God of War Ragnarok is a lavish production with pristine visuals, jaw-dropping scale, crunchy combat that is as satisfying as it is brutal, and a world that begs to have its every corner and crevice explored. It’s a spectacular blockbuster, but these are the least of its achievements.
In a game where a hulking god rips all manner of creatures limb from limb, the most shocking moments aren’t bathed in blood, but carried by poignant words and heartfelt emotions. They are a former God of War–known for mercilessly killing his kin–finding the words to empathize with loss; a despondent child emploring a father to break a self-destructive cycle; a moment of tenderness in the life of a boy that has the weight of the world on his shoulders.
God of War Ragnarok’s most impressive achievements are its exploration of loss and love; grief and growth; determinism and defiance. It’s an astoundingly well-written game that deconstructs the mythology of Norse gods and rebuilds it as an odyssey about families. Its story isn’t about the end of the world, but those that have a hand in it. They’re revered as mythical gods but are characterized by deep flaws, twisted by skewed perspectives, and corrupted by questionable motivations in the same way the people they preside over are. And yet, some also have redemptive qualities. In that respect, Ragnarok’s story is told from a grey area where nuances blur the line between heroes and villains; good and evil. By constantly challenging you to reconsider who they are and the factors that drive their actions, these characters remain compelling throughout.
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