God of War Ragnarok review: Fit for Folkvangr

As the finale in the Norse saga, God of War Ragnarok is the perfect conclusion to Kratos and Atreus' adventure.


God of War Ragnarok is a masterpiece. The team at Santa Monica Studio has somehow managed to take what the 2018 game started, lift the story to dizzying new heights, refresh the combat systems, and tie it all off with enough emotional impact that it has left me thinking about the ending for days.

Futures foretold

The story of God of War Ragnarok picks up a few years after the events of the first game. The previous actions of Kratos and Atreus have ushered in Fimbulwinter, dramatically altering the climate of the nine realms.

Kratos looks at Atreus
Kratos and Atreus' story in God of War Ragnarok is gripping and emotional.
Source: PlayStation

In his tireless drive to be prepared, Kratos has been training Atreus over these past years in anticipation for what comes next, whether it’s Ragnarok or something else. Throughout this time, Atreus has grown from a child into a young man with his sights set on finding answers.

After a brief encounter, and a proposition, Kratos, Atreus, and Mimir set off on their next adventure as the prophecy of Ragnarok looms overhead.

Atreus and Kratos look at a painting on a cave wall
There's a constant push and pull between Kratos and Atreus, as both struggle to do what's right for the other.
Source: PlayStation

Told through its iconic seamless transitions, the tale of God of War Ragnarok manages to be both grand and awe-inspiring but also genuine and personal. It’s touching to watch Kratos continue to try and guide Atreus along the path he thinks is right, all while Atreus wrestles with the pursuit of independence that every teenager seeks.

The narrative does wonders to expertly sidestep the common trope of moody and unlikable teenagers. Atreus often psyches himself up before a talk by having solo conversations where he plays both sides. He’ll offer up his own wishes and then imagine the retorts his father would make. It’s a genuine moment that reminded me of my own youth, practicing an idea before taking it to my parents.

Freya holds a sword and looks at an arrow tip
The whole cast of actors deliver performances that had me inching toward the edge of my seat.
Source: PlayStation

These emotional and relatable moments are sprinkled all throughout the story. Despite its fantastical setting and its grandiose worldbuilding, the characters, relationships, and themes are all grounded. It’s impossible not to be drawn into Kratos’ single dad struggles, Atreus’ lack of agency and desire to learn who he is, or the myriad of other characters and their plights.

More than once throughout this unforgettable narrative I found myself welling up with emotion. The way the writers continue to develop and grow these characters is commendable. But it wasn’t just tears I was shedding, I was also hooting and hollering with excitement or laughing at the comedic timing.

Kratos and Atreus stand back-to-back, weapons at the ready
The story that's told in God of War Ragnarok is the perfect conclusion to the one that started in 2018's God of War.
Source: PlayStation

While the writing is impeccable, what lifts the narrative further are the performances. Christopher Judge as Kratos and Sunny Suljic as Atreus come together to create some of the most emotionally raw scenes in a video game to date. I would stare, misty-eyed, watching the character’s expressions, feeling the weight of the scene and all the emotional undertones being delivered by the actors. In addition to Judge and Suljic, Ryan Hurst as Thor, Richard Schiff as Odin, and Danielle Bisutti as Freya offered some spine-tingling and soul-crushing performances.

To put it plainly, the whole story of God of War Ragnarok feels like an epic. It feels like one of the mighty tales that the characters talk about while you're playing. It’s mythological, grand, and world-changing but it’s also incredibly personal and genuine. It’s a gripping journey from start to finish and an absolute master class in storytelling.

The thrill of the fight

Kratos and Thor go head-to-head in a fight
The combat, though similar to the first, remains as brutal, meaty, and adrenaline-pumping as ever.
Source: PlayStation

God of War Ragnarok’s excellence flows from its narrative into its gameplay. While the combat remains similar to the first, it’s been expanded with additional options and mechanics for Kratos and Atreus. It’s just different enough to feel refreshing without drifting too far from what was on offer in the first, in fact, it feels like a refinement.

Kratos can still impale his foes with the Blades of Chaos to either pull them to him or send a fiery blast down the chain. These skills now exist as two unique moves attached to different buttons and each boast powerful upgrades. The changes to each weapon’s systems are subtle and overall improve the formula.

Kratos looks up at a huge creature in the sky
Each realm in God of War Ragnarok has striking visuals packed full of detail.
Source: PlayStation

Beyond the moves, players will find new Runic attacks to use, additional relics (Ragnarok’s form of the talisman), as well as a retooling of the enchantment system. Armor comes with unique effects and set bonuses, allowing players to really lean into a certain playstyle. I switched between a couple of sets, one that increased my base damage for a short time after using a Runic attack and another that increased the drop chance of health gems.

Weaving these all together allows Kratos and Atreus to feel like a powerhouse throughout the campaign. This is heightened thanks to the soundtrack which is of mythological proportions. As Kratos swings his axe and carves up foes, the music swells and crashes. During intense quick-time cutscenes the orchestral score explodes to the beat of Kratos’ fists. Everything about the combat and music leaves you feeling like the god that you are.

The power fantasiy is so good that I was concerned I wouldn’t have an opportunity to flex my power and test my mettle in difficult boss fights at the end of the story. Thankfully, Ragnarok has its own sort of Valkyrie-like encounters to keep you busy. These are a brutal challenge and exactly what the game needs to keep players tweaking their builds and collecting resources to upgrade their gear.

The world we live in

Kratos is high up looking out over a vista of water and islands on Svartalfheim
The realms are enticing, beckoning you back throughout the campaign to see what else you might find.
Source: PlayStation

God of War Ragnarok is not a strictly an open world game. Like the first, there are realms to visit and explore, each with its own unique environments, side quests, collectibles, as well as Nornir chests with their light puzzle mechanics. The puzzles also have their own separate setting in the expansive accessibility menu, giving players more time or slowing down objects to make them more forgiving.

Players will be running, climbing, or using the Blades of Chaos on set points to swing between ledges when exploring the realms. There is a new addition in the form of a sled pulled by two wolves that allows Kratos and Atreus to move around the snow-covered realm of Midgard with ease. In the warmer environments the canoe returns, and although it’s a bit cumbersome to use, it offers an opportunity to hear Mimir’s stories and soak up the gorgeous vistas.

Kratos and Tyr clasp hands
God of War Ragnarok is packed full of incredible characters to meet, some of whom you get to fight alongside.
Source: PlayStation

Part of the joy of exploring these realms is who you get to explore them with. Without revealing too much, while Kratos, Atreus, and Mimir are the core trio, there are opportunities to fight alongside other characters in God of War Ragnarok. While their input to the combat is similar to one another, it affords the player a chance to learn more about these characters and see how they all interact outside of cutscenes. Again, it’s a small change from the first game but one that highlights the attention to detail Santa Monica Studio brings to the table, knowing just what to add to make an already stellar experience an exceptional one.


Kratos and Freya clash, her sword pressing into his shield
Santa Monica Studio took Kratos' own advice to "be better" and made God of War Ragnarok better than the first.
Source: PlayStation

Santa Monica Studio has captured lightning in a bottle for a second time. God of War Ragnarok left me speechless; it’s such a beautiful game both visually and narratively. The team has somehow managed to take what made the original such a wonder and expand upon it, delivering to players a masterpiece, an experience that sits atop the God of War pantheon.

This review is based on a PlayStation 5 code provided by the publisher. God of War Ragnarok is available on November 9, 2022 on PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4.

Guides Editor

Hailing from the land down under, Sam Chandler brings a bit of the southern hemisphere flair to his work. After bouncing round a few universities, securing a bachelor degree, and entering the video game industry, he's found his new family here at Shacknews as a Guides Editor. There's nothing he loves more than crafting a guide that will help someone. If you need help with a guide, or notice something not quite right, you can message him on X: @SamuelChandler 

Review for
God of War Ragnarok
  • An incredible story from start to finish
  • Meaty and visceral combat
  • Gorgeous visuals and soundtrack
  • Some of the best performances in a video game
  • Plenty to do after the credits roll
  • It had to finish at some point
  • Canoe can be a bit finicky
From The Chatty
  • reply
    November 3, 2022 9:00 AM

    Sam Chandler posted a new article, God of War Ragnarok review: Fit for Folkvangr

    • reply
      November 3, 2022 9:24 AM

      95 on Metacritic currently.


    • reply
      November 3, 2022 9:25 AM


    • reply
      November 3, 2022 9:31 AM

      High praise here about the side quests


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      November 3, 2022 9:35 AM

      I've played about 20 mins of the current GoW. Should I pick this up for ps5? I hate games on rails, so I'm hoping this isn't that?

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        November 3, 2022 9:54 AM

        Finish that thing it’s good, you have barely seen anything

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        November 3, 2022 11:36 AM

        The intro bit is on-rails, and then you get to a central hub (you will absolutely know it when you get there) and becomes a self-directed open world with lots to do, and which evolves over the course of the story.

        I just finished up my second playthrough (PC version) to prep for Ragnarok, and goddamn it's still a masterpiece.

      • reply
        November 3, 2022 1:27 PM


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          November 3, 2022 1:28 PM

          I just didn’t have time to play, but will have time when this launches.

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            November 3, 2022 1:32 PM


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            November 3, 2022 1:58 PM

            New one comes with a recap video, so you decide

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              November 3, 2022 4:45 PM

              While neat, the video recap doesn't really do the first game's story justice. It's definitely better to finish the first and then play Ragnarok.

    • reply
      November 3, 2022 9:36 AM

      Can I buy the PS5 edition to play on PS4? Ultimately I’d like to get a PS5 eventually but no need yet.

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        November 3, 2022 9:41 AM


        I guess this one does both if I swap back and forth. Not sure about the disc one though.

      • reply
        November 3, 2022 10:29 AM

        Digital? Yes (get the $70 standard edition which includes both the PS4 and PS5 versions of the game).

        Physical? No, the PS5 disc won't work on PS4. The PS4 disc will allow you to play the PS4 version on either a PS4 or PS5, or pay the $10 upgrade fee for the PS5 version.

        • reply
          November 3, 2022 11:46 AM

          Thanks. Looks like I can also buy the $60 PS4 digital then pay $10 later if I want to upgrade... hmm

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