Boomer dad raises millennial son, drama ensues
It describes in a nutshell the story behind God of War: Ragnarok.
All kidding aside, storytelling continues to be a hallmark of the latest addition to the franchise, which took on new life – and a whole new gameplay philosophy – following the release of the revamped God of War in 2018.
It’s amazing how a simple change of perspective can completely change everything. Just ask Resident Evil 4.
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With God of War Ragnarok, the next saga of father-and-son duo Kratos and Atreus unfolds against the Norse gods once again. Will it continue its divine track record or signal the end of days for the long-running franchise?
Generational divide a central part of God of War: Ragnarok’s story
In God of War: Ragnarok, Kratos and Atreus return three years after the harrowing events of the previous game. Both now find themselves in a much changed world, with Midgard frozen at the beginning of the Fimbul Winter of Norse legend.
Since kicking the proverbial hornet and earning the wrath of Odin, the trio of Kratos, Atreus and the literal head Mimir have been living in hiding as they prepare for the upcoming battle against the Norse gods. For Kratos, that means continuing the training of Atreus, who has been revealed as a key piece in the ongoing conflict thanks to his mix of giant, god, and human blood. He is like a poo poo plate of genetics.
While Atreus has dutifully undergone his training under Kratos’ watchful eye, the stress of his years in hiding, combined with feelings of grief and loss prove to be too much for a young boy. This leads to a heated argument with Kratos, with both going through the equivalent of a time-out between gods while collecting their thoughts.
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The generation gap and subsequent tension between the older Kratos and young Atreus remains one of the strong points of God of War: Ragnarok’s narrative.
On one side, you have the battle-hardened Kratos who has seen some serious, um, things in his life and just wants to protect his son — or at least give him a chance to fight formidable foes. On the other hand, you have Atreus, now struggling with the raging hormones of youth, except his godly powers make him a literal time bomb.
It doesn’t help that Kratos isn’t exactly good at communicating. Talking to the guy is like striking up a conversation with a pig, with Kratos often resorting to a varying assortment of cryptic grunts in response. Most of the time he just prefers to be quiet.
In that sense, I guess Kratos is more like a member of the Silent Generation as opposed to being a boomer. The older and wiser Kratos certainly exemplifies several of that generation’s traits, including caution as well as the tendency to keep his head down and stay out of trouble.
At the same time, such qualities also make him prone to being misunderstood, especially by a young boy who tends to wear his feelings on his sleeve, is desperate for answers, and strongly believes that he deserves those answers. Never mind that youth of Atreus’ age tend to have strong convictions when it comes to their strong beliefs compared to the more pragmatic outlook that comes with age.
Then again, it’s not like Kratos could provide the answers that Atreus is truly seeking even if he wanted to.
Atreus’ mother Faye didn’t exactly share the details of her own heritage with Kratos himself—a fact that the father of war makes clear to his son in a moment of frustration. As such, the poor guy is as much in the dark as his own son, a definite source of irritation for Kratos.
Ultimately, the answers are something you both have to figure out together.
The dynamic between father and son – including the tension, shared fear and love – remains one of the most compelling parts of the God of War: Ragnarok narrative. Storytelling is arguably the strongest part of the game, not only with the relationship between Kratos and Atreus, but their interactions with the rest of the cast as well.
The storytelling is further enhanced by the game’s excellent visual and musical score, which makes God of War: Ragnarok feel like a big movie. From its rich textures and fine details to its well-placed camera angles and epic orchestral score, the game would feel right at home in a movie theater.
Of course, storytelling and visuals are only part of the equation. Does God of War: Ragnarok’s gameplay reach the same heights as its production values?
You have my knives and my ax and my spear…
Once again, God of War: Ragnarok uses the same action style from 2018’s God of War, which is a departure from the classic hack-and-slash combat of the classic games in the franchise.
The switch to a behind-the-back view results in a more intimate perspective that gives the newer God of War games a cinematic feel. It also makes the action seem more intimate and visceral.
Once again, Kratos can wield his frosty Leviathan Ax – which can be used at close range or thrown – in addition to his signature twin chain weapons, the fiery Blades of Chaos. A new mechanic for his dual blades is the ability to use them as a grappling hook, which opens up more options for movement or using items to attack enemies.
Kratos also continues to use shields to defend against enemy attacks or knock them back with a well-timed parry. In God of War: Ragnarok, Kratos can actually acquire different shield types, which come with their own specific uses, including various special effects.
A new weapon added to the game is the Draupnir spear, which has wind elemental properties. The spear, which can be obtained as you progress through the game, provides a great alternative to the ax thanks to its own unique ensemble of close range and ranged attacks.
Each weapon also comes with a signature trait that gives each a unique flavor. As the cherry on top of his battle cake, God of War: Ragnarok adds even more runic abilities to open up extra runic attacks for your various weapons as well.
A great addition to God of War: Ragnarok is the ability to play as the legendary “Boy”. In addition to acting as an AI-controlled support character like in the first game, Atreus can also be directly controlled during certain parts of the game.
Thanks to his three-year growth spurt, Atreus has become a more formidable force on the battlefield. “The boy” can use the bow to shoot arrows from afar and also as a melee weapon at close range. He also provides a faster alternative to Kratos’ more deliberate bruiser playstyle, adding some nice diversity to the action.
The additions help keep the game fresh for people who played the previous game to death. Admittedly, it doesn’t quite have the technical chops for combat from games like Elden Ring or Monster Hunter. Nevertheless, it still provides a solid experience as well as a nice change of pace from the game’s heavy narrative indulgences.
Like the first game, God of War: Ragnarok also offers some puzzle solving as well as exploration, although the latter isn’t exactly a strong suit. Unlike games with large open environments like the previously mentioned Elden Ring, God of War: Ragnarok is a linear and highly curated gameplay experience, so it doesn’t allow much freedom outside of the set path. The approach allows for a well-told story as well as a more subdued experience overall. At the same time, players who want more freedom will find it somewhat limiting.
Even with all its high praise and accolades, one of the criticisms of the previous game was that it was akin to playing an interactive movie on rails. If that’s how you felt about God of War in 2018, God of War: Ragnarok will be more of the same.
However, people who enjoyed the previous game will love God of War: Ragnarok and the additions it brings to the modern God of War formula. The game represents an excellent progression from its predecessor and builds on the solid base it provided.
If you played the 2018 God of War and wanted more, you’ll definitely want to help yourself to this second installment of Kratos and Atreus.
Final thoughts on God of War: Ragnarok
Kratos may not always know best, but boy, does this dude know how to serve up some story-driven action in God of War: Ragnarok. The storytelling is still top notch and the new mechanics help freshen up the combat of the previous game. However, the game remains very linear, and can feel like you’re playing an interactive movie at times. That said, its excellent narrative combined with engaging combat makes God of War: Ragnarok worthy of picking up Thor’s hammer from a gaming standpoint.