How Thor Defied All Expectations In God of War Ragnarok

Thor's story takes some unexpected turns in God of War Ragnarok. Here are the biggest ways he (pleasantly) surprised us.

Posted By | On 24th, Nov. 2022

How Thor Defied All Expectations In God of War Ragnarok

There was no shortage of reasons to be excited about God of War Ragnarok in the lead up to its launch, but without a doubt, seeing Thor as the villain and getting to take him on in an epic duel was high on that list. God of War (2018) built him up as a menacing antagonist without him having to appear on-screen for a single second, and at the very end, when he did briefly appear in a post-credits sequence, he did so in an incredible tease for what lay ahead.

Theories about what role Thor would play and how his story would play out in God of War Ragnarok were rife before the game came out, and by and large, there were some things that many believed were almost a given. As it turns out, however, Thor’s story in Ragnarok has more than a few surprises. His character arc and its conclusion surprise in many ways, defying expectations in some of the best ways possible.

There’s several reasons for that, both big and small, but ultimately, it boils down to three key areas where Thor’s story diverges significantly from the most popular pre-launch theories. Here, we’re going to discuss those areas- starting with the most obvious one…

NOTE: There are major spoilers ahead for God of War Ragnarok (and parts of its post-game content). Proceed at your own risk.

MJOLNIR

God of War Ragnarok Thor

As soon as it became clear four and a half years ago that Kratos would be locking horns with Thor in the next God of War game, one thought immediately entered almost everybody’s mind- we’re gonna get our hands on that hammer. The legendary Mjolnir, a crunching weapon imbued with magical powers and crackling electricity. Throughout the God of War franchise, Kratos has had a knack for killing his foes and picking up their weapons to use them for himself, from Icarus and Medusa to Hermes and Hercules (to name just a few), so to most people, it was beyond obvious that in God of War Ragnarok, Kratos would kill Thor and take his hammer.

After all, it even made sense from a gameplay mechanics standpoint. God of War (2018)’s Leviathan Axe was the game’s primary weapon, and in turn, being able to throw it and recall it was one of its primary attributes- which, of course, is word for word one of Mjolnir’s primary attributes as well. Add to that the potential to add electricity as a third element alongside Frost and fire to further spice up the game’s combat, and it seemed pretty much guaranteed that Kratos would claim Mjolnir for himself at some point in Ragnarok.

Well, he didn’t.

Make no mistake, Kratos does get his hands on a new weapon in the game. The Draupnir Spear is added to your arsenal deep into God of War Ragnarok, and it’s an absolute blast to use, not only thanks to its unique “throw and explode” mechanics in combat, but also because of its applications in exploration and puzzles. But that’s the only new weapon you get. Yes, Kratos battles Thor, and yes, Thor is eventually killed (though not by Kratos- more on that in a bit), but Mjolnir remains unclaimed. In the post-game, it is revealed that Thor’s daughter Thrud takes the hammer.

Of course, many will be more than a little disappointed about that. To some extent, I am as well. I would have loved the chance to be able to use Mjolnir in combat as Kratos, and if someone were to say that not including that in Ragnarok was a missed opportunity, it would be hard not to see the logic in that. But its exclusion does make some sense. Narratively, killing Thor and taking his weapon probably wouldn’t have fit in very well with the character arc that Kratos has in the game. Meanwhile, from a gameplay perspective, maybe Santa Monica Studio didn’t want to have two throw-and-recall weapons- maybe the axe and Mjolnir would have been too similar. And the spear is undeniably badass, so at least we got an excellent alternative.

FINAL FATE

god of war ragnarok

How Thor’s story concludes is also something that not many would have expected before God of War Ragnarok launched. Most took it for granted that with Odin serving as the game’s ultimate big bad, Kratos and Thor’s final fight would be sometime before the climax, and would see Kratos killing him. It seemed so obvious that many did not even consider the possibility that that might not happen. And of course, that is exactly what did not happen in the end.

Kratos and Thor do fight- twice. Once, at the very beginning of the game, at which point Thor obviously wasn’t going to die- there was no way he would have such a small role in the game. And once, right towards the end of the game, in the build-up to the final boss fight against Odin. Kratos does defeat Thor, but of course, by that time, his personal arc has hit a point where he’s no longer as blasé about killing his enemies as he has always been. He wants to set a better example for Atreus, he sees some of himself in Thor (again, we’ll get to this in a bit), while Atreus’ friendship with Thrud is another factor that deters him. After their battle is over, Kratos’ first instinct isn’t to strike the killing blow, but to try and make Thor see reason.

And he does see reason. God of War Ragnarok does an excellent job of building up Thor’s character to show exactly how he gets to the point where he actually agrees to lay down his arms and stop fighting for his father (his wife Sif and Thrud have a big hand in that), but even so, actually witnessing that turn is a surprising moment. Of course, just as surprising is watching Odin instantly swoop in and kill Thor with no remorse.

So yeah, Thor did die, which means his story ultimately ended where everyone had predicted it would- but almost no one could have predicted how it would get to that point.

PARALLELS WITH KRATOS

God of War Ragnarok

This is something that we spoke of here at GamingBolt in the lead-up to Ragnarok’s launch, so it isn’t particularly surprising. Even so, it’s a fascinating subversion, and one that doubles down on the God of War franchise’s newfound love for character-driven storytelling. Based on everything that we found out about Thor in the 2018 game, the parallels between him and Kratos’ own murderous past self were clear to see, but Ragnarok takes that even further.

From Thor’s personal struggles to his insecurities about how he is treated by his father to how he struggles constantly with feeling like he’s letting down his wife and daughter, there’s a lot in his personal arcs that establishes very well that he’s not in a good place (to say the least), and that a lot of it comes down to Odin. His sons, Magni and Modi, are killed, and yet Odin doesn’t seem to care all that much. Instead, he is constantly ordered around by his father like a lapdog, frequently berated, and firmly told time and again that his purpose is to kill and follow orders, not to think or ask questions. He’s bound in servitude to an uncaring, rampaging, destructive master, which in turn has led him down a path of constant violence. And being full aware of everything that he’s done, he’s become convinced that there’s no way back for him, no chance at even a shred of redemption- and so, he sinks deeper into that cycle of violence.

That particular dilemma is something that Kratos is all too familiar with, and it’s fascinating to see him come to that realization, to see the game make that connection the way it does, and to see significantly that ends up changing his story.


All of these factors (and more) come together in incredible ways, arguably making Thor’s arc one of the most engaging in the entire game- and one of the most surprising. And above all, his arc is a perfect example of how much more nuanced and textured God of War’s storytelling has become in the series’ current era.


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