Age gracefully with God of War
I played the original God of War in my first crappy apartment. I had just graduated high school and was living with a weird motley crew of MIT students and a bunch of guys in a death metal band. We took turns playing games on the CRT TV in the common room, and one of my roommates was about to start his second playthrough of the original God of War. He handed me the Playstation 2 controller, suggesting that I would enjoy it despite the fact that on the surface it didn’t look like something I would have played at the time.
I was into weird Japanese imports and rhythm games, though I enjoyed hack-and-slash combat. The original Devil May Cry is one of my favorite games, and the Santa Monica Studio-developed God of War felt like a much more graphical hack-and-slash with Western audiences in mind. It’s also easy to say that I’m different from the original game’s key demographic as a straight woman. The writing was strong, and the horny “hidden” minigames of the originals were more fun than they were edgy, even in retrospect.
Now we finally have Ragnarok, and God of War has aged far better than many other modern franchises. The graphics have naturally improved with each installment, but have never seriously changed the aesthetics. Those kinds of character redesigns and graphical upheavals are what threw me off the Devil May Cry series. The music is fantastic in Ragnarok and you can tell a lot of thought went into the orchestral arrangements – the original’s “edgier” vibe wouldn’t make sense now. God of War grew out of Greek mythology, it’s crossed into Norse mythology, and I’ve got some nods to Persian mythology.
Seventeen years have passed since I played the original, and God of War is still around and adaptable. Kratos has aged and so have we. Or at least we should have. As much as I miss the bygone days of the early aughts with a younger, bubbly and ultimately clumsy Kratos, I’ve grown to appreciate him as a stoic father who doesn’t open chests with the same truth he used to. Kratos’ son, Atreus, has also aged since God of War (2018), and in keeping with his original voice actor, we’re told puberty has hit.
As someone in his mid-thirties, it’s been fun to see a teenage character in Atreus, who, despite being a demigod (and Loki), still acts like a teenager. I have also seen the introduction of Angrboda, a female teenage giantess (Jötunn descent), as a formidable counterpart to Loki. You can tell they played off that she probably had a higher maturity level than Atreus. One of the things that worried me prior to release was the potentially poor reception of a character who is a person of color in a game based on Norse and Greek mythology. Fortunately, I haven’t seen any weird discourse about it, and while I’m sure it’s out there, it wouldn’t be some dark corner of the internet I’d seek out.
At the time of writing, Ragnarok sits at a Metacritic rating of 94, just two points behind Elden Ring and Portal Companion Collection. Most notable publications have given it the 10/10 rating it deserves, with one caveat that I agree with. The dialogue in the game can and does get irritating and annoying. It’s a shame when it’s a title that boasts such impressive voice acting that went a little too heavy on repetitive unnecessary dialogue. Sometimes devastating puzzle solving, the dialogue will be more clear if you play on a harder difficulty and guaranteed to die and start over more often. Still, the strangest criticism of this game goes after the story and the fact that Kratos shows any emotion. The game is still bloody, but maybe not at the same level as the past.
It’s time to let Kratos continue to destroy enemies with the Leviathan axe, but while we’re at it, let him pat Speki and Svanna.
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