God of War Ragnarok and the power of finding yourself amid so much uncertainty

God of War Ragnarok was a game many wanted but had a story countless others didn’t know they needed, especially around this holiday season.
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God of War Ragnarok was a game many wanted but had a story many didn’t know they needed, myself included. Image credit: Right Down Euclid.

To many, God of War Ragnarok is a game that many were anticipating after the prequel, simply titled God of War, set the bar so incredibly high for what a tentpole Sony franchise should be capable of – myself included. The first entry into the Nordic setting was a heartfelt father and son journey that helped teach the audience the uniqueness and intrigue surrounding a new-found environment. It was enchanting, mystifying and more than anything set the table for a sequel that could have epic ramifications.

After wrapping up God of War Ragnarok earlier this week, it’s safe to say that it more than met and also exceeded any preconceived expectations about it. The gameplay is a blast and I’m pleasantly surprised to share that the combat, which was already sensational, is even better this time around. Santa Monica Studio tightened up a lot of the quirks from last time around and make it feel truly gratifying to get a grasp of how Kratos and Atreus function with, or without, one another. Sprinkle in the fact that the difficulty was spiked just the right amount along with a healthy variety of enemy and challenge types, and fans who enjoyed the combat last time around will adore the latest iteration in the franchise.

Sure, the combat is what kept things moving along without a hitch all throughout Ragnarok and the gratuitous display it provides adds a ton of spectacle to everything.. But, to the surprise of none, the most compelling part of God of War Ragnarok is its story. God of War Ragnarok further dips its toes into the Nordic mythos and continues to establish that unlike in normal circumstances, Loki wasn’t present to set things into motion and the game somewhat corrects the record by making Atreus, who is Loki, a more impactful member of the story.

For the better part of the plot, Atreus tries to identify with his Loki personality through the assistance of others as well as who he naturally is as a person. In fact, the theme of finding one’s identity is something that sticks out the most throughout many of the characters. It pops up with Freya and her quest for vengeance against Kratos and Atreus for the last game’s events as well as her ex-husband Odin. It happens with Sindri, who has guilt about something that happened in the past. It shows up with Tyr, the Norse god of war who is reluctant to take up arms against Odin and is adamant about maintaining a passive stance. It happens with the bodiless Mimir, who is trying to right the wrongs he did by the nine realms and their non-Aesir inhabitants.

Where you see it the most and where it’s most intricately, woven within Norse mythology is through both Kratos and Odin. Interestingly enough, who Kratos and Odin are all while being bound by fate and their respective destinies make them two sides of the same coin. Odin doesn’t know what the end holds for him and it remains his obsession and motivation in the story of Ragnarok. Similarly to Kratos during the Ghost of Sparta’s Grecian days, Odin will get whatever he wants through any means necessary. Whether that be that violence, manipulation, betrayal or total destruction, you name it and either Kratos or Odin have done it. Both are driven by what has happened in the past and, more importantly, are driven by what the future holds for them.

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Finding your identity and surrounding yourself with those you love and those who matter is the overarching theme that drives God of War Ragnarok‘s narrative the most. Image credit: Right Down Euclid

Kratos, meanwhile, is trying to distance himself from his past and be a better person, and father, with whatever time he has left. Toward the end of the last game, through Kratos we see a prophecy that says he will die when Ragnarok begins. Leading up to the events of Ragnarok, Kratos is obsessed with making sure Atreus is protected and ready for when his prophesized death inevitably comes. Kratos also, selfishly, wants to spend as much time as he can with his son, his only true remaining connection to the mortal plane. He does this by avoiding any and all Ragnarok-related things all while stifling Atreus’s curiosity in his greater purpose since it only brings them sooner to the end.

Unfortunately for Kratos’s sake, you can’t control what’s inevitable and his actions push his son away from him. Odin feeds into Atreus’s wanting to learn more about him and manipulates him into finding pieces to a macguffin that’ll give him the answers he seeks. When that happens, you see Kratos fall back into his destructive habits, trying to control what he cannot and free his son from Odin’s clutches. The respective actions of Kratos, Odin and even Atreus bring the Norse cosmology to near-collapse and only further accelerate what many are trying to avoid: Ragnarok.

It comes to a head in a pivotal moment of the game when Atreus’s actions through assisting Odin turns the world upside down and Atreus reunites with Kratos. With the story’s main protagonist falling into his old ways, there was a fleeting thought that Kratos would respond to his son with unbridled rage. Instead, he showed his son compassion and does what every father does when their kid messes up: clean up the mistakes and help them learn from it. Furthermore, Kratos also apologizes for his actions, feeling he failed as a father to Atreus by stifling his curiosity in order to protect him from what he doesn’t know and what neither of them can control.

Of course, the throughline of what Kratos cannot control is Norse prophecy and his son becoming the God he was always destined to be. The thing is, the emotional weight of this narrative between Kratos and Atreus makes it hit home even harder after Santa Monica Studios tried it before in God of War III with Pandora. Giving Kratos, a mostly strong and silent protagonist wrestling with endless regret and grief internally, someone to love and care about allows him to grow and become something he or Odin could never be: loveable.

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Giving Kratos someone to love and care about to maintain the few shreds of humanity he has left nails the overarching narrative in God of War Ragnarok. Photo credit: Right Down Euclid

When considering how well Santa Monica Studios nailed the overarching theme of God of War Ragnarok, it’s easy to apply to real life as well, especially during the holiday season. The holidays are a time to bring friends, family and loved ones together and share memories and celebrations as the year comes to an end. Fittingly enough this all happens during a typically cold and brutal winter as well which makes the landscape of Ragnarok feel more life-like as well.

Either way, after wrapping up the story of God of War Ragnarok, it put into perspective how much I need to maintain focus on what I can control versus what I cannot. Because if I get wrapped up in the minute details of things, precious memories and time spent with those who matter will fly past me. Sure, there are going to be times I want the love and approval of every person I meet but, at the end of the day, those who are already here are who matter the most.

I’m not entirely sure what the point of this article was other than that God of War Ragnarok invited me back to Midgard and I loved every second of it – both in terms of gameplay and story. The holiday season usually leaves me feeling super depressed, which I’m sure many of you are experiencing as well, so maybe that’s what helped drive home the story even more. The constant grind of building Right Down Euclid into its own, fully independent website and newsletter all on my own is something I welcomed with open arms. But with everything else on top of it, I was feeling burnt out and, frankly, lost. My imposter syndrome was and still is at a ten and I’ve been constantly waking up in a panic as of late because I feel like I’m going to fall behind if I don’t keep working. It isn’t healthy and maybe I was looking for some kind of lifeline to bring me to balance. Who would’ve thought it would be the story of a former Greek god and his mischievous son?

With that said, I’m going to be closing down shop for all of next week to rest and recharge my emotional battery and spend time with those who matter most. Frankly, God of War Ragnarok made me a better person for playing it and if you get a chance to check it out, I highly recommend it.

Either way, happy holidays from Right Down Euclid and we’ll see you next year. If you haven’t done so yet, please consider becoming a paid supporter. Your financial backing makes everything I do possible.

Evan Dammarell is a sports journalist covering all things Cleveland right off the shores of Lake Erie. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. You can also email him at evan@downeuclid.com. He can also be found three to five times a week on Locked On Cavs, a part of the Locked On Podcast Network.

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