You don’t have to play much of God of War Ragnarök before hitting a fork in the road. About six hours in, you’re given the option to venture forth into one of two new realms (Alfheim or Niflheim) or to comb back through the one you just spent hours in (Svartalfheim). The game implores you to “choose carefully.” But here’s the truth: You don’t really have to be careful about it at all.
As you make your way through Ragnarök, you’ll encounter mystic gateways, which allow you to fast-travel around the nine realms. (In a welcome change from God of War: You don’t need to route through a central area to bounce between realms.) To unlock new realms, you need to track down realm-specific Yggdrasil seeds, most of which you earn automatically by progressing through the story.
The first time mystic gateways truly open up comes after the “Old Friends” mission. You can push the main story forward in Alfheim. You can go tackle some optional but stat-boosting activities in Niflheim. Or you can complete any incomplete side quests in Svartalfheim. Regarding the latter, your party members say you should should finish anything you need to before going to Alfheim — NPC language typically deployed in video games to indicate you won’t have a chance to go back.
In God of War Ragnarök, should you go to Alfheim, Niflheim, or back to Svartalfheim?
Full stop: You will come back to Svartalfheim later, and you will be able to finish anything you missed. It’ll be a while, sure, but you will get a chance to open incomplete Nornir Chests, kill the last of Odin’s Ravens, and find missed artifacts down the line. You should at the very least knock out the “Weight of Chains” side quest before going to Alfheim, not just because it’s a tremendously moving mini-narrative but also because you get a ton of loot.
As for choosing between Alfheim or Niflheim, it depends on how eager you area to push the story forward, but know that Niflheim is at most a five-minute pitstop. There’s a training arena, plus a roosting spot for all of Odin’s Ravens you’ve hunted down so far (another game-spanning side quest that itself leads to a ton of loot).
Once you head to Alfheim, you’re locked into a 90-minute story mission, but once you finish it, you’ll be able to openly explore the realm and, of course, find a ton of loot, too.