Halfway through God of War 2018 I thought to myself that this was a gift that keeps on giving. Emotionally charged, exciting to play through, bolstered by that terrific tracking shot that never cuts away. It was fantastic.
God of War: Ragnarök – in the finale of this Norse arc – is massive. Epic. In every sense of the word when it comes to gaming and entertainment. I finished it a little over 26 hours (with much side content to explore) and found it to be gargantuan in its set-pieces and satisfying in running the gauntlet of emotions from dizzying excitement to trepidation to somber reflection. Somehow, someway, it juggles character and plot in a way that ultimately feels satisfying.
It’s production feels every bit the blockbuster, from the Norse realms realized – the stormy plains of Alfheim to the lush jungles of Vanaheim – to the musical score by Bear McCreary, his best yet – emotional and rousing and whimsical and somber. It looks great, it sounds great, it feels wonderful and crunching to play.
Its cast are all splendid. Christopher Judge really heightens Kratos’ own emotional journey and desperation through the game and there are some really dramatic moments I want to get into but shouldn’t. Sunny Suljic is wonderful as the troubled Atreus, torn between loyalties and prophecy. Danielle Bisutti is heartbreaking and fierce and feral as Freya. Then there’s Ryan Hurst’s gruff Thor and Richard Schiff’s squirrelly, slimy Odin whose quiet, soft spoken demeanor carries menace. There’s a lot to the cast to name but each member is fantastic and wonderfully realized.
Gameplay feels good on the ol’ hands. Nice and brutal. The environmental puzzles are satisfying and wonderful to work through.
There’s skill trees to unlock and play with for combos, there’s runic abilities that grant cooldown to actions, buffs to health, that really helped me out in when I got surrounded by enemies that required a little dancing to get around. It doesn’t really bring much new to the table but as it’s a finale in a duology, it doesn’t have to. It’s meat and potatoes, it feels good.
That being said, Ragnarök is a weird beast. There comes a point, midway, where I could feel its structure – ‘Now, this will happen like before.’ kinda thing. It creates a bit of a lull, where I wanted to be surprised but I really wasn’t. It sort of chugged along and didn’t quite feel…well, magical, like it’s first part. True, it felt like two different movies, The Two Towers that runs straight into Return of The King – and there was something exciting about sitting down to a wealth of entertainment, the lengths a developer has gone to for you, the gamer, but it started to creak, I think, under the weight of it.
The last act feels a little disjointed, a little rushed. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, for something to happen. It doesn’t quite reach the heights of, say, God of War III but I think that’s because it’s of two minds, delivering that spectacle that the franchise has been known for, while honoring the maturity, the spirit, of the 2018 game. Maybe it was a self conscious decision on the developer’s behalf – something that they engineered because at 26 hours in, a huge spectacle like Ragnarök might’ve been exhausting. Who can say.
Despite these aspects, Ragnarök still finds times for its characters and themes and wraps up in an entertaining, if uneven, fashion. I enjoyed my time with it, I was blown away by the performances across the board, the amazing soundtrack and hey, at the end of a long sesh, I can say it was fun. That’s what we want, right? To feel like we had fun and things went well.
J’s Verdict – ☆☆☆☆