Note: This is a spoiler-free review, but it includes spoilers for 2018's "God of War."
Kratos, the former Greek god of war, and his son Atreus prepare themselves for Ragnarök, the ending of the Norse world. While I have not played all of the "God of War" games, 2018's "God of War" is my favorite video game. The story and characters are vibrant, with fascinating lore. So, I was thrilled about the sequel and am relieved that the game was everything I wanted it to be.
While this might seem obvious, the game feels like a sequel, as the story progresses very naturally from the previous installment.
Like in 2018's "God of War," the relationship between Kratos and Atreus is my favorite part of "Ragnarök." It was incredible to see Kratos progress from a cold and distant father to a much more caring one. Their relationship carries a lot of emotional weight, and the game capitalizes on that every moment, leading to quite a few tear-jerking scenes. This is largely due to Christopher Judge's (Kratos) and Sunny Suljic's (Atreus) performances. They completely embody the characters, and even their slightest movements are impactful.
I also cannot give enough credit to the writers at Santa Monica Studios. The game creators have made an unbelievable story that gives the characters such an emotional depth. There were twists and turns at every corner, with massive action set pieces that left my jaw dropping. The game has many themes, such as fate, trust and family. The phenomenal dialogue is filled with amazing lore, creates great dynamics between characters, and is thought-provoking. There were countless times I stopped playing just to listen to the characters talk. If that is not top-notch writing, then I do not know what is.
Kratos and Atreus do not that get all the attention. Most side characters, such as Freya, Mimir, Brok, Sindri and Tyr, are given a lot of depth and growth throughout the game. The last we saw of Freya, she was mourning the death of her son Baldur, who Kratos killed in 2018's game. Seeing her grief and hatred towards Kratos was heart-wrenching but made for lots of great conversations. Even Odin and Thor are fascinating characters compared to what we know from their MCU portrayals.
The game itself is gorgeous to look at. The nine realms are all beautiful, and I was blown away by the level of detail. There is so much to explore in each realm, whether hidden bosses or long side adventures. It would be a shame not to delve deeper into the world after finishing the story, as there is so much more to be seen, and I cannot wait to explore every area the game offers.
The biggest complaint about the previous game was the enemy variety, big boss fights and combat gameplay. The studio made great efforts not to make the same mistake in "Ragnarök," and it paid off. Plenty of giant creature boss fights make for an epic-level scale boss similar to the fights in the original games. The combat design is familiar to 2018's game but stands out enough to stand independently.
Specifically, the Kratos' Blades of Chaos are much more involved in this sequel, as we now have an entire game to spend with them, rather than just the final third act in 2018. Not only did Santa Monica improve upon something in the game, but they also showed their care toward the game and the fans. There is also more blood and brutal takedowns, which is always a big plus.
If you cannot tell, I am absolutely in love with this game.
While the game slowed in the second act, it was necessary to progress the story and characters, and I am sure that on my second playthrough, it will run much smoother. I am also slightly disappointed that some questions proposed in 2018's "God of War" were not answered and that Jörmundandr was not very involved. However, those are minuscule complaints. Every gamer should experience this nearly flawless game, as it will go down as one of the best games of this generation. The ending leaves many possibilities for the franchise's future, and I have no reason to expect it will not be as good.