Atreus challenges the might of Asgard in God of War: Ragnarok, the long-awaited follow-up to the 2018 epic that sees battle-damaged misanthrope Kratos shed his blotted past for a new life in Midgard, somewhere in ancient Scandinavia. While the first game had father and son coming to blows with a minor god, and his mollycoddling mother’s ire as consequence, the sequel is a little more dire; it pits the pair against the full force of the Nordic pantheon in their quest to avert Ragnarok, the prophesized end of times. To accomplish the impossible, Atreus invokes the Norse god of war, hoping to rally him to their side. But in a series where patricide is routine and deities are scheming control freaks, nothing is ever what it appears in God of War: Ragnarok.
The game had its soft opening during this year’s PlayStation Showcase. Santa Monica Studio released the first full-length trailer for God of War: Ragnarok today, which boasted both gameplay samples and mind-blowing cinematics. Check it out:
Set in the boreal forests of Norway, it’s the Fimbulwinter in God of War: Ragnarok. Three successive winters foretold in the Poetic Edda, said to predate the end times. As torrential snowstorms buffet the Nordic expanse, the Nine Realms cower before a ticking clock. Once the weather clears, Asgard will fall and its gods will perish in the aftermath of Ragnarok. Their massive dominion will cave beneath the chaos and drown in a world of water, as depicted in text by historian Snorri Sturluson. Having orchestrated his pantheon’s own demise, Kratos sits by the fire, cool as a block of shaved ice. He is seen sharpening his tools when Atreus, evidently a couple of years older than his last appearance, hobbles over. He has managed to secure a deer for dinner. The boy has come a long way from failing the hunt. It’s a familiar, grounding sight, but like everything God of War, eclipses a gnawing threat.
Recognizing Fimbulwinter for what it is, Atreus is determined to stop Ragnarok — but also believes war is necessary to achieve peace. He has fully internalized his role as Loki and is actively seeking out his life’s purpose. Such a goal puts him on the crosshairs of his own father; Kratos, a former Greek god of war, is keenly aware of his family’s own hubris and cautions Atreus against pursuing further bloodshed. This is the crux of God of War: Ragnarok. But Atreus is a young man on a mission, a path he firmly believes his mother, a genderbent Laufey, once intended. “Time is running out,” he cries out in response. “War is coming. My story doesn’t end hiding in these woods. I should be out there, finding out who I am, who Loki is!”
In God of War: Ragnarok, Kratos is still fighting Atreus’s battles for him. He wrestles one Asgardian after another, desperate to dissuade his son from making his mistakes. Ever the consummate pragmatist, Kratos doesn’t trust Odin, the Scandinavian equivalent of Zeus, and suspects him of using Ragnarok to his favor. Once Odin’s chief adviser, the reanimated head of Mimir now advises the pair against crossing the Nordic Allfather. He is supposedly capable of impish trickery not even a seasoned god of war can foresee, but Atreus’s desire to save the Nine Realms by reducing Asgard into ashes attracts the furor of the gods regardless. Odin sends his greatest weapon, Thor, to reason with Kratos and engage him in combat. The bad news: only Mjölnir hanging on his hip can be seen in the trailer. The good news: art director Raf Grassetti shared full-body concept artwork of Thor during Santa Monica’s panel session. It’s the god of thunder like nothing we’ve seen before. Check it out:
To even the playing field, Atreus suggests seeking out Asgard’s fallen god of war: the towering Týr, a deity long believed to have died at Odin’s behest. Unlike most gods of war, Týr was a pacifist. He believed in brokering peace to deter war. In life, he mediated between his people, the Aesir, and the Giants of Jötunheim on behalf of the Norse pantheon. The Jötnar rebelled when Odin turned on his word; Týr was promptly expelled and branded a traitor, only to be executed by the Allfather for perceived treachery. Kratos and Atreus learn during the events of God of War: Ragnarok that this, in fact, is a lie: Týr remains alive and well, imprisoned somewhere in Jötunheim. Being the designated Guardian of the Jötnar, Atreus’s mother Laufey (or Faye, as she was widely known) is an ally of the disgraced god of war. Kratos and Atreus eventually rescue him from his bondage, but only time will tell if he will arbitrate to save Asgard, or has been embittered by circumstance to inevitably stand against Odin, his jailer.
God of War: Ragnarok still features an indifferent, partially Ghandist Kratos. Still battered by the memory of his youthful misadventures, he remains painfully steadfast on his stance. He will travel to the ends of the earth to assist Atreus in his quest, but refuses to stand idly by while his only son sinks the Nordic realms into disrepair for all the wrong reasons. “War is not the only way,” he mumbles. But even after learning his father’s roots in God of War, Atreus has yet to make sense of Kratos’s intentions and evidently strikes a nerve when he yells, “Stop thinking like a father for a moment and start thinking like a general.”
The Blades of Chaos from the original trilogy are fully playable in God of War: Ragnarok, and may be interchanged with the Leviathan Axe, Kratos’s primary offensive, as necessary. His retractable Guardian Shield also returns. The gameplay is as impressive as ever, boasting next-gen visuals and familiar mechanics. God of War: Ragnarok is the final installment of Kratos’s Nordic phase, where he remains the main playable character. It comes out on the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 sometime next year.