then ripping it out from a safe distance. Or maybe you just want to leap onto the structure using your chains and beat the shit out of them. There are seemingly endless ways to just beat the ever living shit out of any poor soul who stands in your way. The boss encounters in this game are so well designed and exhilarating to fight. The opening hour of this game mirrors the absolute ridiculousness of the last game’s opening. There are several boss fights right off the bat. I still feel that the encounter with Baldur in God of War (2018) was more surprising and impactful. I just had zero clue anything like that would happen. Before even playing God of War Ragnarök I kept thinking to myself, “how are they going to top the Baldur introduction from the last game?” That may have clouded my expectations a little bit. Not to say they weren’t met, they absolutely were. I just was hoping for a one up and I didn’t necessarily get that. But that is genuinely the only time where I feel like God of War (2018) had a leg up. God of War Ragnarök is a step forward in every sense of the word. Hell, it’s not a step forward. It’s a whole triathlon ahead of what was given to us in 2018.
The art team at Sony Santa Monica are a bunch of wizards. I don’t understand how a game that looks this good can even exist. Every realm is so stunning to look at. Colours pop off the screen like they’re excited to see you after a long day at work. There is not a low poly texture ANYWHERE in this game. The amount of times I went and stared at a wall just to take a picture of it is more than I’d like to admit. I just could not believe the amount of detail that was put into every nook and cranny here. Not a single thing overlooked. Not only does God of War Ragnarök cement itself as one of the most gorgeous pieces of art I’ve ever seen, but it also runs better than any game I’ve played in 2022 (or ever maybe). A constant 60fps. Not a single frame drop in my dozens of hours played. It doesn’t matter how populated the screen gets with effects or enemies being thrown around. That 60fps does not drop a frame. This should be the norm for modern day consoles. God of War Ragnarök manages to reach PC graphics quality on a home console.
I just can’t say enough about God of War Ragnarök. The team over at Sony Santa Monica have poured their hearts and souls into this masterwork and it’s finally in our hands. I cannot believe this experience is being sold for $89.99 CAD. This is something I’d happily pay 3x as much to own. They say art is subjective and what’s good is all based on opinion. In defiance of that notion, many pieces of art stand out as classics and as cuts above the rest; Leonardo Da Vinci gave us Mona Lisa, Van Gogh painted The Starry Night, and Katsushika Hokusai painted The Great Wave off Kanagawa. Cory Barlog and Sony Santa Monica gave us God of War Ragnarök. This is a watershed moment in gaming. This is the blueprint. God of War Ragnarök is a triumph.