After being reintroduced to gaming with the Spider-Man games, my fiance wanted to show me one of his favorite games, God of War. Not the original 3 or the other spin-offs, but the 2018 game where Kratos (voiced by Christopher Judge) moved to the universe of the Nordic gods. I did watch a video that explained the other games though, so I had some background and understanding of who Kratos was and how he ended up there. In this post I will be reviewing both games individually from the perspective of a non-gamer. There will be spoilers in this post so if you haven’t finished Ragnarok don’t read that section!
God of War (2018)
God of War is a game based on Norse Mythology set in the nine realms following the story of Kratos, a Spartan and God of War from the now-destroyed land of the Greeks. He is known as the Ghost of Sparta or the God Killer to many. Since arriving in Midgard, he has tried to live a peaceful life as a regular person. He married a woman named Faye (Deborah Ann Woll), who later is revealed to be a giant, and has a son named Atreus (Sunny Suljic). However, after her death he is discovered by Baldur (Jeremy Davies) and faces many enemies along his journey to spread his wife’s ashes atop the tallest mountain in all the nine realms. He wields an axe gifted to him from Faye that returns when recalled and has ice-based abilities. His son wields the magic he is taught and a bow. It is during this journey that he learns to be a good father, learns more of their fate, makes friends and foes, and comes to peace with his past (specifically the Blades of Chaos).
The Characters: Within the game, several Aesir and Vanir gods and goddesses are introduced, as well as some other characters from different species. Given the games focus on the journey of Kratos and Atreus to the tallest mountain, the other characters only appeared for plot-points or check-points. Freya (Danielle Bisutti) was introduced as the Witch of the Woods and quickly played an important and helpful part in the story as a plot-point character. In the end though, she is indicated to be the enemy as we killed her son, Baldur, in order to save her life after battling him and accidentally removing the spells of immortality that protected him. Magni (Troy Baker) and Modi (Nolan North), Thor’s sons, are also plot-point enemies that are fought and killed throughout the game, one by Kratos’s hand and the other by a cocky-ass Atreus. Two main check-point characters, and actual check-points for the game, are Dwarf brothers Brok (Robert Craighead) and Sindri (Adam Harrington) who provide important information, friendship, humor, and weapon/gear upgrades. They were a rather pleasant and helpful part of the game, and the more you chat with them the more you can unlock! One interesting character served as a check-point character at first, then became a plot-point character. Mimir (Alastair Duncan) was introduced as a helpful companion along their journey to spread Faye’s ashes. He knows most everything, so he is able to answer questions, help the story along, and tell some tales for players to learn more about the nine realms they’re exploring. Overall, every character had a distinct personality, changed in some sense, had something to offer to the story, and were designed with attention to detail in mind.
The Mythology: I am a huge fan of Norse Mythology, though I would by no means call myself an expert. I am versed enough to know some tales and most people, but not all the details. The writers of these games did loads of research to have as much accuracy in the game as possible. Of course, there must be exceptions for the sake of the story and the characters, so it is technically only “inspired by” Norse Mythology, but I would argue that it is extremely accurate and a good representation of all those tales. The designs of the creatures and monsters fit within the worlds, and explanations were given that made sense to explain their existence within a place. It was exciting to see these stories come to life in a fairly accurate way. Though some characters were unclear who they were when they were first introduced, once their names were given they fit well within what is known about them. The nine realms we were able to visit were stunning in their own ways and matched what they were described to be in the mythology. I was, however, somewhat disappointed in Helheim as it felt fairly limited and did not have anything exciting to it. The giant bird who watched over the realm was interesting though, as I was unaware who ruled before Hela came into the picture. Overall, I felt that the mythology was represented accurately and Kratos was incorporated well into the world/story. It makes sense that his presence would change things, so to be upset that some things are not 100% accurate is naive.
The Story: As mentioned before, the simplified version of the plot is simply Kratos and Atreus seeking to spread Faye’s ashes from the tallest peak in all the realms. Of course it is not that simple, as they face many foes, struggles, and trials along the way. But the way that it was told and how everything connected, in small and big ways, was done beautifully. Everything that I had a question for during the game was answered, and as a writer it is comforting to know there’s nothing left behind. Everything was explained clearly in ways that fit into the story, instead of having long cut-scenes to explain small details. One thing in particular I enjoyed was all the lore incorporated into the game. It does require some reading, but it’s worth the read if you enjoy world building. I’ve never seen a game with such flawless story telling, and the reminders of Kratos’s past within the story (both from music and discussions between characters) was great for people who’ve played the older games and for those who haven’t. If you’re looking for a story-driven game, this is it.
The Gameplay: The gameplay itself seemed fairly straight-forward. Everything had a tutorial, including weapon upgrades and skills, and the controls can be adjusted in the settings. Because of all the details in the realms and the intensity of some battles, having motion blur ON is helpful to avoid any nausea. You can also utilize Atreus’s skills, weapons, and magic but they’re only helpful if he’s leveled up as Kratos is the main force in the game. The menu with everything in it (weapons, collectables, armor, etc.) is a bit confusing at first since there are so many options but it’s manageable. The gameplay, especially during fights, is fast-paced though, so it may not be for beginner gamers.
My favorite part of the game was the introduction of Jormungandr, the World Serpent or the Midgard Serpent. The first three of Loki’s children (Jormungandr, Fenrir, and Hela) have always been favorites of mine so seeing him in action was exciting for me. The design on him is amazing, his name was said correctly, and they explained his current existence fairly well despite Loki not having any of his children yet. My least favorite part of the game were the Valkyrie fights. While I was not the one actually playing the game, just as a viewer they caused me an immense amount of stress and were insanely difficult. The creator is a huge fan of Dark Souls (an extremely difficult game if you’re unfamiliar with it) and wanted to include some extremely difficult fights inspired by said game. That was definitely achieved.
Overall, in every aspect, this is an incredible game. I would happily rewatch the game or even give it a shot just to experience everything again. However, even on easy mode it is a somewhat difficult game that requires time and dedication to complete. If you’re a gamer who hasn’t played it before, go watch explanations of the other games and play it!!! If you’re not a gamer, I would recommend watching a playthrough before giving it a go. But regardless of how you consume the game, it’s incredible and I highly recommend it.
God of War Ragnarok (2022)
After finishing the first game I was fairly excited for this one because the trailers showed a lot more Norse gods and individuals I’m familiar with. Several years have passed since the first game and Fimbulwinter has been raging within the realms, having different effects in each. Atreus has raised and trained some wolves, Freya is out for revenge, and Kratos is simply trying to survive and avoid their participation in Ragnarok. There is much more to the story in this game and the ability to explore all the nine realms! It’s a great game to play and has an emotional ending that really brings everything that’s happened into perspective, closure, and new opportunities. Also, some of the newer characters had similar faces to their voice actors which is a cool detail they included.
The Characters: Both familiar and new characters can be found in the game. Everyone from the previous game has a crucial role to play in the plot, especially Freya as she becomes a companion to the journey. All the new characters are either associated with Asgard as the royal family, or associated with the Vanir gods. The main characters of the game, Kratos, Mimir, Atreus, and Freya, have strong individual development as the game goes on. I was extremely impressed with the thought and detail that went into their emotional changes and how they dealt with situations. My favorite development was Freya as she bonded with Kratos and came to terms with her son’s death, becoming a strong ally during the battles and at the end. Kratos developed well as he learned from Atreus to become a better father and a general once again. The end of the game showed him finding peace with his decisions finally, and going on to clean up the mess Asgard left. Mimir remains a humorous head and provides crucial information for players to better understand the story. As for Atreus, he develops a lot, mainly in the end, as he finishes his story as Atreus and begins a new journey as Loki to save the remaining Giants souls. Overall, the character writing staff for this game did an incredible job.
The Mythology: As mentioned before, I am not a Norse Mythology expert but I do have a solid understanding of the tales and gods. Many stories told in this game were new to me, but I trust them to be based on the tales told over time from the Vikings. Of course, there has to be an understanding that the game will take liberties with the characters because of Kratos’s existence within the world. My only issue with the game is the representation of Asgard. It is shown as a regular village, with no golden kingdom or rainbow bridge. While not every tale of Asgard describes it this way, it was difficult to believe that small village was Asgard, especially with the build-up of it. They did acknowledge it slightly through a comment from Odin, but I strongly believed it was an illusion until it was destroyed in the end.
The Story: The game begins a few years after the ending of the previous game. Atreus has grown a lot as an individual, learning to survive and raising wolves saved from a harsh death. He is going through some rebellion throughout the game as he searches for the meaning of his other name, Loki. Kratos is doing his best to keep them alive and out of war, but situations force their hands into it as Freya is attempting to get revenge, Odin wants Atreus to stop his hunt for Tyr, and other situations arise. Kratos is simply attempting to survive the harsh winter brought upon the lands, but Freya is out for blood and magic/spells are weakening. As the game is long, there is plenty of time for the characters and story to develop. While everything is building up to the war with Asgard, this does not take away from the characters journeying through the story. Kratos and Atreus are forced to disappear to survive, but must go out into the world for information and resources. Freya, in an attempt to get revenge, ends up taking Kratos to Vanahiem to free herself from Odin’s spell. There, they come across her brother and she is freed, shifting her rage to Odin and off of Kratos. Their friendship develops throughout and after Atreus learns from his mistakes, all the storylines come together in the battle against Asgard. One thing I liked about the story is how they clean up subplots and stories in the end with cut-scenes and a few more tasks to achieve to get 100% in the game. Overall, great story writing and no questions were left unanswered!
The Gameplay: The gameplay is similar to the first game, but there are more weapons and playable characters. Atreus is stronger and has more magic to play, but compared to Kratos and the others his abilities still seem fairly limited. During the times where you play as him alone, fights are far more difficult because he is not as skilled in hand-to-hand combat or as strong as Kratos. It is important to spend a few minutes familiarizing yourself with his abilities and controls before beginning any of his exploration. At some point in the game you stop fighting Freya and start fighting with her, as she joins the journey as your partner. She is far more skilled and useful than Atreus AND has better upgradable skills. I would highly recommend focusing on her Valkyrie upgrades first as they’re the most useful. Kratos has many of the skills from the first game and has both the axe and the Blades of Chaos, but later in the game he gets a new weapon that is fairly useful once it’s fully upgraded. It is confusing to switch between all three weapons or remember which are best against different enemies, but for collectable tasks they’re all needed. One thing I would recommend is doing everything you can BEFORE reaching the end of the game: the side-quests, the favors, and the exploration. Having Kratos up to level nine (the highest level) before reaching Asgard is a huge help for that entire battle.
The Ending: The ending to the game was large enough that it needed its own paragraph. From the moment you blow Gjallarhorn to the moment you part ways with Atreus everything that happens is incredible, both to watch and to play. Once you blow Gjallarhorn, you’re dedicated to finishing the game. Everyone is transported to Asgard in a huge fight and there are no slow moments. You have to make your way to the wall and break it down to find Odin and defeat him, which is easier if you’re leveled up already. You battle various enemies, Thor, and finally Odin who kills Thor and is a strong foe. Freya, Atreus, and Kratos destroy the village in the process and once Odin is defeated, his soul is placed into a marble. However, Sindri appears and smashes the marble, destroying Odin permanently as vengeance for the death of Brok. Asgard begins to fall apart and everyone is sent off, Kratos going unconscious. He wakes up on Vanaheim where they’ve taken refuge, and all the characters speak with him about what happened as he walks to find Atreus. They go to find a final mural which shows that Faye really betrayed her people for Kratos and Atreus to live their own lives, not follow the path set out for them. Kratos and Atreus part ways, in an extremely emotional moment, and he finds a hidden mural in the back depicting him as a good God of War who people pray to. This is when he finds peace finally. The game credits then roll, and after you have the chance to finish up discoveries and things you’ve not completed, including fighting the Berserker King, finding the real Tyr, and fighting Gna.
For this game I had several favorite moments. The first of which was the creation of Fenrir in his giant wolf form with his soul. He was utterly adorable and I loved how they were able to incorporate him still as Loki’s “son.” The second moment was the battle between Thor and Jormungandr during Ragnarok. It was the battle they referred to in the first game when Jormungandr gets sent back in time, and everyone notices how much younger he looks. We see him get sent back in time at the end of it before facing off with Thor. The third and final favorite moment of mine were the final moments of the battle with Odin where Kratos, Freya, and Atreus kick his ass in a beautiful moment. I can’t describe it, so I hope you get to see it in a playthrough! Or look it up if you don’t mind spoilers.
Overall, this is one of the best games I’ve ever had the chance to watch/enjoy. It quickly became my favorite game and I was extremely sad when it ended. The writing for these games are incredible and the gameplay is a good balance of difficult but not impossible. If you’re a regular gamer I would highly recommend these games! If you’re not a regular gamer, either easy mode or just watching a play-through would be best as certain fights require several attempts and memorizing attack patterns. Either way, go check this game out!
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