WINTER HAS COME
PLAY Magazine UK|December 2021
God Of War Ragnarök director Eric Williams discusses continuing Kratos’ and Atreus’ growing relationship as the Norse Saga comes to an apocalyptic conclusion, ascending to new Asgardian heights

FORMAT PS5, PS4 / ETA 2022 / PUB PLAYSTATION STUDIOS DEV SANTA MONICA STUDIO / PLAYERS 1

War is not the only way,” Kratos (voiced once again by the phenomenal Christopher Judge) gruffly tells Atreus, his son, in the emotionally charged and long-awaited full reveal for God Of War Ragnarök. Just as the inhabitants of the Nine Realms have anxiously awaited their apocalyptic event, we’ve been waiting for this sequel to the marvellous reinvention that was the first game. We understand Kratos’ hesitancy well. Despite being a god of war himself, Kratos isn’t particularly pleased to find himself on the brink of one of the biggest wars imaginable – Ragnarök.

Several years have passed, and Fimbulwinter is encroaching on their home in the woods of Midgard, the season making survival tougher. Atreus, no longer a boy, has grown restless to understand his Jötunn heritage and his own role in Ragnarök (some of which Kratos has kept hidden from him), anxious about the destruction that’s sure to ensue once the ticking time bomb of Fimbulwinter ends.

BOYS 2 GODS

While the first game saw Kratos and Atreus coming to terms with their relationship and their shared loss, there’s still plenty of that to come. After all, familial connections never really stop changing. People are complex, and as over-the-top as the action in God Of War can get, the last game showed that this current saga is all about the people at the heart of tales of mythological proportions.

It’s something very much on the mind of the game’s new director, Eric Williams, having been graciously bestowed the title by Cory Barlog, who’s now working on a mysterious new project at the studio. “There’s the internal struggle with Kratos; he made a lot of ground up [with Atreus] and released those bonds at the end, and walked up there and released the ashes,” says Williams, speaking with our sister site GamesRadar. “But at that moment – the thing that a lot of people miss is – he also gets gut-punched when he finds out that [his wife] didn’t tell him everything. This person he loved, that he opened his whole life to, also held a secret from him. He has to hold that… and he has to still be there for his son.”

A son who, by this time, has become a teenager. Where in the first game he was about 11, the years have seen Atreus shoot up in size, confidence, and in his desire to take action and find out more about his part-Jötunn (frost giant, essentially) roots. Raising his age was partially a decision made in order to ensure the actor playing Atreus, Sunny Suljic, remained close to the role, but it also allows the team to explore how the father/son relationship changes as the boy begins to become a young man.

“Last time, it was one kid with a lot of adults talking. This is like, well, there are some different perspectives. We’re gonna see it from a kid’s perspective in the world, figuring things out that they thought were black and white are maybe much more grey, and a lot more family dynamics,” says Williams. That includes Atreus inevitably taking on greater responsibility.

While Atreus is eager to gain a more mature role, thinking he and his big, beefy pa should be helping to sort Ragnarök out, Kratos is wary of letting him off the leash. “I will not allow you to pick a fight with gods,” he warns his son, almost certainly recalling his own bloody history of divine slaughter. However, neither Kratos or Atreus can choose whether they get involved by this point – it’s inevitable. Catching up with the flash-forward tease from the end of the first game, Thor arrives at Kratos’ home ready for a scrap, quickly followed by Freya. Described as the game’s ‘main antagonists’ by Santa Monica Studio, the two fearsome gods have already lost loved ones at the hands of Kratos and Atreus and are eager for revenge. Fittingly for Norse mythology, it’s all about cycles.

CLASH OF THE GODS

We haven’t seen much of Thor aside from his strongman-styled design and his lightning-infused Mjölnir, and we know Ryan Furst’s providing his voice. But as a notable giant killer, he was teased throughout the original game as one of the most powerful of the Aesir gods. Freya rounds out the other side of the Norse pantheon as a Vanir god, one who’s perhaps even more eager for Kratos’ blood. Able to command nature, she can transform into a falcon, meaning she can attack from almost anywhere. We see her ambush Kratos and Atreus as they ride on a sled, in a desperate struggle that parallels Kratos’ fight with her son, Baldur, in the opening of the first game. She’s even able to crack Kratos’ Guardian Shield.

Thor and Freya both have personal reasons for wanting revenge, but make no mistake, Odin is still pulling the strings. We’ve yet to see the King Of Asgard himself, only his watching crows. But as you might expect from such an inevitable cataclysm as Ragnarök, God Of War Ragnarök is closing out the Norse Saga. No trilogy here. So we can assume the other big hitters will be present for Kratos to take on, meaning the developers don’t have to hold anything back. Villainous threats are prime for a vicious beatdown, and Atreus’ own place in the pantheon will surely need to reach some sort of conclusion too. Perhaps it won’t be Kratos that delivers the final kicking, but Atreus himself? As Williams puts it the ending is building towards “something surprising yet inevitable.”

TWO GODS BETTER

While Midgard, home of the humans, was nippy before, Fimbulwinter has made it truly frosty. Pulled along by delightful cute doggos (who’d better not die), sledding joins the longboats as a way to get around, necessary considering many of the waterways we travelled on in the previous game are now solid ice, including the Lake Of Nine. Escaping assault from the gods, Kratos and son have no choice but to take action.

Not all relationships have turned sour, though. Our heroes still have some allies throughout the realms to call on, not least of whom is talking head (literally) Mimir, ripe as ever with knowledge of Norse mythology that’ll point the two in the fight direction. Brok and Sindri also return, almost certainly to help out with crafting and upgrading gear and fast-travel through the World Tree. They appear to be living in a bona fide village filled with real people, pretty much a first for God Of War. It’s a luscious, sunny realm that appears absolutely huge as Kratos looks over it. It teases a new, broader style of exploration.

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