Now that God of War Ragnarok’s release on PS4 and PS5 is just over a month away, anticipation for the Norse mythology-themed game has reached new heights. Thanks to the trailer that Santa Monica Studio released during Sony’s September State of Play to stoke those flames, a clearer picture has also started to emerge regarding the villains that Kratos and Atreus will face off against. Although there were plenty of gods and beasts on display, none have captured the attention of the game’s fan base quite like Thor.

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Due to the closing moments of God of War Ragnarok’s story trailer, the stage appears to be set for Kratos and the Norse god of thunder to find themselves in a battle for the ages. Even though the fight will no doubt leave an impact on the franchise going forward, there’s a decent chance that the latter will be overshadowed on several crucial fronts. Because of the deep connections that Kratos shares with Ares, for example, it looks like Thor could find himself playing second fiddle to the original Greek god of war.

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Ares’ Role in Kratos’ Story

It almost goes without saying at this point, but Kratos’ box office fight with Thor is far from the incumbent Greek god of war’s first time battling an angry entity. Over the course of the franchise’s history, a long list of villains and adversaries have popped up before leaving a deep impression on proceedings. To this day, however, with perhaps the exception of Zeus, none have had the same impact that the original god of war Ares achieved.

Thanks to the God of War series’ Greek Saga, a case can even be made for Ares being the single biggest force in Kratos’ origins and relentless quest for vengeance. From the introductory cutscene of the very first game on the PS2, Santa Monica Studio made it clear that the pair are narratively inseparable from one another. Having selected Kratos to be his champion and pawn, Ares gradually molded the Spartan into the perfect weapon before tricking him into murdering his own wife and daughter.

Over the course of God of War: Ghost of Sparta and Ascension, players were gradually able to pull back the curtain on Kratos and Ares’ relationship even further. During the PSP spin-offs, for example, it was established that the scar above Kratos’ eye was given to him at an early age by an enraged Ares. Similarly, the franchise’s final PS3 entry established that the first god of war had groomed the Spartan to be his weapon against Zeus and the rest of Mount Olympus – a scheme that would indirectly help to pit the pantheon against Kratos toward the end of the Greek saga.

Ares’ integral role in Kratos’ origins subsequently means it’s hard to imagine Thor having anywhere near the same impact on his characterization in Ragnarok. Even though the god of thunder’s famous line about being calm and reasonable could be taken as a stab at Kratos’ troubled personality, there are other ways to examine it. On one level, it suggests that Thor is also unaware of the complexities of Kratos’ origins and the nightmares like Ares that he’s already faced.

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Ares’ Legacy

Throughout the very first God of War on the PS2, Kratos gradually worked his way towards a climactic fight to the death with Ares. Although the Spartan General was able to prevail over his former master, that victory didn’t really bring Ares’ story to a complete close. On several levels, even though he hasn’t physically appeared in years, the influence of Kratos’ former master has continued to be felt.

Everything that has happened in the God of War series, and everything that players have crucially taken control of, can all be traced back to the murder of Kratos’ family. As a knock-on consequence of this, Ares’ legacy has kept growing in the background as well. Based on Kratos’ attitude, relationship with Atreus, and desire to put violence behind him, it’s clear that the trauma of his past hasn’t really healed or eased. After hundreds of in-game years, what Ares tricked him into doing has continued to influence and haunt his every action.

Although Ares’ name isn’t mentioned during the scene, the moment in God of War 2018 when Kratos dons the Blades of Chaos again demonstrates all of this perfectly. Both physically and emotionally, it becomes clear at that moment the character is still carrying the scars of what he did as the god’s champion. Kratos doesn’t have to say it out loud, but it obviously stings that he’s being forced to wield Ares’ weapon and chains to save Atreus.

In a lot of respects, Ares’ legacy within the series is now so significant that it’s hard to imagine anyone else coming along that could rival it. Players have, after all, had over 17 years to develop a hatred for that one character that rivals the emotions that Kratos himself still feels. No matter who Santa Monica Studio introduces into the mix in God of War Ragnarok, the circumstances of the character’s origins will remain entrenched in stone.

Thor’s role in Ragnarok

When Thor shows up in God of War Ragnarok, he won’t be a completely unknown quantity. Beyond his bonus cameo at the end of 2018’s soft reboot, Santa Monica Studio did an excellent job fleshing out his bloody and immoral backstory in that same game. There are subsequently plenty of reasons to class him as a good villain, but despite all of these, he hasn’t come close to challenging Ares and the personal connection he still has with Kratos.

With only one game left in the franchise before God of War bids farewell to Norse mythology, it’s hard to see the emotional leg work and storytelling being completed in time for that to change. Based on the ominous presence of Odin during Ragnarok’s recent story trailer, there’s a chance that Thor’s role within the game will be less prominent than what’s been advertised so far as well. Odin is notoriously a master manipulator and the driving force behind Asgard’s schemes, so it stands to reason that he will play a bigger role than his son in the story.

It’s hard to imagine Santa Monica Studio introducing Mjolnir into the mix without giving players a chance to use it extensively. That also means Thor could be shuffled out of the way in God of War Ragnarok quicker than many fans might be expecting to make that happen. Despite his public popularity, it’s worth keeping in mind that Thor could also be described in mythology as a pawn of the All-Father – a role not too dissimilar from the dynamic that Kratos and Ares once had. Him being given enough emotional depth to challenge Ares’ status, in such a short amount of time, could be a battle too great.

God of War Ragnarok releases November 9 on PS4 and PS5.

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