February 3, 2023

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With “Ragnarok” “God of War” continues to grow

Before the long-running God of War series was relaunched with a 2018 entry that shifted the story from a mythological ancient Greece to a mythological ancient Scandinavia, its protagonist, Kratos, was an unprecedented jerk. Mouth twisted in a permanent grin, hell-bent on revenge against the pantheon of gods who had tricked him into murdering his family, the former Kratos roared, snarled, and tore through every deity in his path until he shattered the metaphysical framework of an entire civilization had fallen .

However, with the reimagining of God of War’s Norse, Kratos started to grow up. In Santa Monica Studio’s new vision, he was portrayed as a grumpy widower who has now been left behind to develop a relationship with his son Atreus after moving north to escape his past. Of course, being an action game with a living god, it doesn’t take long before his past catches up with him and he’s forced to reckon with his child, learn family history and protect him from the unwanted attention of the Norse gods. As the story progressed – toning down much of the previously over-the-top gore and getting rid of the Greek series’ goofy rhythm game sex scenes – Kratos eventually learned how to talk to his son in more than just monosyllabic words and grunts, and over the course of their journey to discover the Scattering his late wife’s ashes, becoming something of a functioning parent.

The recently released Ragnarok is a direct sequel to this game and follows on from its predecessor revealing that Kratos’ son Atreus is in fact the Norse god Loki and that the mythological end times – Ragnarok – are at hand. With Odin chasing after Atreus/Loki and Kratos now desperate for a way to protect his son while allowing him to embrace his divine identity without helping end the world (typical parenting stuff, really), the Stakes much higher for the protagonist on both a personal and existential level. Of course, Kratos’ role as a father and as a character in general also continues to change. Though 2018’s God of War established him as a kinder, gentler, bloodthirsty, muscle-bound warrior – one capable of forging a proper relationship with his son – the sequel asks a follow-up question: How does Kratos act when that relationship is the test over by his child, who grows into an adult and is confronted with the Norse gods?

Santa Monica Studio, the creators of Ragnarok, knew their latest game would continue to show Kratos evolving further and further from his original character. In an email interview with WIRED, Narrative Director Matt Sophos writes that his team “definitely knew we wanted Kratos to evolve,” both big and small. He cites a line from the previous game’s ending where Kratos tells Atreus that the pair “must be better” than something the character really meant – a core philosophy that guides his further development.

Ragnarök tests this feeling by intensifying the interference of Odin and the Norse gods in their lives, and also showing the tensions in the father-son relationship as the adolescent Atreus strives for his own identity against his father’s wishes.

Sunny Suljic, the 17-year-old voice talent and motion-capture actor who portrayed Atreus in both God of War (2018) and Ragnarök, explained via email that he found this aspect of the character relatable, especially since he and Atreus “about the same age.”