Spoiler Space offers thoughts on, and a place to discuss, the plot points we can’t reveal in our official reviews. Fair warning: Major plot points for God Of War—from the ending to every revelation and tease—will be revealed below.
Sony’s new God Of War is one of the big gaming success stories of 2018 so far. It’s been critically lauded to Helheim and back, and it’s breaking records for Sony’s self-produced PlayStation 4 exclusives. In other words, it’s inevitable that we’ll be seeing a sequel or two somewhere in the future. In fact, over on our sister site Kotaku, director Cory Barlog mentioned that the overarching story, as he sees it, could sprawl out to five more games. He later walked that back as speculation, but I’d say chances are good we’ll see the saga of Kratos and Atreus play out over at least two more sequels. Just like Hollywood, these huge game studios love trilogies.
Anyone who’s finished God Of War’s journey through the world of Norse myth knows the developers at Sony Santa Monica packed it with enough teases, prophecies, and loose ends to easily fill out a three- (or even six-) game arc. What’s more, the major bullet points of the broad story are laid out pretty plainly, especially if you start to factor in bits from actual mythology. Even with all the hints, though, there’s enough weirdness going on—time travel, hidden identities, Kratos’ uncanny ability to break from destiny, the game’s loose approach to adapting Norse mythology—to completely cloud the details, but it’s been a hell of a lot of fun to speculate on what might actually be going on. Let’s talk about it, shall we?
Kratos, being the stoic non-believer that he is, completely shrugs off most of the stories that Atreus and Mimir tell throughout their journey. That includes the threat of Ragnarök, the prophesied world-ending clash between the giants and Odin’s godly kin. But for as little as Kratos cares to hear about it, Ragnarök seems to be the unspoken factor pulling all the game’s characters together and will undoubtedly start playing out in future games.
For starters, everyone who isn’t Kratos knows and fears it’s coming. That’s especially true of Odin, who’s trying to put an end to the whole thing by killing all the giants who were foretold to rise up and overthrow the gods. The whole reason Kratos and Atreus get mixed up with Odin’s bloodthirsty family at all is because Baldur, the tattooed dude from the start of the game, is looking for Atreus’ mother, the last living giant (not counting the World Serpent) in Midgard and a guardian helping to keep Odin from infiltrating the giants’ home world. Things take a turn for the worse at the end of the game when Kratos kills Baldur. In the actual mythology, his death and the resulting three-year winter is one of the signs of Ragnarök’s arrival. In the game, Mimir alludes to this, saying that killing Baldur sped up the arrival of Ragnarök by 100 years.
The truth is, Ragnarök is a pretty spot-on parallel for the way these God Of War games tend to play out. By the end of this game, Kratos and Atreus have attracted the ire of three godly enemies. If the story of the sequels goes in the most obvious direction—the systematic murdering of those three deities—then we have a Ragnarök equivalent built right in: Odin finds out the truth about Atreus and wants to kill him (chances are that’s what Thor is doing at Kratos’ house in Atreus’ “three years later” vision); and Atreus gathers his people, the giants, to fight back against Asgard.
But there’s one unpredictable factor floating around the edges of the game that might end up complicating things:
Put as simply as possible, Kratos and Atreus move between the realms of Norse mythology by traveling across a simulacrum of the World Tree, the mythological bridge that connects these different planes of existence. The blacksmith brothers Brok and Sindri do it some other, simpler way, jokingly handwaving their inter-dimensional jaunts as dwarven magic.
The most intriguing traveler, though, is Jörmungandr, the World Serpent. Back when you knew her as The Witch Of The Woods, Freya mentions that the giant monster mysteriously showed up in the Lake Of The Nine one day, displacing the water and messing everything up. Mimir chalks its abrupt entrance up to accidental time travel. Thor and the serpent are destined to have their final battle during Ragnarök. According to one of the many prophecies about that apocalypse, their fight splinters the World Tree, mucking up time and sending the serpent into the past “even before his own birth.” So if we assume this does actually happen, the serpent hails from a future when the Ragnarök that Kratos and Atreus sparked is already underway, and Thor has survived Kratos’ wrath long enough to send it back in time.
Why does this matter? Well, for one it changes the entire calculus of speculating about what awaits Kratos and Atreus. With those kind of time-travel hijinks at play—not to mention the fact that we also know one of the game’s mysterious, unseen characters, the benevolent god Tyr, was doing some magical travel between cultures as disparate in time and space as Greece, Egypt, and Mesoamerica—the series’ writers have a hell of a lot of room to fudge with timelines and settings.
If we’re talking about more concrete plot points, though, the serpent’s time travel ties in to a much bigger late-game revelation:
Or that’s what his mother wanted to name him, at least. This is one of the big truths spilled during the game’s denouement, when Kratos and Atreus finally make it to the realm of the giants. They don’t find any living giants, but they do find a wall covered in prophecies that foretell their journey—as well as one ominous image of events yet to come. (More on that later.)
With how deeply all these characters like Loki and Thor have woven their way into pop culture (thanks, Marvel!), this initially comes off as little more than a fun twist, but given everything else that’s going on in the margins of God Of War, it’s loaded with implications, many of which end up tying back into Ragnarök. Classically speaking, Loki is responsible for Baldur’s death (it doesn’t play out the same way, but it does involve using mistletoe to break his invulnerability) and is the “father” of a few figures who are central to Ragnarök. That includes—wait for it—the World Serpent. It might turn out to be nothing, but this could explain why the World Serpent, who we know has been sent back in time, says young Atreus seems familiar.
I’d expect the game to take a figurative approach to the whole “fathering a giant serpent” thing (or a giant wolf, in the case of Loki’s other animal son, Fenrir). And there’s a big tease during Atreus and Kratos’ trip to the land of giants that might hold the key:
The last drawing on the giants’ prophecy wall is a startling one. It’s impossible to make out what’s actually going on, but the implication seems to be that it’s foretelling Kratos’ death. It shows Atreus kneeling over a man’s body—notably, the man lacks Kratos’ red tattoo (this could be because we’re only seeing his right side) and his face and forearm are obscured—with something tentacle-like connecting the two figures. Some people have jumped straight to assuming this means Atreus is going to kill Kratos—not a bad guess given all the patricide going on in these games, but it does fly in the face of everything this particular entry is trying to say—but what it looks like to me is the birth of the World Serpent. Perhaps Kratos sacrifices himself, providing some sort of godly essence that allows for the serpent’s creation and its eventual slaying of Thor (not to mention the part where it goes back in time and assists the father and son). Or maybe it’s a more direct transfer of power; Kratos’ dying gift to Atreus. Lord knows, after all the enemies they made in this game, he’s going to need the help.
Freya is absolutely God Of War’s most interesting and troubling character. As I wrote in my initial review, I think for much of the game, she’s underserved by the otherwise excellent script. It’s a sleight that stings worse than it might have in other games considering the series’ disastrous depictions of women in the past and how this game never once thinks to reckon with that directly, the way it does Kratos’ violence. If Kratos is a stereotypical distant father, Freya ends up fulfilling a second parental cliche: the over-protective mother. Sure, it is in line with the relationship between Baldur and his mother in classic Norse mythology, but it’s not a great look for a story with no other major female characters.
At the same time, her very final scenes in God Of War paint a much more complicated picture of parenthood than the game had been engaging. She’s willing to die so that her son will live—or so that she won’t have to live through a mother’s worst nightmare of seeing her son die, at least—even if it means dying at his hands. Although Kratos would eventually explain to his son that he too would die so that Atreus might live (another example of the game foreshadowing Kratos’ death), he kills Baldur to save Freya’s life. Rather than the grateful reaction they’re expecting, Freya completes her transformation into an antagonist in waiting, promising to “rain down every agony, every violation imaginable” upon Kratos and son. It’s obvious we’ll be seeing her again in future games—and with her magic and her background as the true queen of the Valkyries, she’s an even scarier foe than Odin—but I’m very interested to see how sequels will handle such a sympathetic, rightfully furious adversary that our playable characters so clearly do not want to fight. Pursuing and slaughtering her the way Kratos did his past enemies would completely destroy all the character work and thematic pondering this game attempted.
On the other hand, the game does a tremendous job of prepping you to hate Thor. The whole game you’re hearing tales of his shittiness without actually coming into contact with him, and then in a weird Marvel-style stinger after the proper ending, Atreus dips into the prophetic powers of his giant’s heritage, peers into the future, and sees the arrival of Thor at their doorstep. The thematic link between Kratos and Freya is far more interesting, and I’m praying the writers can do it justice. But there’s a fun comic book appeal to the idea of Kratos facing down Thor—both of them wielding magic, boomeranging weapons forged by the same dwarves—that gets the more childish part of my brain all giddy.
So with all my inane, rambling speculation out of the way, I’m wondering, what do you all think? What were your favorite moments? Where is this story headed? How many hours did you spend trying to fight Sigrun?