God of War Ragnarok is the sort of game that would be hotly anticipated regardless of what the circumstances were- it’s a new mainline God of War game. Of course people are going to be excited. But as luck would have it, the circumstances surrounding this game in particular are the sort that make it doubly exciting for fans of the series. Yes, it’s a new God of War game. On top of that, however, it’s also following up on what is considered by many to be the best game in the series, and one of the best games of its generation. And on top of that, Ragnarok is also going to wrap up the series’ Norse saga.
The latter came as quite a surprise when it was confirmed by SIE Santa Monica last year. God of War had six games in its Greek era (seven, if you count the mobile title God of War: Betrayal), and the widely held assumption was that though the series probably wouldn’t spend quite as long in Scandinavian mythology, it would, at the very least, be a trilogy. Sure enough, the way the first game went, the way its story ended, and the things it set up for its sequel certainly seemed to suggest that as well. Finding out that Ragnarok wouldn’t be the middle chapter of a trilogy but the final one in a duology was quite surprising then.
Like everyone else, we’ve had a lot of questions about God of War Ragnarok since the game was properly unveiled last year, and a great many of them revolve around that fact. Given the fact that Kratos (and probably Atreus) is leaving Scandinavia at the end of Ragnarok, there’s plenty of interesting questions that have emerged. For starters, how long will the game be? There’s a lot of story to wrap up, a lot of questions to answer, a lot of Aesir, Vanir, and Jotun to fight and kill, a lot of key Norse mythology events to be depicted. Doing all of that in one single game is going to be far from easy for Santa Monica Studio.
Thankfully, they don’t have to look to far for inspiration. God of War itself has done similar things in the past. 2010’s God of War 3, the final game in the series’ Greek era chronology, is the perfect game for Ragnarok to model itself after, and for so many reasons. No, we’re not talking about gameplay mechanics or design, or even the content of its story or the nature of its bigger narrative beats. We’re talking about two things that are going to be incredibly important to the game- pacing, which will be crucial to nail down, given how packed Ragnarok probably needs to be; and scale, which is, and always has been, one of this series’ most crucial pillars.
Let’s talk about the latter first. From its inception in 2005 right up until this moment, God of War is a series that has prided itself on its scale- and not just its scale, but also the escalation of its scale. The original God of War on the PS2 was by no means a small game in terms of scale by any stretch of the imagination, but when you look at how things got cranked up to 11 in God of War 2 and especially in God of War 3, the first game seems almost quaint in comparison. And it was a very natural escalation- given how the story was progressing, where it would end, and how it would get there, it made perfect sense for that insane escalation in scale. God of War 3 begins with the army of Titans scaling Mt. Olympus and Kratos fighting in a battle of epic proportions, and it ends with the utter and absolute destruction of the Greek world, which is wracked with diseases, floods, the souls of the damned wreaking havoc on everyone, and anything else that could possibly go wrong.
Obviously, when God of War Ragnarok kicks off, Kratos himself is going to be in a very different place, as a person, to where he was in God of War 3. Earlier, the one and only thing on his mind was vengeance. Now, he’s entirely too reluctant to get involved in things. He just wants to protect his son and live an uneventful life. That’s not going to happen, of course, but even when he is forced to get involved in things, he’s going to try his damndest to keep that famous anger of his in check, to not blindly murder anything and everything he sees without a second thought, to not lay waste to everything in his path. For better or worse, he’s trying to teach Atreus to be better than he was.
That means Ragnarok likely won’t see Kratos going on the sort of rampage he went on in God of War 3- but circumstances might force his hand to get into fights he has no intention of participating in. When the likes of Odin, Thor, and their followers come knocking, Kratos will have to fight and defeat them. And when he’s fighting the otherworldly beings with unimaginable powers, God of War Ragnarok should look to escalate things in a similar manner to how God of War 3 did it.
And of course, when Kratos and Atreus are inevitably fighting against a relentless barrage of unearthly foes, pacing will be something that the game will have to nail as well. Our assumption (and our hope) is that God of War Ragnarok will be full of those huge set piece moments and boss fights that the series has always been known for, as Kratos and Atreus move from one fight to the next, one challenge to the next, one obstacle to the next, all the way until the end when they finally come face to face with Odin (if that is, indeed where the game will end). God of War 3 was not too different in that regard, and at times, it almost felt like a boss rush game, where Kratos was plowing through what felt like an endless line of bosses. Adopting a similar pacing and structure might just be Ragnarok’s best path forward.
That might prove to be harder to execute in God of War Ragnarok than it was in God of War 3 through. There’s a lot more meaty narrative content for Ragnarok to get into than there was in God of War 3– the latter’s story was fairly one-dimensional, its character arcs lacking too much depth and nuance, its mysteries and questions almost non-existent. That couldn’t be further from the truth than it is in Ragnarok, and balancing all of that with with a relentless pace of bosses and set piece moments could prove to be more than a little complicated. And if the game decides to shoulder the responsibility of also setting up the series’ next major arc after Scandinavia? Well, that’s just another ball in the air for Santa Monica Studio to keep its eye on.
At this point, all we can do is speculate. A lot of this is built on speculations, in fact. We’re assuming that Kratos and Atreus will be going through a cavalcade of foes in Ragnarok, that the Norse era will end not too dissimilarly from how the Greek era ended- with all (or most) of Kratos’ enemies dead. For all we know, that’s not going to be the case at all, in which case the game’s scale and pacing might end up adopting entirely different styles.
One way or another, this being the final game in God of War’s Norse saga has certainly made things infinitely more interesting- and they were already pretty damn interesting as it was.
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