The ‘not quite a reboot but not exactly a straightforward continuation of the series’ God of War VIII wowed audiences when it launched in 2018, combining the expected visceral combat and buckets of gore with the entirely unexpected delights of deeply satisfying character arcs and a compelling plot that kept players reeling from twists and turns until the very end. But, with Sony keeping typically shtum about its future pipeline, it looks like we’ll have to be satisfied with only knowing the sequel’s title for the time being.
Or do we? I reckon we can glean a lot about the characters, plot, world building and general direction of the sequel simply by considering its title, Ragnarök, within the context of the previous game and actual Norse mythology. So, that’s what I’m going to do. Be warned, I’ll be dropping plenty of spoilers for God of War from this point on.
Before Ragnarök – a God of War recap
First, let’s remind ourselves of where we left the story of Kratos and Atreus at the end of God of War VIII. Kratos began the game with an apparently simple task; return his beloved wife Faye’s ashes to the highest peak of the nine realms. Of course, the task turned out to be anything but simple. On the way Kratos and ‘BOY!’ butted heads with the sons of Thor – the Norse God of Thunder – Modi and Magni. There’s some back and forth god-battling shenanigans but ultimately both Modi and Magni are accidentally on purpose murdered by Kratos and an increasingly erratic Atreus. Not only that, but our protagonists have also experienced a series of violent encounters with Baldur, the almost invincible son of Odin and Freya.
Unfortunately for Baldur, he was actually prone to a severe case of mistletoe allergy, and he too was nobbled off by the dynamic father and son duo. Atreus experiences some hefty revelations on the journey too learning first that he, like his father, is a god. Then, both he and Kratos discover that dead wife Faye was actually a giant, called Laufey the Just. Oh, I should also mention that the giants and the Norse gods have been at war for many a century. In a flip of the original myths the gods are most definitely the baddies. Whilst the apparently wiped-out giants are the goodies and also the victims of the Norse god’s violent ways and Odin’s dictatorial tendencies.
So, just to confirm for those, like me, who aren’t keeping track; that makes Atreus part god, part giant and all Loki. That’s right, at the very end we discover that Atreus is actually the Norse Trickster god himself, Loki, having been named as such by his dearly departed mum.
Mimir… Oh, did I not mention him? He’s the talking decapitated head that’s been bouncing repeatedly against Kratos’ toned buttocks for the entire adventure. Look, just go with it okay? Anyway, Mimir then informs our heroes and the audience at home that the mythical Fimbulwinter has begun, at the end of which Ragnarök, or Armageddon, is going to kick off.
So, exactly what is Ragnarök?
Ragnarök means, when translated from Old Norse, “fate of the gods” or “twilight of the gods.” It is both an apocalypse but also a rebirth, for, from the ashes of the old world, a new world is born. At the closing moments of the epic battle so long foretold, most of the Norse gods have ended up catching a severe case of premature death. Thor, Odin, Freya, Heimdall and many others will die in battle against the three children of Loki; Fenrir the giant wolf, Jörmungandr the Midgard serpent, and Hel, ruler of – unsurprisingly – Hel. Few will survive facing these formidable beings. In one of the original tellings, Thor’s sons Modi and Magni do make it to the end of Ragnarök and beyond. Which would be a tricky feat to occur in God of War, on account of them being very dead. So straightaway, we know that God of War will vary significantly from the traditional myths.
One way it will likely run parallel to the original mythology however, is with the gathering of the children of Loki in order to strike against Asgard. All Loki’s kiddie winks were either introduced or name-checked in God of War VIII – Jörmungandr played a significant role in the game, whilst Fenrir and Hel were alluded to – so it could be the case that the structure of Ragnarök will revolve around Kratos and Loki tracking down these ‘children’ and teaming up with them to prepare for the final assault.
One aspect up for contention, are the children of Loki actually going to be his biological children? Loki is still a child himself at this point, so the likelihood of him fathering three children that just so happen to already exist in the three years that Fimbulwinter lasts is unlikely. Unless there’s some time travel nonsense of course. That could be the case, the evidence for this can be seen in an exchange between our trio of intrepid heroes and Jörmungandr. Here’s my theory from way back in September 2018 in the article Playing With History: What Next For God of War?:
When Kratos and Atreus first meet the giant snake, he states that Atreus is familiar to him. That makes sense as Atreus is – if we follow Norse Mythology – Jörmungandr’s father. Mimir (the talking head and the one who demanded Odin cut out one of his own eyes to receive great knowledge of the nine realms) later informs the duo that time is a bit wibbly-wobbly and events often loop around. Indeed, the very idea of Norse Mythology is that it is a circle – Ragnarök is not the end as Odin feared, rather it is a new beginning.
God of War: Ragnarök – part two of a trilogy
Here’s my idea: in a leaf from the Avengers: Endgame playbook, God of War: Ragnarök will involve warping back through time. My completely insane guess is that this time travel device will have been built by Tyr (the Norse god who sided with the giants) to help bring about Ragnarök. Loki won’t have to father these children… unless, please God no, we see the awful God of War QTE lovemaking mini-games return from the dustbin of bad ideas. Let’s assume that’s not going to happen. Also, I don’t think a mainstream audience is ready to play an interactive segment that see’s Loki’s mate – the giantess Angrboða – give birth to a wolf, a serpent, and a zombie girl, so that’s out too. Perhaps what will happen is that Loki will have to pluck the three children out of the time stream after a series of adventures – thus becoming their metaphorical father, if not their literal one. These time travelling escapades will also allow for the emotional culmination of the game, Kratos and Loki having the opportunity for a tear soaked reunion and final goodbye with Faye.
Then, finally, after a good twenty hours or so, Kratos and Loki will have united with Fenrir, Jörmungandr and Hel. Each of the children will have been released from the shackles of their imprisonment at the hands of the gods, their freedom marking the beginning of Ragnarök. We’re also likely to see Surtr, the fire giant, make an appearance too, along with other denizens of Muspell. We’ll need all the gang for the epic showdown that is Ragnarök. And then, here’s the kicker, we’ll have to wait for the next game before we get the actual final battle against the Norse Gods.
‘Seriously?’ I reckon you’re thinking, ‘You’re actually saying that a game titled Ragnarök won’t include the most important bit of the Viking Apocalypse?’ That’s exactly what I’m saying. This is a well thought out theory and nothing to do with the fact that I didn’t get much sleep last night. Think of this as a part 1. Just as God of War II (2007) closed on a true cliff-hanger, with Kratos and the Titans launching their assault on Mount Olympus, so too will God of War: Ragnarök. Only this time it will be with Kratos, Loki and his children invading the halls of Asgard to take on Odin, Thor and friends. Just as Norse Mythology repeats, so too do video game storylines. Oh, and add to this the fact that video game publishers love their AAA titles to be trilogies, after all, they’ll want as much of a financial return as possible from their heavily invested audience.
The real question is though, with Loki ultimately dying in the final battle with Heimdall in the original tales, will we see mythology repeating itself in the God of War narrative? Or perhaps this will be Kratos’ last ride, as he sacrifices himself to protect his son? Whatever the conclusion, and however far off the mark I am with my predictions one thing is certain: God of War remains an immensely fascinating series, one that continues to surprise, shock and satisfy by both embracing and subverting traditional mythologies. I can’t wait to see what tricks Ragnarök has in store for us.
Playing with History is our ongoing series spotlighting video games and the real-world people and events that inspire them. From walking with dinosaurs in Jurassic World Evolution and talking real-life zombies in Days Gone, to learning about the Peaky Blinders, and chatting Ghost of Tsushima with a samurai expert, there’s plenty you may not have known about your favourite video games.