I suppose the point of video games is to aspire to be like the characters you’re playing. Who wouldn’t want to sneak around like Snake in Metal Gear? Or battle zombies like Ellie in The Last of Us Part 2? Or yes, kill gods like Kratos in God of War: Ragnarok? I mean, he’s been doing it so long, it really does feel like his story is my story. And now that he has a son, I feel like I identify with him so much more. But what is his life really like? What would it be like to be Kratos? I found myself asking this question during a particularly difficult battle with a Traveller as I kept dying and dying. And then it finally hit me. The answer, not the Traveller.
Initially, I had everything backwards. I kept thinking what would it be like to keep fighting and dying and coming back to life and fighting and dying and so on? Would that make God of War some kind of sadistic purgatory where our heroes are simply doomed to fail over and over before getting it right? Would knowledge of this arrangement bring despair or freedom? And that’s really the gibbering blood-soaked meat of it right there.
Every time Kratos dies, his companion comes running over to him to help. If you use a Resurrection Stone, Kratos will get back up and resume axe-throwing again. If not, Atreus might yell no, father, don’t leave me or Mimir will say for the thousandth time, Get up, brother! This happens. It’s part of the story. Only, once you reload from a checkpoint, that little piece of reality is erased from the characters’ minds. You remember it, but they don’t. As the story progresses, this gets worse and worse, until by the end (which I haven’t reached yet), you and the characters possess a wildly different set of memories. Well, if not different, then at least abbreviated.
You see now, don’t you? For Kratos, his journey through God of War: Ragnarok is a straight line that never doubles back, never forks and rejoins. If it takes you ten tries to beat a Berserker challenge, Kratos only remembers it as one, that is, the one where you won. As far as he is concerned, Kratos has never died in a fight, which makes about as much sense as the phrase it is what it is, but I digress. The point is, from the start to the end, Kratos believes he won every fight. He just went from place to place handling his business. Wasn’t that difficult either.
And here’s where I put down the controller: if our lives were like Kratos’, we would never know. What if, for each of us in our own separate realities, we have already died dozens of times, only to respawn at a checkpoint and continue as if nothing had happened? Die in a car crash? Respawn to the party where you decide instead to chuck your keyfob into the bushes and call an Uber instead. Accidentally eat at Jack in the Box in 1993? Respawn and go to Whataburger instead.
Besides making me question the nature of my own reality, God of War: Ragnarok is a fantastic game and a worthy follow-up to 2018’s God of War. It feels a little more linear, with fewer opportunities to just explore and grind. The trials in Muspelheim are back, but you won’t get to them until later in the game. I still don’t understand how to effectively use my companion’s arrows in combat, but that’s fine. There’s a lot to learn, including all of Kratos’ killer moves, which he has evidently forgotten since last we saw him.
Either way, I cannot recommend God of War: Ragnarok enough. There are so many games that aren’t worth the $70 price tag, but this isn’t one of them. Rest easy knowing your money will be well spent.
Oh and they just added a photo mode, so you don’t have to use the built-in Screen Capture tool like I did to write your God of War post.