God of games, ‘God of War: Ragnarok’

The newest installment in GOW is a nearly perfect game

God Of War: Ragnarok came out November 9, 2022, the eighth installment in Kratos’ bloody adventure. GOWR is the successor to 2018’s God of War and follows Kratos and his son, Atreus’, Nordic adventure following the death of Faye, Katos’ wife and Atreus’ mother. This time, they are trying to protect themselves and survive against monsters and evils of all shapes and sizes, while saving the nine realms from Odin, his posse and the realm-ending event, Ragnarok, with the help of friends new and old. Warning, contains spoilers for GOWR.

This game cemented Kratos as my favorite video game protagonist, followed by Arthur Morgan and Jin Sakai. To see Kratos earn peace and rise above fate and his own past was beautiful. Kratos’ arc in this game was one that anybody can relate to and learn from, the idea of not letting your past define who or what you are and instead taking actions to determine your future is an idea by which anyone can be inspired. I give props to Christopher Judge, the voice and motion actor for Kratos; he definitely deserved his Best Performance win at both the 2022 and 2018 Game Awards. Both awards were for his portrayal of the Ghost of Sparta. Kratos means a lot to Judge and that is visible in his performance; it’s something even the player can notice and appreciate. To me, Kratos is a hero because of the change that he went through. To see him want to change is inspiring. Kratos’ relationship with Atreus also dramatically changed throughout the story, a change that was beyond entertaining and satisfying to watch. I was joyed to see Kratos go from trying to raise Atreus like how he was raised to teaching him to be himself and one with his emotions, like how Faye tried to teach Kratos but failed. Looking at Kratos’ arc, just in this game, not even in the 2018 game, felt like watching a movie. A game like this, however, has the advantage of more time, allowing for more thorough character development. The developers clearly realized they had this advantage and used it.

Odin is the main protagonist. In the parts that Odin is in, he definitely steals the show. However, when he isn’t present, he doesn’t feel exactly like a threat. It never really feels like Kratos will lose to Odin as an opponent, but I think that was the point. We were supposed to see threats like Thor and Heimdall as the physical threats. Most of the reasons to fear Odin are through stories that we hear from other characters. Now, these stories do a really good job at both world-building and growing Odin as a big bad. The boss fight against Odin was really good – the arena, Odin’s moves and the energy because it is the climax of the story. I wish we saw more of Odin’s physical capabilities and magic throughout the game. Now, the reveal of Odin being Tyr blew my mind. I did not see it coming in the slightest, and I can’t think of many more reveals in games that have made me go “holy co!” The moment was so powerful and defining for all characters involved; it brought Kratos and Atreus closer because, in that situation, neither was smarter, stronger or more right than the other. They were both fooled and both lost a friend. All-in-all, I still believe that Odin was a great villain, evil but rightfully motivated, selfish but usually right and a bad guy with some good character.

It’s hard for me to pick a favorite weapon, which I think means that the developers accomplished what they were looking for. If I had to choose a favorite, I think it would be the blade of chaos. They just feel so gosh darn satisfying, and it feels so good to take out numerous enemies with those powerful burning blades. All three of Kratos’ weapons are perfect, and they all serve unique purposes. Plot-wise, the Draupnir Spear is my favorite. It is the first weapon made for Kratos. The spear is Kratos’ future, a weapon made for him specifically to kill an “untouchable” god that threatened Kratos’ son, a weapon blessed by a close friend, a weapon made not for the murderous god of war but for the present-day Kratos. I loved the detail from the developers by giving Kratos a spear, the first weapon with which the Spartans trained. The blades and the Leviathan Axe were weapons made for other people and were passed to Kratos by tragedy, which I found to be a thoughtful addition from the developers. It is clear that the developers put their whole hearts and brains into this game just through the weapons. When I played as Atreus, I could tell that he was weaker, and he was supposed to be. Still, I found his fighting style unique, the only issue I had was the upgrades for him. I did not know if I would be able to play as him after the story, so I saw the upgrades as kind of useless. And, I was right, so I am not that upset that I did not prioritize that. A large upgrade from the last game to this one is the enemy and boss diversity, “The Crucible” side mission was far cooler than the Muspelheim side mission, and it was definitely because of the new diversity. While the diversity led to battles not becoming repetitive as fast as they did in the first game, eventually they still became repetitive to me. This repetitiveness is probably my biggest complaint of the whole game, one side mission has you chasing down dragons, another has trolls and this applies to that mission as well and killing them. The only diversity between each troll or dragon is the element that it uses, the moves stay the same from each. You just get different status effects when you take damage. By the late game, I was pretty stacked and experienced, so things like elements and effects did not really bother me. I was going from boss to boss and the fights were the same, the only challenge became how efficiently I was taking them out. I still had a lot of fun with the battles and weapons, enough to make me seek out those repetitive bosses in search of one hundred percent completion. The weaponry is highlighted by the 10/10 plot and side characters.

The story of this game is, for the lack of a word or phrase to properly justify this beauty,  amazing. I do not think it is a matter of relevance, meaning that the game is receiving high praise because it is new and current. The storytelling in this game goes above and beyond with me. The callbacks to the 2018 game were so meaningful and perfect. My favorite moment in the game was Brok’s death. The build-up, execution and following events were written, directed and performed with such care and excellence that truly made me tear up. I’m not sure if this is what the developers were going for or not but when Sindri held a dying Brok in his arms, you could see Freya and Freyr back up as the background darkens. It seems very reminiscent of a Greek tragedy, and me being a nerd for cool little details like that, I was beyond emotional from it. Sindri’s arc is amazing, and it shows that not everybody can have a happy ending, even if you never did anything wrong. The scene following the death is also an example of the excellent use of callbacks. The mirroring of the hunting scene from the first game was so deep emotionally, in the first game it is Kratos who is leading the hunt and is hurt the most from a recent death, Faye. In this game, it is Atreus leading the mournful trio of him, Kratos and Mimir. They even use some of the same lines from the first game, and they do this throughout the game a few times to show how each character has developed. Some of my other favorite moments include the final scene of the main story, where Atreus leaves Kratos carrying Freyr in Vanaheim, Atreus in Asgard and basically any scene with Odin. It is extremely evident from both interviews and gameplay that anybody who worked on this game and story cared about it. Earlier I wrote about how some side missions became repetitive and despite that repetitiveness, I hardly became bored because of the story and lore behind these side missions. 

To me, GOWR is like eating a familiar meal at a fancy restaurant on a vacation. All of the singular aspects of the game are familiar and comforting; however, they have fresh, new twists that make me want to play it over and over again. This game is so good that it made other games lose their luster to me; this might just be a case of relevancy, but I doubt it. I suggest that if you have an opportunity to experience this game, take it.