Welcome! This column is part of a regular series in which we share what members of the Tom's Guide staff are playing and enjoying right now, with an eye towards helping you find great games that you may have missed. Be sure to check out our recent entry, where we talk about Elden Ring.
God of War Ragnarök isn't just one of the best PS5 games. It's one of my favorite games of 2022. This is due in large part to its engaging, character-driven narrative. It’s satisfying to see how protagonist Kratos, his son Atreus, and the supporting cast have evolved between this entry and 2018’s God of War.
Whenever I discuss this title with friends and peers, we don’t focus on the gameplay; we dissect its simple but masterfully told story. But the quality of storytelling isn’t purely relegated to the main quest, as sidequests receive just as much attention. In fact, I’d venture to say that some of this optional content is just as good — if not better — than the core narrative.
Unlike Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, God of War Ragnarök knows that quality is more important than quantity. The game may not have dozens of side quests, but they’re almost all exceptionally done.
Below, I’ll detail how God of War Ragnarök does sidequests right and what other games with similar optional content could stand to learn from this PlayStation exclusive.
Less is more
One of the complaints lobbied at the recent Assassin’s Creed titles is that they’re as wide as an ocean and as deep as a puddle. These games contain a lot of sidequests but most feel interchangeable at best or forgettable at worst. The idea of having a slew of sidequests is more alluring than the reality. What’s the point of having a ton of optional quests if they feel like filler?
Thankfully, God of War Ragnarök takes the opposite approach and only features perhaps a dozen or so narrative-driven sidequests. While I haven’t finished all the sidequests yet, the ones I have completed have been great so far. My current favorite is a mission in the Vanaheim region because it almost feels like an expansion given its large scope. This sidequest is a microcosm of the game itself and is an excellent example of how to properly construct an engaging and rewarding experience.
I should say that God of War Ragnarök is not the first game to show restraint with sidequests. Deus Ex: Human Revolution only had a handful of sidequests but each was phenomenal. I’m singling out Eidos Interactive’s game since it was one of the first that made me realize that titles don’t need a million sidequests to be good. Mind you, that title came out in 2011 and I was already becoming tired of superfluous content in games. Things haven’t gotten much better. This is why God of War Ragnarök feels so special in that regard.
Stories that matter
God of War Ragnarök is a solid action game with plenty of puzzles and platforming segments. But I’d argue that its gameplay is secondary when compared to its super storytelling. That isn’t to say it has the most amazing story I’ve ever seen in any media. The narrative is rather straightforward. But the way events unfold always keep you engaged.
More importantly, the game’s characters and how they interact with one another are what truly drive everything forward. You want to keep playing to see what the characters will do next.
This focus on character extends to the sidequests. Though many of these segments inevitably conclude with a spectacular boss battle, the journey to reach that climax is filled with all manner of captivating character moments. Not only do sidequests reveal more about the mythological Norse world you’re exploring, but you also gain a great deal of insight into the people who inhabit this land — not to mention learn more about Kratos and Atreus and what motivates their actions.
You know sidequests are great when you continue thinking about them days or even weeks after completing them. God of War Ragnarök succeeds here since these are some of the most memorable quests I’ve ever engaged in. They aren’t just there to dole out better loot and gear. These side stories are substantive.
Though collecting loot wasn’t my primary reason for completing sidequests, the various items obtained during missions were very beneficial. After finishing the Vanaheim mission mentioned above, I came away with new armor and useful materials for upgrading the rest of my gear. This will eventually help me complete some of the more challenging optional battles scattered across the nine realms.
In my God of War Ragnarök review, I said that the game allows you to craft a version of Kratos that suits your playstyle. If you enjoy taking the fight directly to enemies, you can wear and use items that boost your strength and defense. Conversely, people who enjoy using magic attacks or inflicting enemies with status ailments can also create a build suited to that style. The more sidequests you complete, the more items you’ll have at your disposal to build your perfect Kratos.
Sidequests done right
Like The Witcher 3 before it, God of War Ragnarök has truly memorable sidequests that help further immerse you in its fictional setting. These missions also allow the game to show different aspects of the already well-rounded characters.
If you plan to get God of War Ragnarök or currently own it, I urge you to not avoid the sidequests. I promise you’ll find them as rewarding as I did.