After six games where Kratos killed most of Greek mythology, wrapping up with the deicide of God Of War III, an older, wiser, and slightly less jerk-ass Kratos has returned today to do the same, however reluctantly, to the Norse pantheon with today’s God Of War. But while the game takes a few liberties here and there, what’s most surprising is how detailed it gets into Norse mythology and how it riffs on its ideas. Here’s a tour of the major players Kratos meets and generally pummels as the game unfolds.
Needless to say, there’s a few spoilers for the game’s plot below, although we’ll avoid the really big ones (and there’s one we’re not mentioning at all, to keep the surprise in place). What’s most interesting, in fact, is both the level of detail they get into, referring to minor dwarves and other figures that only Norse mythology nerds would know, and that if you know your Norse mythology, fairly early on you get some hints that something has gone very, very wrong, even by the standards of the Aesir, who are not great people in their own heroic myths.
So, if you want to go in completely cold, stop reading here and enjoy Kratos smacking around a troll.
Thor And Odin
If you know your Norse mythology at all, you know Thor and Odin are jackwagons of the highest order. Their jackwagonness is, in fact, a theme throughout the game, as you find tales of Thor killing giants because they annoyed him and as you hear about how Odin mistreats pretty much everybody. It mostly underscores that, sure, Kratos has problems and is something of a lousy dad, but he could be a lot worse.
Tyr, in Norse mythology, is the god of law and heroic glory. Explaining the Vikings and their love of lawyers would be an entire other post, but to give you an idea of how much they loved it, the word “law” is descended straight from their language. But, more relevantly, this makes Tyr the god of war in a political sense, and he’s the architect of much of what we find throughout the story. Why he has such a taste for death-traps, though, isn’t explained.
Brok And Sindri
Throughout the game, you’ll keep running into the hilariously rude Brok and his delicate germophobic brother Sindri, who knock together Kratos’ gear. They’re fairly central to Norse mythology, in fact: They forge Thor’s hammer, the golden boar Gullinbursti, and Draupnir, a ring of Odin’s that makes eight new rings of the same size and weight every ninth night. Their depiction takes one or two liberties, but if you finish a specific side quest, they’ll pull off something of the same trick for Kratos, so stick with those quests.
One of the central mysteries of the game is what happens to the Jötunn, the race of giants. Despite how we use the term “giant,” the game takes pains to point out that the Jötunn weren’t necessarily huge, and throughout the game, you’ll learn quite a bit more about various giants and how they’re pretty much repeatedly screwed over by the Aesir, which is more or less true to Norse myth. In fact, even leaving aside the events of the game itself, it’s hard to blame the Jötunn for just taking their tower and going home.
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Magni And Modi
Magni and Modi are Thor’s large adult sons, with their names meaning Mighty and Courage respectively, and in mainline Norse mythology, they live up to their names to at least the standards of the time. Here, though, their behavior, Modi’s in particular, is a rather large clue that something is rotten in Valhalla. Let’s just say they don’t live up to their names, something poor Atreus, Kratos’ son, learns the hard way.
Of all the characters of myth, Mimir might be the most faithful to legend. In Norse myth, he’s a talking head Odin keeps around for its knowledge, and in the game, he has much the same job with Kratos. At least he’s useful, beyond relating stories of Thor’s oafishness, as he serves as a set of eyes in the back of your head, alerting you to enemies sneaking up on you.
If you know your Norse mythology, you’ll spot Freyja right away, but the game holds her identity close to the chest for a fair chunk of the plot. Freyja has had an ugly divorce from Odin, so ugly in fact that she’s stuck in Midgard for good. There’s even one of the nerdiest in-jokes ever featured in a video game over her name, since she’s also referred to as “Frigg,” and the game brings up the discussion over which name is correct in a very funny way. And it turns out her failures as a parent are the hinge the game’s emotional arc swings on, thanks to her son, Baldr.
In Norse mythology, and in folklore in general, Baldr is the god of light, purity, joy and summer. He’s so chill there’s even an ongoing academic dispute over how much possible influence the myth of Baldur had on the story of Christ. He’s one of the few nice guys in Norse mythology, well, relative to the rest of the pantheon.
So, yeah, the fact that here he’s a dime-store Conor McGregor on a meth bender, five days after his last shower and covered in tattoos? It’s so much of a spoiler to the rest of the game that when he first turns up, they just call him “The Stranger.”
These aren’t the only mythological nods in the game. In fact, it’s fun to keep your phone on hand and Google some names as they come up. You’d be surprised how accurate some of it is. Now, as to why Kratos named his son after a guy who fed his twin brother’s own sons to him … that, you’ll have to take up with him.