The first God of War game dropped on the Playstation 2 in 2005 and was a smashing success. The orgy of violence and pixelated breasts came with some simple platforming and puzzle-based challenges but was mostly about grabbing one’s enemies and ripping them in half. Two sequels followed in quick succession, as the “Ghost of Sparta,” Kratos, slaughtered his way through the Olympian pantheon as he sought revenge against first Ares and then Zeus for manipulating him into murdering his family. By the end of the third game in 2010 most Greek Gods were dead and Kratos had seemingly perished while giving Hope — the literal version, trapped in Pandroa’s Box — to humanity, angering the remaining deities.
Then, in 2018, Santa Monica Studio and Sony Computer Entertainment delivered God of War on the Playstation 4, a continuation of the original series with a more mature vision that reflected the writer’s and audience’s life journey. Kratos, now living in obscurity in ancient Scandinavia, was a farmer and woodsman living a life of peace with his wife, Faye, and their young son, Atreus. After Faye’s death Kratos and Atreus began a journey to spread her ashes atop the tallest mountain in the Nine Realms, called Jötunheim and the historic home of the ice giants. They meet a number of highly entertaining side characters The pair are hunted along their journey by Baldur, son of Freya, and Modi and Magni, sons of Thor. Despite his new reluctance to kill Kratos is forced to destroy all three, earning him the enmity of Freya and Thor. Atreus discovers Kratos’s past, as well as his own expected role in Ragnarök. The two manage to bond despite Kratos’s stoic nature, and it’s a tale of fathers and sons that resonated strongly with audiences so long as they could stand hearing Kratos constantly referring to Atreus as “boy.” The powerful story combined with beautiful visuals that functioned as one long take and solid gameplay centered around the Leviathan Axe, a magical Norse weapon that returned to Kratos like Mjolnir to Thor, with satisfying physical feedback through the controller that really made it feel like the axe’s haft was slapping into your palm. The combination proved a powerful one that garnered the studio multiple awards. The game ended with the beginning of Fimbulwinter, the first sign of Ragnarök approaching, and a prophetic dream shows Kratos that Thor is coming for them.
Now, he’s almost here. Santa Monica Studio announced yesterday via Playstation Blog that God of War Ragnarök arrives November 9 of this year. The announcement included some high-res stills and a cinematic trailer that promises more epic encounters ahead:
It’s not much, but we see a teen Atreus, growing into his powers and no doubt chafing at his father’s restraint. We see the duo pair off against the Draugr and Hel-Walkers, undead and nearly mindless cannon fodder. And then Fenrir looms in the distance, facing down the pair. This monstrous wolf, ostensibly the son of Loki and a giantess, was chained by the Norse Gods and will break free at the beginning of Ragnarök to devour both Odin and the sun.
I was a huge fan of the 2018 game, as was my 3-year-old son. He saw us reflected in Kratos and Atreus, and often referred to the boy with a first-person perspective. “Where did I go?” he’d ask whenever the character disappeared from the screen. He also made me solemnly swear one night to stop playing until morning, since it was his bedtime and he didn’t want to miss the climactic battle with the Dragon Hraezlyr, master of lightning. I can’t wait to see what he makes of the next one.
God of War Ragnarök is a Playstation exclusive, at least for now. It will be available for both the PS4 and 5, if you were lucky enough to get your hands on one. The four months before release should give you plenty of time to hone your axe skills.