Sony’s God of War Ragnarok debuted Wednesday to positive early reviews, suggesting it could be the catalyst the Japanese gaming giant needs heading into the end of the year without a big hit. Critics love God of War Ragnarok . The game has a 94 per cent rating on the review aggregation website Metacritic, which makes it the second-best-scoring original game of the year, just below the transcendent Elden Ring . IGN’s reviewer called it “a complete work of art from top to bottom” and “an almighty achievement”. After breaking records during the pandemic, the video game industry has slumped this year due to a lack of major titles, console shortages and the economic downturn. So the stakes are high for God of War Ragnarok , one of this autumn’s few blockbuster games and the latest entry in one of Sony’s most important franchises. God of War kicked off in 2005, becoming a trilogy of lewd but fun games about murdering Greek gods such as Zeus and Hades. In 2018, Sony rebooted the series with a new entry that ditched the crude sex scenes and reimagined series protagonist Kratos as a gruff but loving father. That game won accolades and was widely considered one of the year’s best. It went on to sell 23 million copies on PlayStation and PC. Four years later, a sequel has arrived, one that Sony hopes will reach or surpass the highs of the last version. Playing God of War Ragnarok is beautiful and rhythmic, sort of like playing an instrument – except at the end of the song you get to decapitate a worm demon with a giant axe. Set in Norse mythology, the game unfolds a few years after its predecessor during Fimbulwinter, the period of endless snow that’s said to presage Ragnarok, or the end of the world. At the conclusion of the last game, Kratos and his son Atreus discovered a prophecy with two key pieces of information. The first is that Atreus is really Loki, the Norse god of mischief, and the second is that Kratos is destined to die. That sets some grand stakes for God of War Ragnarok , and as the game begins, Kratos and Atreus are already grappling with big questions about their relationship, their purpose and what Ragnarok may bring. I’ve played around 15 hours of God of War Ragnarok and although I’m not finished just yet, I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. The combat is brilliant and deep, full of interesting choices and combos that let you rip demons and monsters apart with abandon. Fans criticised the last game for the monotony of its enemies, which were mostly variations of zombies, and the developers responded by packing God of War Ragnarok full of drastically different creatures to slay. The battles are satisfying, highlighted once again by Kratos’ Leviathan Axe, which you can throw and summon back to your hand with the pleasant push of a button. The designers at Sony Santa Monica, the studio behind the game, use all sorts of tricks to keep things engaging. There are meaningful side quests and plenty more great stories delivered by the talking head Mimir, the wisest of the Norse gods and a returning character from the previous game. China misses world’s biggest esports tournament finals for first time since 2018 The story is also a highlight. God of War Ragnarok introduces villains that were only teased before, like the thunder god Thor, whose bitter demeanour is miles away from his Marvel Cinematic Universe counterpart, and the malevolent sage Odin, played to perfection by Richard Schiff, best known as The West Wing ’s Toby Ziegler. Fans have worried that God of War Ragnarok might feel too much like its predecessor. In some ways, it does. You’re still travelling to realms like Midgard and Alfheim, still throwing your axe to solve chain puzzles, and still watching Kratos struggle to get past his stoicism and connect with his son. But Ragnarok is bigger, better and in some ways even more special than the 2018 game that won so much acclaim. It’s a triumphant experience that is well worth anyone’s time.