By Cole Parkinson
After 2018’s God of War, I could honestly say I was blown away by what Santa Monica Studio was able to do with Kratos and his new adventures in Norse Mythology. I was never a massive fan of the games before that 2018 game, but the “soft reboot” was a great journey from start to end. I was particularly drawn to the Norse mythology and setting, whereas the older games were set in Greece with Olympian gods.
So, with the follow-up titled God of War Ragnarök, I was excited to see how they would follow it up. It was already announced the story was only two parts and this would be the conclusion to the Norse saga. Is it a perfect game? No, but that doesn’t exist. Overall, this was an incredibly enjoyable game and I’d put it right next to the self-titled 2018 game. I don’t think I like either one more than the other, and it truly does feel like a complete story now.
The gameplay feels very similar to 2018’s and while there are some slight changes, it feels very good. It’s fun chaining combos together and defeating handfuls of enemies with the three different weapons you get throughout the game. And while I only played on the “Give Me Balance” difficulty, there are tons of challenging moments in this game. While Valkyries brought some of the toughest challenges in the first game, Ragnarök brings berserkers. While I could defeat some in one or two tries, the vast majority took me five, six, seven, or more tries to overcome them. It can be frustrating, but when they finally fall, it’s hard to beat the feeling.
In all honesty, though, the story is my biggest draw for both of these games and I really liked what they did in this one. We get to see lots of the big Norse gods in this one like Thor, Odin, Sif, Heimdall, and a bunch of others. If you’re into Norse mythology, you’ll recognize the vast majority of these characters, but if not, that’s fine too because everything is explained very well through the story, collectibles, and dialogue. There’s never a moment where I was wondering ‘who is this and what is their purpose in the story of this game.’ With such a vast mythology to explore, I think Santa Monica Studio were able to not only do something new but also make it their own without delving too far away from what could be expected in Norse books.
And the characters in this game are a huge draw. On top of Kratos and Atreus, the return of Mimir, Freya, Brock and Sindri is like reuniting with old friends. Quite possibly my favourite addition in terms of characters is Ratatoskr and seeing more of the spectral squirrels. Lots of the laugh-out-loud moments from the game for me came from the squirrels and their bickering back and forth. If there’s anything I like better in Ragnarök than the 2018 game, it’s the comedy.
And the story is very immersive too. Like I said earlier, this feels like the second half of the story and nothing feels out of place. There are some twists and turns throughout and some tense moments, but once credits rolled, I think they nailed pretty much everything from a storytelling perspective. It’s emotional and there are tons of great moments from start to finish.
Without delving too deep into spoilers, the reintroduction of Thor (who was teased at the end of the 2018 game) was so good. The opening battle between Kratos and Thor sets the tone and from there, things never let up.
Like the first game, the heart of this story is truly Kratos and Atreus. Christopher Judge is back as Kratos and he’s just as menacing as he was in the first game. But there are tons of really sweet tender moments too and Judge nailed both sides of Kratos. He balances Kratos’ recognizable anger but also effectively shows how much he loves his son from this performance. Kratos does a lot of growing in this game and Judge knocks it out of the park scene after scene. Make no mistake, this is one of the best performances in video game history.
Sunny Suljic returns as an older Atreus and if you play the first one right into the second, his voice may throw you off a bit — that’s puberty for you! But like the first game, I truly felt that while you play as Kratos, it really is Atreus’ story. The cliffhanger ending and reveal of the first game looms large over Ragnarök, and Suljic nails the pains of growing up, especially when you have to live up to a name given to you. The ending of this one is very interesting in terms of the future of the God of War series. Maybe they do a spin-off with Atreus or maybe this is it. There’s no telling what’s to come next.
And looking at the cast, every single performance across this massive game was phenomenal. Danielle Bisutti as Freya, Robert Craighead as Brok, Adam Harrington as Sindri, Alastair Duncan as Mimir, and Laya DeLeon Hayes as Angrboda all give standout performances.
And with the conclusion of the Norse setting, I’m sure plans are already being laid down for future God of War games. It sounds like Santa Monica Studio has a plethora of projects going on right now, so it may be a little while yet before we see Kratos again.
But with the fact other mythologies have been referenced now, Kratos may turn up in several different places. Creative Director Cory Barlog has stated they may take the series to Egyptian or Mayan mythology, so who knows? I’m just excited to see what comes next for Kratos and hopefully Atreus as well.